In the beginning, Dear Beloved, there was a lack of knowing, an absence of seeing. You were but a fanciful tale told to me in the kitchen over morning grits and cheese by my Elders, read about in tattered self-published paperbacks with yellow and brittle pages that I found on my radical Uncle’s bookshelf, and witnessed in herky-jerky black and white news reels from years Before I Was Born. I had not (yet) met you, known you, experienced your hot embrace.
But you knew me.
You longed for me, secretly. You saw me striding through my child’s life with confidence (or arrogance?) and singing my child’s song with gusto (or greed?)—yet I strode and I sang alone, without your companionship. You saw me in my childish flirtations with others: Altruism and Kindness and Empathy. You knew these relationships would be short-lived and fastened by tenuous bonds. You knew what I really needed to be whole was you.
Your first introductions to me were tentative. First I did not want to recognize you: Surely you were still the myth, the story, the fable. You were Misunderstanding in costume, Ignorance in drag. It really couldn’t be you, I thought. You did not exist.
But eventually you made your feelings known more vocally to me and I had no choice but to believe it was, really and truly, you. You had arrived to court me formally. And you have been pursuing me ever since.
You are strong beyond any strength that Mighty can muster. You sustain my rebukes and fend off my attempts to lose you. I condemn you and curse you and still you declare your everlasting love for me. I mock you and attempt to maim you, and still you stand—ready to walk proudly by my side when my fit is over. I am indifferent to you, I am dispassionate to the point where I can turn soup fresh off the stove to ice in a bowl. But still you wait in the wings, ready to woo me over in wild and dramatic fashion when I least expect it.
I know you have other objects of your affection. I am often, quite inexplicably, incensed by this: I do not want your attentions, so why should I care if your eyes behold others? Yet I do care. I do not want you for them. I do not want you for me—but not for them either. Instead, I wish for Loneliness, Obsolescence, and Isolation to be your only friends.
Even this does not bother you. You have enough capacity to love me and many, many others at once. In fact, your love grows stronger the more lovers you have.
You know me. You do not understand me. Otherwise why would you continue to woo me when I have not returned your heart? Why would you stalk me, attend to me, try to dazzle me with blinding displays of your prowess? Why do you continue to call me your pet names when you know I will not answer to them?
I have sometimes, during very quiet moments, asked myself if I do, in fact, love you in return? I search my face in the mirror…my hair…my choices in music or clothing…my address…other things…and I wonder if I have not accepted you into my life after all. Do I, possibly, love you in return, crave this partnering? By my very actions am I performing a predetermined role in a twisted affaire de coeur?
Currently you have left me. You are attending to your other lovers, or perhaps resting up for your next attempt at seduction of me. I know you will be back and I know I will, again, push you away. I refuse to submit; You refuse to surrender.
This is what we do, you and I.
I tell my children about you. In the kitchen over granola and yogurt, via the pages of glossy full-color award-winning picture books, with YouTube clips and cable movies. They listen dutifully, but still their strides are confident and their songs are strong. Some days I think they may never grow to be loved by you. I think they are sure to never know you as their would-be lover and personal pursuer. But you are strong. You’ll be there to catch them when they rise. Just as you have been there for me.
If I have my way, they will rebuke you—just as I have and will continue to do.