Tuesday, November 01, 2005

love me like a cactus

This morning, we woke up just before seven o'clock to the sound of the sixteen church bells that ring on Third Street and I said, "Shouldn't you go back to London already?" And Robert pulled me on top of him and said, "I'm not leaving without you. We're not going to be apart anymore." I felt overwhelmed and scared of not being alone in my own space, eating tuna out of the can with mustard and a can of Diet Coke, listening to Ani Difranco and talking on the phone with Liz in Atlanta about how she's having great sex with a man from Mississippi, walking around in my ripped-up underwear and gray T-shirt. And I also looked up at Robert and felt excited -- overjoyed -- at the prospect of waking up together every morning and coming home at night to find each other. I felt a push-pull, the way I used to feel conflicted about men holding doors open for me, like, "I am woman! I can do it myself." Then, squeaking, "Aren't you going to at least offer to open the door?"

For a long time, I lived two lives and one of them was here in New York and the other one was with my family in Nashville. And then for a couple of years, I didn't go to Tennessee very much anymore and so I split my life between New York and London. That's the funny thing about distance -- how it allows you to compartmentalize your whole life down into a little tray so that the peas don't touch the mashed potatoes don't touch the woman you've been sleeping with don't touch the man you're committed to don't touch your Christian friends don't touch your apartment, where you spend so much time thinking about all the people who don't know anything about each other.

When Robert told me he was here to stay, I felt the same way I did on Sunday morning when my mom turned around in the passenger's seat of Meg's car and said to me, "We don't see you enough and but we always want to." First I feel like, "Oh, come on, I don't deserve this." And then I think, "Maybe I should lash out and be mean so they'll go away because I know that I don't deserve it."

I've been reading Christa Wolf's Patterns of Childhood in which the narrator describes love as captivity. That she knows it's love when she tries to capture someone with a net and get them tangled up inside it; the wanting to possess is her proof. When I read that passage, I flinch because it's so far removed from what I see as love's definition. When we were in high school, Julianne read an article in Mademoiselle that said love was "an absolute interest." When she still talked about boys and dating, Julianne used to say that what she wanted was someone "who would seek her out across a crowded room" -- and, for a long time, that was what I wanted, too.

My parents' marriage is a partnership. They're either getting along like a house on fire or they're squabbling like two kids at Jefferson's haunted house. This weekend I noticed that they kept interrupting one another and talking over each other, my mother talking louder than my dad. And I noticed, too, how affectionate they are together, how my dad's coolness tempers my mother's heat. They are both easily pleased by the feeling that the family is connected, that we are all breathing the same air. They don't much care for presentation or neatness and their bedroom is always a wreck; but, on the other hand, they love people. My mother loves to rub our feet, my father loves to cook us breakfast and take us on walks to collect chestnuts so we can come home and roast them. When she's angry, my mother is the screamer and when he's upset, my father is the distancer.

I've used these highs with Robert to balance out the horrible lows. I use the difference between Sarah alone and Sarah-and-Rob-together to live two different lifestyles, to have two different laughs and two different bedtimes. I don't quite know how it's going to happen -- I don't have any idea -- but I see myself moving towards one life and somehow, it does feel right. It feels, actually, like this has been a long time coming.


Anonymous Sarah W. said...

Sarah, you haven't returned my phone calls and you never email me back.
-Sarah W.

6:40 PM  

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