Written on 20 OCT 2019
I’m lying on her couch.
She’s in the next room, her bedroom, lying in her bed.
Her bedroom is a private space -that’s what she told me the first day.
Our flirtations -nuzzling, hand-holding in the streets, cuddling on this couch- have grown bolder at deliberate, steady pace, but never in her room.
I like the slow, deliberate pace of things. The slow, deliberate way in which we are re-learning each other after years apart; the way we aren’t putting the cart of intimacy before the horse of connection. Violent delights of course have violent ends, and I don’t want to relive past mistakes which sprang from impetuousness and recklessness. I don’t think she does either.
No. This time I’m thinking more seriously. I sat with her today -all afternoon in fact because it was raining- while she watched her shows and fretted about how to arrange her living room for a party next week. I sat there, not quite sombre, but pensive, thinking to myself, “could I sit here with her every Sunday for the rest of my life?”
Maybe. Maybe even probably.
But I’m cautious, at least I’m trying to be. I’m really looking at how I feel in the moment and seeing if the feelings that come to me are shaded by guilt for how I treated her in the past. I want to make sure that whatever I do is righteous in the moment, and not short-sightedly satisfying nostalgia for the warm, agape love she once showed me.
I kissed her today. I was really happy afterward. I was happy because she was happy of course, but I was also happy that I recognized the right time to do it: I was lying beside her on the living room floor and she was talking about something excitedly. Her eyes, always bright and wide as their default setting, were somehow brighter and wider, and the faded black accents on her off-white t-shirt seemed as bold and vibrant as the ebony keys on a piano against the ivory ones. It was a sign. I recognized it. I acted on it. It was perfection.
In the intervening years since I broke her heart she has learned to set boundaries; no men -no me– in her bed is but one. I respect it, I understand it. Still, it hurts my heart a little when, in the evenings, she has left our cuddling on the couch to go to her room. I have asked her to stay, but she has said no, and that’s honestly what I probably need from her.
Tonight though played out a little differently: anticipating the hurt of her leaving me here on the couch I didn’t get invested emotionally when she started making overtures toward going to bed. I pulled out my laptop and switched on Mad Men as she brushed her teeth and didn’t get up to say goodnight.
I laid there for a few minutes after she retired and then realized that this behaviour on my part was just the kind of passive-aggressive, ego-based game bordering on dishonesty that has gotten me into such bullshitty situations in the past.
I got up and knocked on her door. She said “come in” but I asked her to come out on account of her bedroom being a sacred space. I explained why I didn’t say goodnight to her (protecting my feelings) and how that wasn’t right, and for a moment I guess she thought I was asking to come in and invited me in. I declined reflexively because I was already in that headspace of letting her have her space, and re-explained that I wanted to say a proper goodnight. I hugged her and we shared another lovely kiss.
I couldn’t sleep after that and instead watched another episode of Mad Men.
Speaking of which: There’s a great episode of the show where Roger Sterling seduces his young ex-wife, Jane and they make love in the apartment he bought for her after their divorce. The next morning she is upset with him and crying because she had a place that was just hers and now it was contaminated by him- even though she wanted him in the moment.
I bore that scene in mind the last few days while here, and it was certainly in my mind when I closed my laptop and laid on the couch thinking how nice it would be to be curled up in bed with her. She had invited me in after all and there is a point in the evenings, in the darkness, where noone can see us breaking the rules we have set for ourselves.
But I haven’t been able to bring myself to knock on the door. That would be a critical dose of impetuousness at a time when substance needs greater exploration, as flash has been well-demonstrated.
So I’m lying here on the couch, being the strong one tonight because she can’t be. I want to go knock on the door in a short-term fulfilment kind of way, but I’m playing a longer game now, and I’m not yet convinced that me knocking on that door is the best long-term move. Put more superstitiously: I didn’t get signs and a flash of vibrant colours like I did just before I kissed her.
There might be something there that is righteous and well-intentioned, but right now -tonight- I couldn’t hear it over nostalgia for times past and the desire to no be alone.
There is a time to act and a time to observe. Now is the latter.