Sunday, May 20, 2012

On Holding One's Lovers Lightly

Recently I walked the beach with a friend. The day was near-perfect: bright sun, a cloudless sky, rolling surf a dozen shades of white and green,more plovers than I think I’ve ever seen running up the sand all together.

We’ve been close the last ten or twelve years. Not many more times than that, we’ve tumbled in and out of bed. Whenever it’s happened, it’s been good for us both, sweet, affirming, affectionate. I have no idea when we’ll see one another again. He’s made a decision about where to go next with his life that quite possibly takes him to the other side of the world for the forseeable future. I’m not convinced that what he’s chosen is a great idea. I stuck my oar in some time ago to tell him so. I gather several other friends later echoed what I’d said.

He turned over some alternative ideas during the winter, then decided, he told me a few weeks back, to go ahead with his original plan. I find it way too easy to offer unsollicited advice, but I’m glad to say I fought back the impulse and did my best to listen supportively. If my fears for him are misplaced, he doesn’t need me sapping his declared excitement and enthusiasm. If they aren’t, it’s not my hunch but what he learns of himself that will bring him out the other side of the experience. It’s only the knowledge that rises from within us that counts in the end.

My deep-running desire to be right, to see farther, isn’t about my love for this man, but about an impulse to colonize him, to treat his soul as though it were my own territory. I’m not happy to think how long it’s taken me to realize this, how often I have to learn it again: looking out together hand in hand at the light glinting off the ocean is better than holding up a map to announce with authority, “here we are.”

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