(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)
YOU SPOKE to me tonight unexpectedly. I did not come searching for you, nor even caring for you. Indeed, I sat by your side without much thought of you for nearly two hours. We hoped the jokes and nonsense would lessen the annoyance of amateur singing, just as we hoped the alcohol would curb the gnawing in our hearts. Beer, wine and enough smoke to choke half the state. You were there. But I didn’t care.
Caught up in my own pity I looked for the acknowledgement of a friend in so many eyes around the room. I found no friend. So I imagined what it would be like to be with that with the black hair and rosy cheeks. She didn’t care either. But there was the one singing, the one with the cherry lips and sparkles on her shirt. If only I could be who I am not so she might like me. Thinking myself insane I came back to my senses.
You sat by my thoughtlessness for such a time. I could not have cared less. The temptation to stop caring for myself was staring me in the face. So who the hell were you?
THEN you spoke. At first I thought it was the alcohol. Then I realized it was your heart.
You spoke of a three-year-old girl that you were proud to acknowledge as your own daughter, though she was the child of a man who gave her no love or protection. With increasing wonder I listened as you told me of a woman. Though you said not the words, I heard that you loved her. In your slurred speech it was clear. You loved her. I understood.
Tonight I would not have known you from Adam. Your voice was nearly indistinguishable from the rest of the noise. While still uncaring I endured your first few lines. But when our eyes met I saw your struggle. I listened closer. Something you said reached down deep within my own heart. Then I knew you, Adam. I knew you. For brief moments we shared an ancient language the words of which neither of us could remember.
She broke your heart. I felt the pain inflicted. I saw your wounds freshly bleeding as my hand returned to the scar upon my own chest. I left my hand there as the tears swelled then subsided in your eyes. Men don’t cry. But some have been hurt enough to listen.
You told me that you were only recently parted. There was the heartache as you looked into your beer as if you saw her face there. You drank to the bottom as if that would rinse her away. The look on your face was proof that she was much to deep for that. Few were your words. Enough said.
MY FRIEND, Adam, I understand. I know that pain. I know its depth. I know how it feels to weep in solitude until the tears burn like blood in your eyes and you vomit your heart from the back of your throat. You think, “Surely she will be moved by the sight. Surely her heart will melt. Her hardness will relent and we shall awake as from a bad dream, just a trifling disturbance in the night.” Yet in the morning you awake with arms empty in the coldness of solitude.
Oh Adam! I know! How often have I awoke in the middle of the night! Sweatless. With the taste of her lips lingering in my memory. The scent of her skin fading from my fingertips. The sensation of her hair wisping across my face for the final time. All that we once shared turned to salt upon my cheeks. Hours I spent with my face on the floor, clawing. My existence was a weight I could not bare. Crushed and beaten I lay there as the dust that I was, no longer a man. She mocked me then. She dealt the mortal blow then despised me for not enduring it like a god.
You see, I know. I understand. I feel.
NOW I do not love her nor miss her. It is as if it never was. Still I suffer the longing, the desire, the need for intimacy and reflection. I no longer feel the absence of “her” but of something even larger. Something that even in a perfect world caused the Creator to say, “It is not good for Adam to be alone.” Before the world went crazy and our hearts were broken, He knew what we so feebly tried to communicate tonight. He already knew. He knew there would be desperation and clawing.
But does that make it all right and fine tonight?
Hell no! In the distance, as I drove, I saw the lights on the mountain towers. Blinking red. Luring me back to days that I swear are from something I read in a book. I couldn’t possibly have lived through them! Yet I did. Oh God, you know I did. I lived and I died and I gave up my heart as I drove through the mountains of states unknown. Mile upon mile of weeping and praying, agonizing and wondering. Why God? Why? If it is not good for me to be alone, why the pain? Why the separation? Why the total disregard? Why the refusal to acknowledge and accept the love I willing gave to her? Why?
With no answer and no immediate comfort I drove on. Mile upon mile upon mile. Just to finally see her and be ignored.
At hand there are no complete answers. That is why I could only speak to you by my hand upon your shoulder tonight. Near perfect strangers you and I are. Yet I know you, Adam. Tonight we stood with Eden at our backs, our faces set into the wind, and questions in our eyes which our tongues know not how to utter. Not animal. Not angel. Somehow like God. Yet frustratingly not. In the span of seconds we found ourselves worlds removed from paradise, drinks in our hands, basking in the dimly lit cigarette smoke, with the echoes of a hauntingly familiar bygone day of wholeness hinting between the karaoke lines.
There are no complete answers. But sometimes we understand. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of who we are.