She made me laugh; she made me feel alive.
She gave me a reason to go to work, to keep stocking shelves eight hours each night. I was so in love with her, with her mind and her wit, that I could barely even see her body. I knew her eyes were light, but for the longest time, I couldn’t discern whether they were blue or green, or if her hair was red, strawberry blonde, or brown. But I knew her smile, her voice, her laugh, and her scent.
She was everything to me, she gave me a reason to keep growing, to keep trying to keep it all together. I held off telling her how I felt for a few months, because I love you’s are sacred to me. My rule of thumb is to put off saying those words until not saying them is too agonizing to bear.
Love is agony. It’s fire, and chaos, and yet it’s a pain that dulls the pain. It’s self-redeeming. It opens a door to another world, another us. It’s the most powerful force on Earth, driving us to do things—good and bad—that we never thought possible.
I had to face a lifetime of fear just to get to know her. I had to stare down and fight through dozens of past rejections. It’d been almost 10 years since I’d been in love. I wanted to run, to push it away and be happy by myself again, but I couldn’t because I no longer belonged to myself; I was hers.
At the breaking point, I summoned up each measure of strength, and practiced my lines over and over again, before telling her how I felt. I don’t know why I always plan things. There hasn’t been one instance in my life where something went according to plan. In that moment, when I walked up to her, my words were gone. I could only manage one sentence, “I have feelings for you.”
When she looked up and met my eyes, time stopped and the universe fell apart.
All the color ran from the world, like watercolors dripping from an unsealed canvas that was left out in the rain. It was like an invisible hand reached up from the grave and skewered my guts with an icicle. One of the things I loved about her is that, unlike me, she speaks with her face. Her face said, “Why are you ruining our friendship? This can never be.” She broke eye contact, self-conscious, and I started stammering on about nothing. “I’m… sorry,” is all she could say. “It’s not your fault,” I replied.
I stepped outside on break, sat in a shadowy corner, and broke down. I wanted someone to hold me, but at the same time, I was grateful that I was alone. In one sentence, I’d just burned the past and future to the ground. There was just that moment, that moment of pain, sorrow, and uncertainty. There was clarity too, always clarity thanks to practice. Each passing thought and feeling was illuminated; I could sense that shining silence that’s weaves each moment together.
If you ever experience an Awakening, you taste that bright awareness, and it’s with you the rest of your life. I recommend it. Or, maybe I don’t; it just depends.
That said, I’m half-baked. Wandering that edge between edges and edgelessness—weeping, raging and laughing with my whole body.
Well, not laughing as much these days, since I haven’t seen her in seven months. I didn’t stop working there because we had a falling out, because we didn’t. The whole next day was filled with uncertainty for me. I didn’t know where I was going; it all depended on if we could get through this and keep the friendship alive.
The next night, she told me, “It’s not you. I love you. I’m… I’m just not into guys.” Yes, after 10 years of solitude, after venturing out into the world and facing my fears, after all the changes I went through—I’d fallen in love with a lesbian. I remember thinking, “This is actually kind of funny, in a Cosmic Jokey kinda way.” Cosmic jokes only get a laugh when you’re not the punchline. I’m still not laughing about it, but maybe someday.
We were able to move past it, and in some ways, our friendship deepened because of it. Don’t get me wrong, if she suddenly said, “I’m in love with you, and want to spend my life with you,” I’d drop everything in a flash to be with her. Because even though I’m not in love with her anymore, she’s still the sunshine in my life, and I still hang on her every word like a religious zealot paging through an ancient holy book.
Is it possible to be close friends with someone you’re attracted to? Of course it is, as long as you’ve had, “The talk,” like we did, and as long as you’re both mature enough to keep things in perspective. You might experience infatuation flareups from time to time, but they’re manageable.
I’m under no illusions of ever being with her, because she’s attracted to women, and I’m not a woman. In the sunset of my love, I actually cursed genetics. “If only she was born bi or heterosexual, or if only I was born a bi or homosexual girl, we’d be together.”
But, it’s like Dwight says in the Office, “If only’s and just’s were candies and nuts, then everyday would be Erntedankfest.” There’s little use in pondering parallel worlds, of course that knowledge isn’t gonna stop us from doing it.
A friend of mine I confided in said, “Maybe you can turn her?”
I politely asked him to get the hell out of my house. We’re still friends too, but I don’t abide backwards thinking. To put his view in perspective, he also believes that the Earth is flat and that climate change isn’t caused by human activity. Wisdom is compromise. We’re only friends because we usually set aside such things when we chat.
The same way that she and I set aside my feelings. It took me awhile; love is stubborn. Logic is useless against it. Only time rots the wood and takes the wind out of its sails. That said, nothing ever ends, it just moves around. That includes each thought and feeling. The same laws that apply to physics apply to the mind, because mind, body, and the universe are altogether.
So where did my love go? It turned into tears that evaporated into the atmosphere and fell back again as rain. It turned into kinetic energy, bringing my fingers to keys and pens to paper. It turned into busy thoughts and dreams while my body was at rest, alone in bed on those long, dark winter nights. It turned into a bond between her and I that, despite not seeing each other for seven months, is still just as strong as ever.
We still chat almost everyday. She’s probably my best friend these days.
She quit the place to go to school full time. I knew that from the get-go, and it was another reason why reason told me to not get close. But, fuck it, I replied, I’m going to see what happens. My life is full of mindful misadventures. Most of the “mistakes” I’ve made were made with me knowing full well that they were probably mistakes.
Life is short. We can play it safe, or risk it all, both are equal in the end. We only leave our stories behind.
I quit work a few months later, because without her there, it was an irredeemable pit. She encouraged me to quit. She always asked me, “Why are you here? This isn’t where you belong. You could do so much more.” I was there for her, and she knew that. After she left, the whole place was haunted by happy memories. Absence is a presence.
Here I am. Winter is over, the trees are about burst into green.
As my degree gathers dust in the cabinet, I still don’t know where I’m going. A natural loner, but not very good to himself alone. For all of love’s little agonies, it’s been the only thing that’s ever given me direction and the will to care much for this bag of bones.
But there are times when, by practicing non-grasping, I feel in love again; not with anyone in particular, or for any discernible reason—I just feel in love. That’s something special. Love unchained, without a source or destination. As Farong’s Song of Mind says:
“If you don’t latch onto anything, the peaceful mind won’t be latched onto by anything. Not latched to anything, bright emptiness will reveal itself. Perfectly silent, vast and unborn.”
Love without grasping. What a concept!
But it’s more than a concept because I’ve felt it. Floating in the bathtub, staring at the ceiling after meditating, there it was. There I was, the me I lost with her. There’s something to this, to life, that’s just beyond reach. Not because it’s far away, but because it’s too close to see.
It’s the one reading these words, the one feeling these feelings. In that mystery, I can take refuge, and breathe deep oceans of unknowing. Sun-faced Buddha, moon-faced Buddha.
Everyday is a good day.
Anshi (安狮) is the pen name for a certain Chan Buddhist. He calls his introspective, autobiographical writing, “Dharma Noir.” All names are changed to protect the privacy of those involved. If you know who Anshi is, please refrain from telling anyone.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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