To Bring You My Love (section 15)

Note: 8700 words into this, whatever it is. The words are coming slower but they are still coming. Something interesting is about to happen. I am wondering what that is.

**

Lana led the way through the crowded apartment, pushing piles of clothes and other detritus with her feet as she clutched her towel around her. “Just ignore the mess,” she said, reaching down for a pile of bras on the floor.

And it was true. Lana’s apartment was a riot of things out of place. Half forgotten projects. Unfinished meals.

Sebastian didn’t mind. The chaos was Lana’s life. It was beautiful just as she was beautiful.

“I wasn’t really expecting to have company,” she explained. And then, “Why are you here?”

Lana reddened. It wasn’t the thing she had meant to say or, at least, it wasn’t the way she had meant to say it.

“I came to be with you. I came from very far away. But I am ready now. I can stay.”

Lana flushed more. “Bad timing,” she said, and then, looking up at the clock, “Oh geez. I’ve got to get to work. I’m going to be late. I can’t be late again. You understand. I can’t stay and catch up right now. I’ve got to get going.”

“I understand,” Sebastian told her.

This next thing she considered for a moment before saying, “You can stay here. Wait for me. If you want. Maybe I can come home during lunch. Or we can order in some dinner and talk.”

“I will like all those things,” Sebastian told her.

Lana paused in the hallway, studying him. A strange smile on her face. And then, an awkward kiss on his cheek. And she was returning to the bedroom to put on her clothes, finish drying off.

Sebastian waited in the living room. Unsure whether to sit or stand. He stood where she had left him. This was not the reunion he had imagined but it was better than anything he could have imagined  because it was real and there was sweetness in the knowing that they were, at last, standing together in the same place.

“Help yourself to whatever you want,” she told him, now dressed smartly in a professional slacks and jacket. “Make yourself at home. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

And again she kissed him. This time on the mouth though it was a sideways kind of kiss that nearly missed his mouth.

“Back for lunch. Or, if not, definitely dinner. Sorry.” And she was gone leaving Sebastian to unravel the ten thousand mysteries of a morning and afternoon spent entirely to himself.

**

The waiting was awful. The cold, interminable stasis of a long afternoon. He had not calculated for this. He had not expected the cool trench of reality that was her morning. There was no time. He had arrived, touched her briefly and how quickly Lana had flown away. Not to worry, he told himself. This was not a matter for concern. It was the mechanics of life. The machinery of disappointment and frustration. He was here. She was there. Soon, they would be together. He told himself not to count the minutes. That would not help anyone. And so he walked around the room, acquainting himself to a space where he did not really belong. Sebastian picked up objects, considered them, put them back into their place. It was a kind of inventory he was doing, a way of taking the measure of how her life had been without him. The objects were unfamiliar, foreign to him. He took stock, careful treating each with the measured respect of a scholar. Or the full hearted reverence of a poet. They were artefacts from another life. He was on a archaeological dig, piecing together the mystery of Lana in absentia. And it was easily done, picking up each object in turn, seeing it from every angle, placing it back into the place where it belonged. Feeling as he placed it back that he understood a little bit better.

And so the day passed, not quickly, but in a productive state of taking accurate measure. And he waited as patiently as he could while the daylight traveled through the room, ray of sunshine cutting the air. It was a long arm of light reaching out to him from home. It would not touch him where he stood. He would not move toward it. He felt the loneliest he had ever felt.

**

“Oh, hi.” Lana’s greeting when she returned home as if both a bit surprised and confused that Sebastian had actually waited. “Sorry,” she told him and kissed his face.

Sebastian took her brief case and coat. “How was your day?” he asked and then waited with the patience of a loyal dog because he really, truly, desperately wanted to know.

“Ok, I guess. I didn’t get fired or anything. I mean, I made it to work and got my stuff done. My boss liked some of it, I think.”

Sebastian knew he was staring at her too long but seemed unable to stop himself.

“Good,” he said.

“How was your’s? Find anything interesting?”she asked, guesturing around the room. “You cleaned up.”

Sebastian nodded. “I didn’t mean to. I just got curious and thought I could help by putting things into places.”

“Sure. Okay. Yeah. Thanks.”

And a long awkward moment that Sebastian wanted to be filled with kisses but as he leaned in toward Lana, she turned her face. “Let me get changed out of these work clothes. I hate carrying the day into my house. Feel like I’ve got the day’s dust on me. Be right back.”

And Sebastian liked the way she scampered to her bedroom like a small, frisky woodland creature. Such grace and beauty.

She closed the door. Sebastian admired her modesty.

Lana was gone only a few minutes but Sebastian felt each like a stitch through his heart.

The day had passed. Daylight was gone and the city outside was lit by artificial light. In his hundreds of years among humans, Sebastian most loved cities and the clever ways they pushed against the needless limits of nature. Conjuring light and sound where nature would have none. It was a wonder of innovation and creativity. Being in the city, Sebastian felt most like Lana, as if there was very little difference between them. Sebastian felt human.


Happily Ever After: The Work of Love

The work of love is learning to share your life completely without accidentally giving it all away. Our earliest stories in life show us two main virtues to true love: to rescue or to be rescued. You know these stories. Our most basic behaviors, beliefs and thoughts are drenched in the brine of idealized expectation.

If you are stuck in life, you can be the unfortunate stepdaughter princess, always waiting without fully realizing that you are waiting, wiling the hours away with songs about wishes and stars until, one day when you least expect it, true love bursts into your life through the forest and gets you unstuck.

Or, if you are stuck in life, you can become the directionless prince wandering with his noble, shimmering steed on some nameless, purposeless errand only to find the damsel desperate for your hand. Only you can help her. You cannot ignore this moment. She is beautiful to be sure, but how much more beautiful she will seem to you wrapped in her dirty, desperate rags, her eyes bright with hope and expectations to be fulfilled.

The gender doesn’t matter. The story is the same. True love divides us into the rescued and the rescuer. Happily Ever After becomes our endless pursuit, the project around which one builds one’s entire life.

Our tales of True Love command we give ourselves completely to the person who most desperately needs our help.

And yet, we are all somewhat stuck inside our lives — sometimes happily, often with great joy and purpose, but situated nonetheless in a particular circumstance or lack that needs fulfilling. This is not a dark thought. It is acknowledged truth.

True love cannot save us. True love keeps us locked in, always being the rescued or the rescuer.

I prefer authentic love. Authentic love that sees the other exactly as they are. Authentic love that sees the self as it is rather than as it would prefer to be. There is no rescue. There is no rescuer. There is just the authentic self seeing and the authentic self being seen. This is, it seems to me, the most basic root of human need — to see and to know that one has been seen.

Happily Ever After is no longer the project. Happily Ever After is a life without pain, discomfort or inconvenience. Happily Ever After is the vision of heaven that drove me out of the church.

Better, so much better, to be fully present sometimes with pain, to be awake sometimes in darkness. Better to see and be seen exactly as we are. This is not easy. They do not write stories to prepare us for this. But if we can be authentic and allow ourselves to see and be seen, then we can share ourselves completely and know the peace, joy and comfort that comes only from being really and truly known. This is the work of our lives. Love is our greatest tool. To learn how to share our authentic selves without reservation and without the distractions of self-sacrifice. To allow the people we love to help us without rescue, to leave off with Happily Ever After and welcome ourselves to be completely as we are — improvised, imperfect, authentic.


The Heart is a Muscle. Let it Break.

This is meant to be a message of hope. May you find it such. – rmb 12.3.14

Life will try to break your heart. You must allow it. Sometime soon, you will swallowed by confusion. You will be afraid and held captive by uncertainty and indecision.  You will know pain and discomfort and disappointment. Your expectations will be dashed. Your plans will be subverted. Be brave. Be grateful. Move forward. Try to welcome the darkness if you can. There is strange, powerful beauty hiding in that darkness.

It will be painful, this heart breaking. It will hurt a lot. You will hear the sound of its splinters echo in your quietest times. Listen. Hear what it tells you. It has something essential to say.

Believe nothing. Expect nothing. Be grateful for the lesson you receive. If you can pay attention, it will tell you everything you need to know.

You cannot avoid pain. You were meant for it. Move toward it. Let it teach you and then let it go. Your heart is a muscle. Let it break. Then, let it rebuild. It will be a stronger, more resilient heart. It will be a patient, more loving heart. You will be tender. You will be more authentic. You will find love. You will give love. You will make a life worth living.

And if it kills you, so it goes. There are mysteries too many for us to comprehend.

So this is my prayer for you. This is my prayer for myself. May you let your heart get broken. And then, may you build your better self from the gathered pieces, knowing full well, your strength comes from healing. It can not come without first breaking.


To Bring You My Love (section 14)

**

A short walk later, Sebastian was standing at Lana’s front door. It was still early in the morning but not obscene. The world was awake. Men and women dressed in neat business suits spilled out through the front doors of the apartments, crowding the sidewalks already with the heavy traffic of life. The streets were teeming with bicycles and taxi cabs and the already the sound of horns and frustrated shouts filled the air. Coffee cups were filled. Bagels opened and eaten. Dogs peed on hydrants. Beautiful people jogged past in stretch tees and athletic shorts, eyes focused on some unseen target ahead, ear buds jammed deep into their ears to keep them plugged into a different reality.

All around him, the noise and business of life as Sebastian stood on the stoop of Lana’s townhouse apartment and rang the bell. It was a long moment before he heard any reaction. Braced for the moment the door would swing open and they would no longer be separated by space and time, no longer separated by a plank of wood. She would open the door and they would be together.

Sebastian glanced up at the window over the door, hoping for a glimpse of Lana looking out the window to see who had arrived. The curtains did not move. Sebastian rang the bell again.

The stream of life flowing behind him felt good. It gave him courage. He was a part of this world now. He would be one of those people, going to work, walking the dog, taking a job. He was excited and eager for all of it. The taxi rides shared with Lana. The hot coffee and buttered bagels. She would open the door and they would be together and would commit themselves to doing all the things they could do when Sebastian had been a Inbetweener. They would make love. Possibly have children. Could he even give her children? They would celebrate birthdays, drink too much alcohol, eat too much cake, and mark every year as an incredibly precious success. They would commit themselves to the work of doing the one thing they could never have done before. Sebastian and Lana would grow old together.

But, first things first. Sebastian looked up. Still, she was not looking down from that high window. He rang the doorbell again, wondering if it made enough noise for her to hear if she was in the bedroom. Or she had left already for work perhaps.

Sebastian knocked, a little louder than he intended. He was getting scared a bit that she might not be home and that he might just need to wait on her steps until she came back home.

Then footsteps down the stairs. “Who is it?” she was yelling. “Do you have any idea what time it is? You better not be selling anything or inviting me to your church? I swear to God, I’ll punch you right in the face.”

And then the door opened. Lana stood there, wrapped in a bathrobe, her wet hair wrapped in a towel. Even in her anger, she was beautiful to Sebastian. And then, that look softened. Her eyes widened as she realized who was standing at her door.

“Oh, wow,” she said. “Sebastian.”

Sebastian was so happy he could not speak. He just nodded and smiled.

“Sebastian,” she said again. The surprise changing to puzzlement. Lana looked out the door, past Sebastian. She pulled the robe around her. “What are you doing here?” she asked. Then, realizing it came out way different than she intended. “I mean, where did you come from? Is everything alright? How did you get here?”

“I came to see you,” he said. “I came so we can be together. Really together.”

Lana looked up the stairs. Back out at Sebastian, smiling like a soft-headed fool. She studied him for a moment, trying to make up her mind. And then, “Come on in.”


To Bring You My Love (section 13)

Tired as he was, Sebastian did not sleep. His body, still unused to its recent limitations was pushed beyond exhaustion but Sebastian’s mind would not rest. He lay on the thin mattress of the sofa bed, staring up the flat dark ceiling of Frieda’s apartment. How often he had casually entered a building in his life as Inbetweener and not noticed the menacing limits of four walls and ceiling. The ceiling reminding him of everything he had given up. How we could no longer see or even feel the watchful eyes of his kindred family who surely remained up there, perhaps even now looking down, anxious to help, to intervene. But there would be no intervention, he knew. This was the path he had chosen and he would walk it through to its conclusion.

How, exactly, would this end? He would go to Lana in the morning, reveal himself to her and supplicate himself to her in hopes that she might accept him and relieve, just a little, the crushing weight of the curse he willing took on himself.

Or she would turn her face, avert her gaze. He had never considered the possibility that it might be so. But now, feeling forlorn and lost, so close to Lana on earth but still so impossibly far, he knew it might well be so. And this was the burning curse of the love lost. This burning ache of uncertainty and doubt. The troubles of the flesh were one thing. This weight of the spirit was almost more than he could bear.

Frieda’s apartment was clean but cluttered, small in the way that was not quite efficient. He listened as she snored softly in the other room. He was grateful for the kindness she had shown him. It was a type of miracle in itself, this gift the mortal kind called friendship. And he felt at once the unevenness in their friendship. And he wanted to do something, some kind gesture of reciprocated friendship to let Frieda know that she was now a part of what he understood it meant to be human.

Sebastian got out of bed.

**

Sebastian had watched the night gather up its shadows and now he watched the meagre, gray gruel of dawn seep back into the world. He had watched so many thousand days and nights from his high, holy perch of his former home that the act had become mundane, the humdrum traffic of orbs of dirt and gas spinning and spiraling like dancers in an impeccably choreographed waltz. And how incredibly earthbound he felt now, watching the sunrise from the confines of Freida’s efficiency apartment. The dull light spread across the dirty cityscape, illuminating buildings, their bones of brick, concrete and glass.

He was no longer the sort of creature that found the day. Now, the day found him.

When the sun had fully emerged and broke open the morning, Sebastian got out of bed. It still surprised him how sore and heavy his body felt. The wreck from yesterday was still punishing him. He stretched, wincing at the soreness of his tight, battered joints. It was a chore, getting out of bed but he had won this body at a hard price and he was determined to make it work for him rather than against him.

Frieda was still sleeping. It was no matter. He did not want to wake her. He would make this last part of his voyage on his own. It was time.

Sebastian foraged around for a piece of paper. Wrote a note that was short, sweet yet said everything it needed to say: Thank you. We will bless your name.

He pulled on the jacket, opened the door and crept out as quietly as he could. Destiny could no longer be delayed.


First Draft

Writer sits down to write the first draft. Leans in too close to the computer screen. Removes glasses to be sure everything remains blurry, always just a little bit out of focus.

It is time to escape the tyranny of ten thousand great novels with their confident, purposeful prose. Strong, clear narrative from the architecture of so many perfectly-placed words. And the characters who always seem to know what they are doing and say exactly the right thing for the maximum emotional effect. And they are beautiful, well-formed people with carefully considered flaws. And even their conflicts are beautiful. And though they seem to struggle mightily as they rise through the miserable complication, they always manage to smile and wave to you as they crest the crisis point and descend joyously down through the denouement.

But this is not yet that kind of story. This is the first draft. The people are hideous and half-made. They amble about in a state of constant delirium, saying useless, thoughtless things. They are not entirely purposeful nor intent on any specific course of action. At times, these poor unmade creatures seem drunk, slightly deranged. At other times, they appear and disappear with supernatural ease, constantly teleporting themselves without reason or explanation across space and time.

“Wasn’t she recently standing over there?” the writer asks himself. “Didn’t she tell him this thing three times already? Why are they eating breakfast when only a paragraph ago they were enjoying lunch?”

None of this matters. This is the first draft. Let the people go where they will go, say what they will say, kiss whomever they please. Let them revel in the joyous anarchy of life without set narrative. Celebrate with them the chaos and incoherence while you can. But keep them moving. Always moving, talking and doing. There will be a point to all of it. There will be sense to be made. A story to be told. It won’t be the story you thought you were writing. It will be something better, if you allow it to find you. If you let the first draft be what it is, a swirling universe, rippling with potential.

Don’t just write. Unleash the first draft, and it will show you the way. And then, piece by piece, begin the other drafts. Build that stately house, that well-tended lawn, that exquisite garden. Give your characters the story they deserve, where no action is wasted, every word has consequence and everyone and everything belongs.


Downstairs

When it is time to write, I go downstairs. Down the steep, narrow staircase into the cool, dark basement. It is quiet down there. Things are still. They have their places. And there are places enough where no things belong. I sit at my desk and fill those not belonging places with imagined things. Impossible, beautiful things. I populate the basement with people who do not exist doing things they ought not do. I spill ideas onto the carpet, heedless of the mess. Sometimes the ideas flood out of me like buckets of bleach, caustic and bitter. Sometimes the ideas spill out like an ocean of ink, tainting everything they touch, rendering a new kind of darkness.

And sometimes I just sit down here and admire the words, how they stack so neatly from floor to ceiling and I am careful to lay them out in neat rows so I do not trap myself in like those poor, sad souls you sometimes see on television who were crushed under reams of unread newspaper. And, in those times I think, how like a hoarder, afraid to release or let go for fear of losing something precious.

And in those times, I can turn out the lights or dim them to the point of near blindness and feel myself digesting inside the belly of the world.


To Bring You My Love (section 12)

**

They found the apartment easily. The lights were on even though it was disastrously late in the evening. The light in the bedroom and bathroom were on. The bedroom curtains slightly parted. And the shape of a figure passing by, glimpsed but not fully seen.

“She’s there. She’s awake,” Sebastian said, reaching for the door handle.

Lana pulled him back. “Wait. Look.”

A second figure made for an unexpected silhouette.

Frieda felt awful for being there. Dirty and vile. Like a peeping pervert.

“We should go,” Frieda told him, turning her keys in the ignition.

Sebastian reached over and removed the keys. “No. Wait. I don’t understand.”

And looking into Sebastian’s open, naïve face, she realized he truly did not understand. How could he?

“She has company. She isn’t alone, sweetie. She has a friend over.”

The bathroom light went out. Then, after a long, excruciating moment, the bedroom light.

Sebastian held his face in his hands. “She doesn’t know I’m here,” he said at last. “She doesn’t realize I’m here.”

“No. I mean, how could she? And tonight’s not the time to let her know.” Frieda watched Sebastian for a long moment, weighing her options, already in much deeper than she had intended, knowing there were no alternatives. She would have to do the decent thing.

“Come on,” she said at last. “You can crash at my place. I’ve got a sofa bed. You can get some sleep. Think this over in the morning. This will make better sense in the morning.”

Sebastian doubted that last part very much, but the truth was truth. There was nothing to be gained by barging in tonight. He had waited so long already. He could wait one more night. He could wait until morning.


To Bring You My Love (section 11)

More words to keep things going. This scene doesn’t connect to the previous scene at all. I found the story in midstream and am pushing forward to bring this to a conclusion before jumping back to pick up the threads I missed. Did I mention that this is an experiment in persistence? First drafts don’t have to follow the logic of final drafts. If you are reading along, thank you. Hang in there.

Where’s the rest of this? Right here.

***

“That’s incredible. You gave up everything to be with Lana.”

“Yes.” Sebastian was smiling. “I gave up everything to be with Lana.”

“Incredible,” Frieda said again. And then she smacked him in the face. “Dumb ass. Don’t you realize she’s going to die someday. Lana is going to die. What then?”

The smile fell off Sebatian’s face. Then, numb shock.

“Of course. Of course,” he said. “I thought of that.” But his voice was small and uncertain. “When she dies, I will die as well.”

“Bullshit,” she said. It was an accusation. “You haven’t really. Death is terrible. It is an awful thing to contemplate. You haven’t thought about this at all. You have no idea. Does Lana even know you are coming?”

“Of course she does. I told her I would come back for her. How could she not know this?”

Frieda snorted. “Do you have any kind of plan?”

“I will figure it out.”

“No plan. You don’t even know where she lives.”

“I will recognize the place when I see it.”

“There’s an easier way,” Frieda told him, pulling out her phone. “Its called Google.  What’s her last name?”

Sebastian started at Frieda blankly.

“Her family name, “ Frieda explained.

“Her family is called Riordan.”

“Great.” Frieda taped on the glass of her phone for a few seconds then turned it to show Sebastian. “Got it. Phone number and address.” She tapped a link.

“Is this her house?”

Since he had been here, his mind had felt so limited, so finite and confused. How strange that this small device could extend Frieda’s mind and give her perception of things Sebastian had only been able to see from above.

“That’s it,” he said, excited. “Please take me there.”

Frieda shook her head. “Slow it down, tiger. It’s two in the morning. You can’t just go up and knock on a girl’s door at two in the morning. This isn’t your run of the mill booty call.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I’m sure you don’t,” Frieda said. “You can’t just wake her up unexpected in the middle of the night and expect good things to happen. We need a plan.’’

“We?”

Frieda sighed. “I’m going to help you. I need to see this saintly creature for myself.”

Sebastian smiled, took her hand in his. “You are a good person, Frieda Andreason. You are my friend.”

Frieda shrugged. “I’m an idiot. But there’s no helping that. I start things, I got to finish them.”

“Can you take me there now? Not to see her. I just want to see the place where she is.”

Frieda agreed. “Okay. But we aren’t knocking on the door tonight. Just drop by for a look see. You will see her tomorrow.”

“Agreed,” Sebastian told her, but Frieda didn’t feel at all like it was a settled thing.


To Bring You My Love (section 10)

Still not the thing but a little bit closer. I can see Sebastian. I can’t see Lana. She is hiding from me. Why is she hiding from me?

**

Lana isn’t the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Remember I have spent hundreds of years studying the human kind in all its subtle variations. I have witnessed in my not so idle curiosity many, many beautiful beings, both female and male. I am well-studied in the subtle shapes, angles and postures that render a person beautiful. My love for Lana transcends the physical, though she is, I must tell you, a wonderful, generous sight.

Though she is beautiful. It was not her beauty that captured me at first. It was laughter. I might never have even noticed her if it were not for her laugh. How many times had I seen her, shared space with her in the sanctuary and never noticed? I could not say. But it was her laughter, strong, forceful, inappropriate that caught my attention.

She was alone in the sanctuary at midday, praying in a room full of short candles, her head bent in solitude. And the intent with which she held herself, the posture of one who is grieving or wrestling with some secret burden. The muttering phrases. The susurrations, soft and unceasing. And then, when one might expect a pang of grief, a wail of despair, there lifted the brash rupture of laughter. It tore the silence. Shattered the stillness. She started laughing and could not seem to stop.

I walked over to her. I could not help myself, my errand entirely forgotten. I was drawn to her in a place beneath thought.

“What’s funny?” I asked. She startled, not realizing that anyone had entered the room.

She looked up at me with eyes bright with tears and there was the mix of humor and sadness in her eyes. And I could not say in that moment if she was more happy or more sad. She was both and embodied both perfectly and I was, quite against my will or expectation, captivated by the elegant contradiction of this woman in this church on this day.

She looked around, surprised to find me standing there, wondering who else she might have disturbed.

“Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to bother anyone.”

And she kept watching me, recognizing without saying the strangeness that was in me. It is a thing that happens sometimes when I choose to show myself. The people who see me realize on some level that the figure they are seeing is not quite right. That something about me does not add up. And yet, to her credit, she lowered her gaze, apologized again. “I didn’t mean to disturb anyone.”

“You didn’t disturb me,” I told her. “I heard laughter. One doesn’t often hear laughter in here. I wanted to meet the person making such a wonderful sound.”


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 842 other followers