Last fall, when I was caring for my ailing mother, and had dragged my daughter from the azure waters of Hawaii to this maddog freeway life of LA, I went on a match.com date. The man was handsome and successful, wore a periwinkle shirt, better shoes than mine, and, like everyone in LA, had blinding white teeth. He was practiced and engaging, and had been a little bit of a (white collar) felon in his drinking days. He told his story of misplaced ambition and the quest to fall hopelessly in love, I told mine about the ex with the little meth problem, the little truth problem, the little fidelity problem, and my own part in it, and he asked: “So, what do you think attracted you to him?” I gave some exhausted, therapy-drenched answer that made me want to fall asleep and kill myself at the same time. All of a sudden, I felt this mad desire to claim my love, defend it, protect it from dissection from this man and everyone else, forever.
That night, I found myself wandering back through all the loves I have ever known, the unrequited, the bent, the desperate, the passionate, the sublime, the abandoned, the serene, the destroyed. So many different textures, depths–each of them mashed in the end and then separated and strained to decipher HOW SHOULD WE LOVE and WHAT IS HEALTHY and HOW CAN WE BE FULFILLED and I can tell you that I have BEEN fulfilled. But my love does not look like the ones in the movies, or the books, or the guidebooks. And maybe the reason my love doesn’t look like the ones I see around me is that we don’t get to tell the truth about our loves. Just to be with them.
The truth is, I love them all, every kind of love. A homeless man handing me a cigarette on the street at 2AM, a woman making me valerian tea and trying to ground me after the man I loved attacked me viciously, the man who showed me what it felt like to be cared for, respected, fed, housed. The one who cradled me naked in the midnight moonlight in the blue Hawaiian water, then wrapped his hands around my throat–so gently–as he slid into me in the white sand, while the ghost of a woman he loved and lost was so near, and his heart was just barely beating by mine.
This is a love letter to all those different kinds of love, to love eternal, to love extinguished and agonized and reborn.
As Ram Dass says, “We’re all just walking each other home.”
Sheila Gallien 2015