Love WIns

IMG_1347-2Friday night’s about love. It’s supposed to be, anyway. I’m on a weekend retreat sipping tea on the wooded side of a mountain, overlooking a river.

I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t like group events. I don’t like small talk about big ideas. Words are a prison and friendly strangers seek out the comfort of conversation where silence and quietude hold the keys that sets one free.

A week earlier, when I receive the invitation, escaping New York for a night and a day, spending the morning by the river, breathing with trees, and walking on dirt sounds enchanting.

I expect I won’t find anyone to work for me, but I do. I ask my neighbor to watch my dog and she lends me her car. I drive up with a passenger, the organizer of the event. Like notes of a rough draft scrawled on a napkin, I don’t know where I’m going or why, only that there’s gas in the tank, keys in my hand, and a partner by my side. Something, somewhere else, is pulling me along.

The ride is easy, and my pedestrian, city-legs acclimate quickly to the pulsing pleasure of the gas pedal.

At an intersection off the highway, a car speeds down the road as I pull past the stop sign. We narrowly miss colliding. If I was moving a tiny bit faster, or the other car a touch slower, if my friend hadn’t grabbed arm, if my foot had missed the brakes, it would’ve been a big one. Life changing, maybe even life ending.

I laugh after we skid to a stop, after my friend releases his breath, after the other car honks long and loud in retribution.

The group on the mountain craves answers more than questions, and love, squirmy and elusive, escapes their tight grips and hides in the dusty corners of the room. I suspect it’s only when you’re ready to turn your back and walk away that love whispers in your ear and tug at your sleeves. This group is too hungry. They scare love away.

“What’s the answer,” a woman asks me the next morning. I’m watching the sunrise. She’s gathering moss. “Why are we here?”

“As far as I know, there’s only one correct answer to any question,” I say, “It’s ‘I don’t know.'”

She nods and ambles with her pile of moss into the house.

Later in the evening, I’m tired of all the chatter and I want to go home. I’m afraid to drive the windy roads in the dark, so I lay awake and think about how I crave change and how the car accident that didn’t happen would’ve provided it. I make an executive decision to be more specific when articulating my desires.

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Monday afternoon’s about love. Rickie C., his boyfriend, and I drive to a wedding in Pennsylvania. I’m officiating, so love’s been on my mind. My city-legs have recovered from their near accident. They remember driving in my father’s old Buick Century from Philadelphia to Connecticut and back again every school break. Trucks barrel down the middle lane, sporty cars bear down on the slower drivers. Everyone wants to be some place else.

As we drive, we talk about work and love and love at work.

“At my job, everyone’s breaking up,” Rick says. His show is about love and boxing. “Only a few of us, a handful, are sticking it out.” He sighs. “It’s supposed to be ‘love wins.’ Isn’t it?”

If you catch love and take it by the shoulders, shake it, box it up, tape it to the wall, treat it like a trophy, it becomes something else.

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s best to let love be.”

“I guess.”

At the ceremony, the bride and groom, my friends, cry before I even begin. They hang onto each other, hold hands, squeeze hard, lock eyes, as if they’re jumping off the highest cliff into the dizzy unknown, happy to find someone to jump with them.

I say something like this: “Love makes us human. It makes us great and it makes us humble. It stretches our boundaries. It teaches to be stronger than we ever thought possible. It shows us the power of vulnerability…

“Like the of a molting turtle, love sometimes leaves us tender so that we can grow, and then hardens and protects us with flexibility and astounding strength….

“Anyway, about that marriage thing – Mikey, I got a couple questions for you…”

He stutters “I do”  before I utter another word.

I mean to ask Rickie C. what love has to do with boxing. How do you fight for something that’s too strong to fight back? What does that fight look like? Can you fight for something that exists everywhere, and vanishes whenever you try to freeze it in time?

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday are about love, I guess.

One friend, after engaging in a very public courtship, embraces a very public break-up. Another friend’s life extinguishes like a candle flame in a very private death.

There’s elegance and beauty in the one ending, a simplicity and mysteriousness that hints at my friend’s true character. His death is like closing the back cover of a subtle novel after reading the perfect, last sentence.

A person who’s been woven into the tapestry of many lives is pulled out of the weave by a single thread, leaving the slightest impression behind. That thread, isolated and alone, holds the ragged fur of a person who cared about people. If I didn’t see it before, if I sometime avoided him on the street because I didn’t want to talk, I see it now and am honored to be a part of his brief story.

The other ending, the break-up, is like a best-seller read in the bathtub with the simple decadence of a cigarette and a glass of wine. The book slips form the side of the tub where it’s precariously perched, and drops in the water. In a week, maybe I’ll pick it up again and enjoy the warped pages even more. But right now, it’s a bloated, soggy mess.

We say we want it, and then we run from it, or scare it away, or grab at it, mash it into a mold, whip it around, play hide and seek, turn our backs, or push it away simply because it doesn’t look the way we think it should.

What would happen if we stood still for a moment, ears open and eyes closed?

We say we’re looking for love, but I think what we’re really looking for is a good story.

Love wins, anyway. Because that’s all there is.

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3 thoughts on “Love WIns

  1. Beautiful. Particularly touching and insightful in to the many types of lives led in your presence. You are the storyteller of personalities and experience in a most beautiful way.

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