“Love will never find you while you’re on this dating quest,” she emphatically stated.
“I know,” I emphatically agreed.
We were both drinking wine.
I’m officiating a wedding this weekend for a friend I’ve known since we were nineteen. She calls me the High Priestess and wants me to wear butterflies in my hair. She wants me to talk about love.
It’s a huge topic. At once simple and elegant. Unavoidable, yet hard to find. It’s bigger than all of us, but within us all. A magic trick. Fairy dust. A winking glamour who hovers in corners, saucy enough to tease us with her smile, blithe enough to appear when we least expect her, and when we need her most.
Love has a close cousin Romance, who is well-meaning, though very competitive. She likes sports and though she says she’s a team player, she wants to be the star. She flits her blonde hair and struts about, masquerading as her revered relative. She lacks subtlety, though, and walks around with a two-by-four whacking unsuspecting victims upside the head until they mistake dizziness for passion and blame their lack of balance on the earth moving beneath their feet.
I’m not going to say that at the wedding.
To be completely honest, I don’t know what I’m going to say.
I’ve been feeling very… odd, lately. Like I’ve been sucked through a few different portals at the same time and am simultaneously lounging on a future beach in Sinai watching the moon rise over the Red Sea, while sitting in the childhood living room of an author I just met, as I’m walking into a screen door, drunk, at a party in Santa Cruz just shy of my nineteenth birthday and I’m writing at my desk, drinking green tea and wondering what my dog is up to in the other room.
Now I’m moving into my apartment. Now I’m leaving my husband. Now I’m marrying my husband. Now stepping off the train in New York. Now selling jewelry on Telegraph Avenue. Now going to classes at Bryn Mawr. And now, sitting at the koi pond already wondering what I’m doing with my life.
I don’t understand how I can be at all these places at once, especially since I’ve never been to two of them. I’m sucked forward and back through the portals of time, anchored only by the heat from my mug and the clacking of computer keys.
Anastasia and I have an unceremonious start when she bursts into the dorm room at Santa Cruz while I’m sleeping, and announces that she is my roommate. She’s in love with a guy who’s bad news. I’m afraid I’ll never know what love is. I’m not sure I want to know. It is my belief at the time that love makes people weak.
Two summers later, stranded in Berkeley when my life plans fall through, I’m in the midst of a dramatic love triangle, living in the garage of a house with a boyfriend who neglects to tell me that his girlfriend from a previous summer is moving to California to be with him. He punches the wall by my face in frustration when I ask what’s wrong, accuses me of not being true, and won’t talk to me for days, even though we live in the same room. He swears he loves me more than anyone he’s ever known.
If this is love, I want no part of it. I pack my belongings into a garbage bag and walk down the hill. His other girlfriend arrives two days later and takes my place at the house.
The next time I try to love it’s with caution, trepidation, and fear. By the time I’m twenty-four, I think I’m done. But that’s the thing about Love and Romance, I surmise. Romance does the dirty work, jumps you in the alley with her two-by-four. While you’re still woozy, Love sneaks into your heart.
Anastasia and I waltz slowly through our lives, me, mostly on the east coast, her, west. With each relationship, I study the floor plans, the blueprints, mark the emergency exits and figure out how to end it before it even begins.
My husband and I never buy furniture for our new home. Not even a bed. We sleep on a mattress on the floor, left behind by the previous tenant. The escape route is simple. The front door.
Anastasia, on the other hand, embraces love like she embraces life, with joy, courage, passion, and hope. She’s not afraid of entanglements or making a mess. The harder things get, the more she laughs.
One fateful night, sometime between midnight and two, I see my heart outside my body, pierced at every angle with shards of glass. I know I did it to myself, and so I start the painful, gory task of removing the shards one by one so that my heart can heal.
It is then that I understand that Romance is a bully, disguised as a cheerleader, taunting innocent people at every turn. Making promises she can’t keep. And laughing as she runs away.
And I think, if I can stand up Romance, maybe Love will find her way back to me.
And she does.
If I had had one less glass of wine with Sue, or maybe one more, I might’ve tried to explain to her that, albeit bruised and battered, love has found me.
I saw her this week while sitting on the stoop, talking about Egypt. And then I took her for a walk with my dog. I sat knee to knee with her on my friend’s sofa. And now we’re sharing a cup green tea with that good local honey.
This has gotten a lot cornier than I intended. And I don’t mean to offend the bitterest among you. I’m just trying to figure out what to say at my friend’s wedding when she tells this guy on front of everyone that she wants to grow old with him, and he says the same thing to her.
I have a friend who is six-foot eight. He once described his relationship with his future wife like this: he said that they kept their love sacred and quiet between them so that it can grow. And when it is strong, they turned out, away from each other, and love the rest of the world.
And so, now it is my belief that love doesn’t make people weak. Love makes people strong. It’s being bashed in the head by that damn two-by-four that you have to watch out for.