I’m not sure what it means when something unknown and unexpected feels familiar instead.
For all my livelong life, I’ve been propelled by some strange conflagration of nervous energy. A certain run-and-hide dynamic that leads me, time and again, into the arms of safely dangerous men.
Which is perhaps where I’ve found myself again, except that this time, the allure is accompanied by an astonishing calm.
As if I’ve found a resting place.
I haven’t committed myself to this, exactly.
But just for me, I’m pretending that I have. To see if I could.
To see if I’d want to.
To see what I’m actually like, when I allow all of the recklessness to stop.
In the past, I’ve been the bearer of a hundred thousand wild-spun thoughts. They beat me down, shriek at me, slash through an intelligence that should know better.
But this time, they’ve gone all hushed, subdued.
“We’re shockingly unimportant,” they whisper.
Last week, I rode around in a car all afternoon with this man, just because.
Because it was what I wanted.
I can’t remember the last time I wanted something. It might have been 14 years ago when I found out I was pregnant and realized I wanted to keep the baby, then waited nine months for a miscarriage that never happened.
Sometimes, I’m not sure why, life gives me what I want.
Nonetheless, I notice within myself the forced ambivalence that comes with the wanting. As if I’m trying to trick life into delivering it to me, by pretending that I don’t care.
About the man in the car, I care.
But knowing him comes with a side note that reads, “You’re going to be fine without this.”
An alert that sounds every few days.
I’m going to be fine without this.
Which, I guess, makes it okay to spend an afternoon in a car with him.
There’s so much and so little between us.
I used to think I was skilled in the art of intimacy, but all the ways I’ve known to reach a person have been erased when it comes to him.
Which might be because I’m already there, or it might be because it’s useless to even try.
Stuck in traffic, he passes me a notebook that he grabs from the back seat.
“Read to me?” he offers.
Not counting the sex, this is arguably how we’re best together.
So I turn to a story that he read to me the first night we met, that I later had him send to me via email, that I read aloud to him now.
It’s from an event he covered. A story in which family members unearth the hastily-buried bodies of their tortured sons, brothers, fathers.
“You took pictures?” I ask, and wonder how I’ve never asked that before.
He passes me his phone, and teaches me how to pull up the photographs that accompany this.
I can’t make it past the second one, in which a father kisses the skull of a son he was unable to protect.
“Thoughts?” the man behind the steering wheel asks.
“You’ve seen a lot,” is what I give.
But my real thoughts are about an article I once read, in which it’s brought to light that there’s a word for a person who loses a spouse, and a word for a person who loses a parent, but that there is no word for someone who loses a child.
Because it’s just too horrible.
And then, within the range of already horrible, it can get worse.
I imagine myself unearthing the body of my dead son, loosening the wires that were binding his hands upon execution.
And I realize, not for the first time, that I know absolutely nothing about life.
Staring at the photograph, assimilating the story, I notice I’m on the brink of inviting in a reality other than my own. And I teeter there for a long time. Daunted by the threat of feeling something.
But in the end, I’m too much a coward.
In the end, I’m driving around in a car with a man whom I have to tell myself I’ll be fine without, a man who is both much further gone and far more here than I think I’ll ever be.