It is strange to think back over the past few years and realize, not only how fast they've gone by, but the way in which they seem to blend together in an indistinguishable blur of events, trips, places, and above all, faces. It would almost seem as though the mind creates a subconscious timeline, marking the passing of months and years, not with numbers, but with the beginnings, durations, and sometimes endings of ones relationships. I have heard it said that every instance of human interaction leaves an effect more profound than is ever truly realized, much less fully appreciated, that the sights and sounds and smells which we associate with a certain time or place are more often simply mementos which we take with us in remembrance of someone who has touched our lives irreversibly. And if this be true for every type of human interaction, then it would seem to me also likely that the effect be twice as powerful when remembering our amorous exchanges, the precious collection of romantic liaisons which mark, not only, our never ending passage into adulthood, but the very image of the people which we become.
When posed the question "have you ever been in love?", I often find myself at a loss for words. I am aware, of course, of the connotations implied by the term in love, yet find it very difficult to distinguish the plethora of varied emotions which I have associated with this sentiment and determine what it truly constitutes and how or why it is felt. Is being in love that feeling of weakness which seems to quiver through ones body when in the presence of another? Is it the desire to share oneself in all entirety, to be a better person, or to protect another from all that which can be perceived as a threat from the outside world? If I think back for a moment and focus on the face of each of the men which I have ever claimed to care for, I am confronted by a wave of distinctly unique feelings, memories, circumstances and outcomes. I realize, almost immediately, that while these elements may have varied greatly, the very essence of the sentiment which I associate them with remains the same. Each encounter was, of course, unique, and I can say in all honesty, that I cared for some more than others, but where does that golden line lie between caring about someone and truly being in love with them? Is it true that we are lucky if, in an entire lifetime, we find even a single person to fall in love with, a person which shakes us to the core and changes us in ways which ensure we are never quite the same again?
I was sixteen when I became convinced for the first time that I was in love. It began with an adoration of the way in which his soft brown hair would fall into his eyes when he spoke to me, the way it seemed as though my hand was made to fit into his, and grew slowly into an insatiable desire to pass every waking hour in his presence, a mutual addiction laced with the innocence of inexperience and an affection which made the entire world seem to stop. As time passed, however, this feeling of security and resolve became slowly replaced by a hunger for new experience, a desire to explore the world outside that which I had always known, and more so, the one inside of me of which I had so little understanding. It was in my quest to discover this new world that I found myself in love again, this time with a boy seven years my senior who I spent all of four weeks with before deciding to pack my bags and travel oceans away for. The thrill of being only eighteen and standing on the edge of an adventure so profound filled me with enthusiasm, a desire to throw myself into this new existence and let the sensation of this new love, so unfamiliar and overwhelming, wash over me completely.
We learned everything together in the years that would follow, the complexities of building a home, a routine, an entire web of life which both thrilled and terrified us. It was during this time that I became convinced that this was what true love felt like. Not the obsessive, needy puppy love I'd known before, but something much more certain, more lasting, the bud of a blooming flower that required patience, a soft hand, and dedication which was sometimes difficult to summon, but which ultimately made our love stronger. With him, I could spend hours talking, laughing, sharing with one another the similar and distinct ways in which we interpreted the world around us. We would take spontaneous trips all over the country, document what we saw and lived in photographs, and grow together as family, as lovers, and above all, as friends who knew one another inside and out, could recite each others' stories from memory and who sometimes needed no words at all to express the most complex of emotions. Yet while we learned to allow our roots to twist and bend and become evermore entwined, neither of us ever stopped growing and changing individually. What we had together was beautiful, yet the desire to discover the things which cannot be shared with another person, but must be experienced alone, became greater and greater and we began to pull apart from one another until all that remained were the delicate threads of the one thing that would bind us together forever- our friendship.
My second long term relationship behind me, I left my life under the Low Sky and traveled to Barcelona to, once again, start anew. I arrived intent on spending the next few months focusing on myself, on finding a balance on the line between adolescence and womanhood which seemed so hopelessly ambiguous then. Little did I know, of course, that this would be just the first in a series of actions which would mark the beginning of my next chapter, one in which I would encounter a whole new rush of emotions, of love and lust, pleasure and pain that would change me forever. And how I did love in those months that passed by so quickly on the shores of the Mediterranean, and deep into the years which would follow. I loved fiercely and selfishly, whimsically and unknowingly, taking, giving, building and crushing with no rhyme or reason at all. I loved the Swedish boy with his chilling green eyes and heart-crushing sincerity, the way he would watch me while I slept and tell me he would love me forever. I loved the sarcastic and charming filmmaker with whom I spent years weaving a web of trust and familiarity, with whom I could share my most fleeting of thoughts and darkest of secrets, with whom making love seemed like a game between two children and an earthshaking shudder of passion at the same time. I loved the days and nights in which the tension was so thick that I could feel it in my lungs with every breath I drew, yet where no more than a betraying glance or casual brush of skin would be exchanged. I loved the walks along the water, the nights of chess and poetry and jazz music, the mornings of bare feet and whispered melodies, the laughs which I elicited with silly faces or games played in my childhood, and the tears which I provoked sometimes out of sheer cruelty. In my mind, there was no limit on the number of ways in which this love could be felt or expressed and I reveled in the complexity yet utter simplicity of it all. I loved the entire process of falling in love, then out again, a fascinating act which seemed as colorful and beautiful as a dance of abandon or carefully penned poem.
In my mind, this flurry of passion could have continued forever, until I fell in love with the one who would commit an act of betrayal so profound that it seemed surreal, who would make me taste the bitterness of heartbreak for the very first time, and who would leave me completely shattered and unable to remember, in even the faintest of detail, the way in which I had once been able to love. My sadness, however, would soon turn into anger, then hate, then ever so slowly, indifference, which is perhaps the truest form of hate there is. I would nurse this feeling grudgingly until I returned to Spain once again, this time to the heart of Andalusia. It was there, so far from the piercing reality of these memories that I would forge a friendship which peeled back the layers of protection I had built up around myself and allowed me to once more catch a glimpse of the breathtaking descent into the depths of adoration. With the utmost of patience and care, we fashioned a love not experienced in the same reckless and selfish way I had known it before, and not fueled by the same motives. It was not so much romantic love as it was a process of learning and understanding. In pure innocence and fascination, we spent these months coming closer and closer together until it seemed, at times, that we were two parts of a single person, two elements necessary in the existence of one picture. And yes, in the end I loved him too, his dark brown eyes and intoxicating laugh, his incessantly churning thoughts and the life which seemed to radiate from his every movement. I loved him as a friend, as a brother, as someone who would change me forever and make me forget that bittersweet taste in my mouth, that cold feeling which I thought I'd never be free of.
Have you ever been in love? I hear the question and can only smile, because I know that I have. Perhaps not in a way which can be defined in any set terms or numbers, nor in a manner which can be described in any song or film or dream. I see it more as the culmination of several moments, places, occurrences and emotions, the sum of all parts melting together into a state of mind, a memory, an ability to recall each face individually and remember something about it that filled you with hope. As I said before, there will always be those that you will remember more fondly, more vividly, the few stars which shine just a bit brighter than the others, but this is only natural. What these experiences have taught me, above all, is how to find beauty in the process of allowing yourself to care for someone, to not take any of it for granted because every step changes you in one way or another.
These days I find myself, once again, dancing on the line of a blooming affection, treading carefully into the pages of another new chapter. It reminds me of my past yet is undeniably distinct and I am so fascinated by the feeling of it, that I approach the whole thing with a lighter hand and a softer voice. I want to savor the experience, let every thought and feeling wash over me slowly, resist the urge to allow myself to succumb to it all too quickly. It feels like holding a candle in my hands, sensing the warmth of the flame against my palms and fingertips and watching it grow brighter, like peeling back the skin of a pomegranate to expose the delicate red fruit beneath. It is frightening and thrilling in way I can't truly describe and it makes me feel nothing but gratitude for the luck which I have had and the sequence of events which have brought me to this point. It makes me want to close my eyes and dedicate a single heartbeat to all my previous experiences, to the adventures which I have already had and the ones I am just beginning, to my thoughts and fondest of memories... to the men I have loved.