The Weekly Good: Words Are The Best Lovers

Last March I ended things with my long time boyfriend. He was from Argentina, and had seduced me with Mercedes Sosa songs and the way his piano hands moved although he did not play; how he peeled an apple, in one swift ribbon; and the poems he recited in Spanish so quickly I did not know what they meant but I did not care.

Still, despite the fact it was over with him almost a year ago, I don't write about it.

But the last few months have been so crystal clear in purpose, so unrelentingly focused on words, that I have myself questioning the idea of repeating that kind of love, the one with the Argentinian, and why he was in my life at all. The idea of a partner. Or even, the idea of a husband.

I have noticed a pattern with men in my life. Now some might say this is because of who I am or who I have chosen, but I think how we meet another is much simpler, like of a series of random events that cause a collision or a field of safflower to bloom early.

But back to the pattern. The truth is, I'm extremely capable, strong, and passionate. And I'm all these things on my own, without anyone to focus my attentions on. Men who have shown up in my life are strange creatures who seem to like this enthusiasm, energy and giftedness for resilience. At the same time, they have all seemed to need nurturing and a great deal of attention, even if on the outside they appeared to be someone different--perhaps they looked capable and strong, too--but that hasn't meant that they were.

I have never minded the giving of those things: the nurturing, the attention. I have equally loved the whole nesting experience with another.

Until last March.

It occurred to me, last March, that if I wasn't so busy nurturing and giving and cooking and listening and being attentive, I'd have more time to write.

This thought came as shock, electric. It was a revolutionary thought, secret. I kept it on the inside but I was sure he could see it on my face, as I looked at him and considered what it would be like if I loved him but he was absent. Could I not love him just as much, whether he was there or not? What would the kitchen feel like, to move around in, without walking around him? Maybe that space would feel hot or cool, or maybe I would feel nothing.

He moved from the kitchen and I went and stood where he had been standing. The air in that spot was the same temperature as the air around it. I allowed myself to touch the counter he has been touching: the crumbs were the same crumbs. And under my feet, the linoleum was rippled and scarred, as it was all around me.

He was eating at the dining table and I looked at him, and he reminded me of other men I had known and cooked for and done dishes for and packed lunches for and reminded and texted and hugged and kissed. They had all eaten the way he ate, with the salt and pepper shakers on the table, the napkin already forgotten and drifting to the ground, the hands expert at cutting steak, which I had never mastered. In fact, watching him, I realized the only time in my life I ate meat at all was when I was with a partner, as they all seemed to consume large pieces of animals often and it was difficult to cook two dinners.

I realized that I did not want to cook two dinners anymore. Nor did I wish to pick up that paper napkin on the floor, or slice through a brown and red thigh of a cow.

I sat at the table and watched him chew, the knife in his hand part of a set I'd brought back for him from France, each knife decorated with a bee on the handle, with blades made just for beef. He had beautiful hands: slight, fluttering like birds. He cut a bit of meat and then slid it on his fork, carefully, slowly, balancing.

"It's over," I said, matching the cadence of my words with his fork in measured time, as it went up into his mouth and out again. I said more words, but I have forgotten what they were now.

He kept cutting and eating. He stared at the roses he had bought me, which were not even in a vase yet, but leaning in the water pitcher, haphazard, already wilting from the kitchen heat.

His face said he did not take me seriously.

"When will you have this writing thing out of your system? " He leaned forward, his hand waving his knife in little swooping circles as he spoke. For emphasis.

And just like that, snap! It was broken.

"Never." I looked at him evenly, knowing that tonight I would not clear his plate, nor wash the dishes, nor pack his lunch in the morning. I would leave that napkin on the floor for days until he picked it up himself. I would throw out those French knives decorated with bees, because I don't eat meat. I would not have roses on my dining table. I would have a bowl of fruits: pomegranates, kiwis, and nectarines: all the exotic fruits he had eaten before I could get to them. I would write every single day, from now on, from the moment I got home from work until I feel asleep. I would dream in words, uninterrupted.

At some point, much later, he left. I nodded a goodbye. The tears had already passed. I was at my desk, writing. Which is where I have been ever since.

Words are the best lovers.

Take up one thing. Make that thing your life. Dream of it. Think of it. Live it. Let the brain, the body, the muscles, the tissues, every part of your body be given over to that thing. And just leave every other thing alone. This is the way to fulfillment and the way great spiritual giants are produced.
— Swami Vivekananda

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