I yearn for stillness again. I want to read and occasionally look out at the sunlit mountains, at the palm trees that are finally at rest after their violent quivers.
I do not know how long I have been in the shower now. Far too long for a city in drought. It is a selfish shower. I let the warm water cascade over me but do not bother to clean myself. I want to stay here the way I wanted to cling to the bed this morning. It is not depression that compels me, it is the desire to be nourished in ways that do not incur risk.
I sit on the bedroom floor wearing my bathrobe. I bask in the placid warmth of the sunlight. I look over to my left and see a ladder on the carpet made up of sunbeams and shadows. I stand up and step on every rung. I imagine that with every step I ascend to a place of eternal serenity.
Showers and beds and books and windows and shadows…all of these quiet and private soul foods. They require nothing of me. They require no thought or analysis. I cannot fail them and they cannot fail me. But eventually I will want to hear the sound of human voices and I will pointlessly yearn to touch human skin.
I know how to be quiet and sensual in my own little world where nothing threatens me. That is both my gift and my curse. I can find contentment and occasional joy in these gentle private pleasures. And I can even translate them to others at times. I spoke to her last night. And she who I spoke to is someone who has experienced these things. But what she doesn’t know is that I know how to touch her, not because I have touched many, but because I know how to hold a pillow and smell a new book and enjoy the different textures of a burrito. I don’t think she could understand that even the way I took my shower today translates into the way I touch and kiss her torso.
Even as I say all of this I am not lost in fantasy. For with this comes an accompanying awareness that she cannot give that back to me. That we may have stilted and awkward conversations. That my private peace may be interrupted by violent, but quiet, inner turmoils.
I decided to experiment last night. To answer her phone call in order to see what would happen if I let myself be authentic. It wasn’t as difficult as I imagined. I realize that I no longer have a need to be loved or understood by her. That I’m at peace either way. So I told her about the smelling of the book and how the idea of imagining a violently romantic death were my ways of feeling okay that day. She said very little. I realize that the quiet that came is something I have learned to expect. For much of my life I have lived quietly and then when I finally speak it is often the case that others look befuddled or at a loss for words. Later in the conversation she said she fantasized about stroking my beard. I stopped her:
“I know that you know me in that way. That your fantasies are about continuing to know me in that way. But I’m not really interested in talking with you about those things. I know you within the confines of the bedroom. And it’s great. But I don’t think I actually know you. Or rather, I do know you. But I know you because I have observed you and studied you and taken in your presence. Not because you have ever told me anything about you.”
Silence. I apologized more out of habit than out of sincere regret.
“No, it’s true. I don’t know you either. I want you but I don’t know you.”
“Yes. And that desire is blinding. I don’t desire you right now. I feel that desire on occasion but very rarely. What you’ve always left me with is curiosity. Who are you?
She paused and then said, “I don’t know. That’s what I’ve been working to discover lately. My voice. Who I am. I go quiet and I feel paralyzed. I have spent my life wondering so much of what others will think that I never actually share who I am.”
“Yes. I can feel that. But you just did it. You just told me something about you. And though I already knew that, it feels fresh because you are the one who told me.”
The conversation continued for another ten minutes or so. And when it ended I am almost ashamed to say that I felt very little. I don’t mean that I was numb or indifferent. I mean that…a part of me wanted to feel those old feelings: excitement over the connection or sexual desire or…a fantasy that I could chew on for the next few weeks. But none of that was there. All that was there was a some compassion for her and the realization that I had to return to my private little world.