sisters of mercy, part one

i had one of those conversations last night. the kind that start slow, searching for purchase and substance. then it clicks and god’s stage lights hit you and you know you’re onto something. i haven’t seen jerry in a long time and i’m not sure we’ve ever talked like this. in fact, when i think of him i can’t help but remember he was one of the people in my wife’s history that made her doubt whether her and i were “the ones” for each other. not that either of us is better or worse, just that we’re different. but that was a decade ago and i have never harbored any backwater feelings about it.

we are staying at a friend’s house for the weekend which is perched on a bluff, high above the pacific ocean in mendocino, ca. there will be several other friends in the same house this weekend, but we are alone tonight. his wife and children are in bed and my kids are at home in marin with their mother. i came here to write and drop into seclusion, but the reunion of old friends is a happy accident that i am thankful for. jerry and his family and the other guests coming for the weekend are all iowa connections; a diaspora of friends and acquaintances that have sprawled across the globe from out of this tiny hub in the midwest.

jerry and i move in and out the house; from the living room’s warm glow to the cold and windy cliffs overlooking the ocean. the waxing moon is like a spotlight and each of us take turns with our philosophies and fears. it’s like a play in one act moving between two sets. it feels like our audience is there but unseen. we make comfortable the uncomfortable discussion of the spiritual elephant(s) in the room; the question(s) of existence. trusting each other. leaving ourselves vulnerable to the thousand tiny earthquakes that wait in the wings to raze any ego that attempts to grow from the rubble of such discussion. we both look back across our shoulders once in a while for any sign of impending doom; but none came. at least not from behind.

i’ve had a year that has pretty much forced the issue; jerry has never not been engaged in this primordial debate. i guess i could have shot heroin and chain-smoked reality tv for the last year. that may have shut out the discomfort that came creeping out of my heartache and loss. but for many reasons, not all of them noble, i have dove head long into the fucking fray. i have created my own version of reality tv, broadcast from my facebook profile. i could have drowned in self pity, and i might have. but there were just too many things that fell apart all at once and there was nowhere to run to. nowhere to hide. so i am in plain sight and i cherish this gift of awareness; from a place of humility, not ego.

jerry is not a facebooker. his wife is, sort of. but even she has retreated somewhat after a few uncomfortable encounters; with friends ironically, not stalkers. needless to say, i had to give him the cliff notes of my last three months as a booker; my experiment, my broadcast, my emotional and artistic release, my larger project and my quest for self realization in the digital world. i told him i had been reaching into my historical archives and writing about my past. i was going through this exercise in order to better understand myself and to take responsibility for where i am and, therefore, where i am going. facebook is so far away from his values but he does seem to appreciate what i am doing. at least the endgame.

i described to him some of the stories i had unearthed and pointed out that most of my memories have revolved around girls, love and sex. either running towards or away from these elements. this topic, while seemingly separate, segued into my marriage and its unravelling. i told him how i had recently become depressed. not because of my failed marriage and its impact on my children; i had already gone through a year of living in that unbearable hell. no, my sadness was from finally seeing myself become happy again. because this meant that all the thoughts of my wife being the one were bullshit. this made me question if this whole concept was bullshit. is there a one? is there many ones? ones and zeroes? i was separating from someone whom i thought was part of me. was a piece of me leaving with her? or was it just some false identity exiting?

our existential debate, the play we were performing alone in the house together, moved into the terrain of “the one”.

“is there someone we are pulled inexorably towards, jerry?” i asked.

“well, i think it’s karma.” he suggested “we’re just burning through all these relationships on our way towards our ‘one’”.

“really?” i said. “so we are just scraping the skin off the leaves of an artichoke, on the way to the heart?” how morbid, i thought. and i had this flash of a concert/festival i was at in august. i was up against the stage in front of 40,000 packed fans and i needed to get out to make a call. it was a terrifying experience, having to squeeze through all that humanity to get to where i needed to go. all these faces all these emotions, the hurt and joy and desires they were feeling. it was too much to bear and i felt like i was going to flip out. is this what love is? is this what the search for your “one” is? clawing our way through bodies until we find the one that housed our other half? our perfect reflection.

earlier in the day i had made the drive up to mendocino from san francisco with jerry’s wife, jeni, and their two kids. jeni and i did not stop talking for three hours; from the moment we shut the car door to leave ’til three hours later when we arrived here. it was a constant speed rap; each of us taking turns diving deep into emotional terrain. she told an hour long tale of the year leading up to when her and jerry realized they were meant for each other. the trajectory was undeniable and even if they are not “the one” they are certainly among the one. i have seen their paths through the last 15 years and i would have agreed even without the tale. but it illustrated the idea of this journey we make towards each other; towards ourselves.

i told jerry how her story earlier that day had moved me. i spoke of my last year and my altered concepts of love, life and destiny. in the deeper canyons that i found myself in, over 2008, i had acknowledged that my marriage might end and i might have to find someone else to be with. i was so clear in that injured state that it would be someone whom i could trust, someone who understood pain and who would stand by me. something to last forever. and while this may sound good on paper, especially under the weight of failure, it is now clear that this is not what i want.

i said that to jerry, “i realize now that this is not what i want.” and i told him that i have been given this awareness, this gift, by someone i met on facebook. “someone i have fallen in love with.”

he laughed. i explained to him that i had actually fallen in love twice in the last two weeks. my first two interactions with women other than my wife; my first in 12 years. he laughed even harder. and i understood why he laughed. it made me laugh, too. so obvious, so predictable. but it was true and i began to explain myself.

“i literally ran into someone on facebook; someone with a few mutual friends that neither of us knew too well. someone 3,000 miles away and preparing for liftoff in a world that is so distant and different. but, i know her. better than i have known any other girl.”

his grin said “yeah…ok.”

“well, to be fair, this is due, in part, to the fact that i have only recently discovered what ‘knowing a girl’ really means.” i explained. “i just learned the true definition of intimacy. just discovered there is a secret place, a garden that isn’t just metaphor. and just discovered, that it is my very real job as a lover or a partner or a poet to tend to that garden. should have been fucking obvious, but we don’t have a manual as men. right? and good teachers are far and few between. heartache and loss was my teacher. either way, here i was. i knew her, i wrote to her about knowing her and she agreed that i knew her, after our initial poems and conversations.”

i continued, “we are not in a relationship and i doubt she feels for me what i feel for her. but i do move her, she lets me know that. she gives a lot back, too. from where i sit, it is the best feeling i have had my whole life, short of my kids. and this is the lesson, man; the gift that she has given me is the understanding that the only relationship i want exists within a single day. every time i talk with her or write poems, it is like the first time and the last time we will ‘be together’. our relationship is a celebration of impermanence.”

we argue and discuss that this is easy with someone so out of reach. i say “there ain’t no easy about it. it would be a lot easier if she lived here, actually.” and he gets it. and fortunately, i get it too. for i know that it is impossible to always live on the cusp of birth/death; to always treat each moment as the first and last. but it is not impossible to at least make that the center, the ideal, the anchor. and thanks to this goddess i will never settle for anything less.

“so what did you mean by falling in love twice?” he asked after opening another bottle and refreshing our glasses. i was actually hoping on avoiding that. i didn’t mean to let it slip, my second angel. i was still processing her. but, oh well, here we are.

“this is a little more complicated.” i said. “you see, if there is ‘a one’ or another half, i think i found her.”

“really?” he smiled.

“yeah, well she is certainly among them.” i paused for a sec; a little sad. “i mean both of them are really, but…” then i continued. “i got an email from facebook a week ago. the subject line said ‘paralells and intersections’” i stopped again and he asked what the problem was. “well, i just feel weird talking about her. like i’m stepping outside of some boundary.”

“oh, come on.” he chided.

“you know… you’re right. i mean you don’t know her. and there is nothing wrong with what we’re doing. its just, i am so confused about it. yet not confused at all.” i breathed deep and started drinking from the bottle. “so, i get the email, and she introduces herself and says how she knows of me and my wife through friends. says she even had someone tell her ten years ago that we should meet ’cause we were ‘cut from the same stuff’, her and i. well i didn’t even have to finish the letter to know this was true. i felt such a rush and i immediately replied; i didn’t even think about it. after i got done sending the email i went to her profile. she had added me as a friend sometime back but it didn’t really register at the time. well, as soon as i went on her page i noticed she was married. my heart sank; and i went back to check my email reply. was i flirtatious? yes, i was. but i was with everyone. regardless i sent her another reply asking if what i said was appropriate, because i wanted to be clean. this was a brilliant connection and i didn’t want to lose it by being an ass. she replied that it was cool and clean and that, yes she was married. but that didn’t preclude us having a connection and being close. that’s the gist at least. i am sensitive, like i am with my first angel, about our very intimate and private conversations. but you get the picture”

jerry looked at me and smiled.

“anyway, we began corresponding and it was mad fluid, just like with my other angel. but it was different too; there was a different dynamic. part of it was that she saw my pain from a closer perspective because we have people and life situations in common. she’d read my stuff, heard my situation through the grapevine and emailed me to let me know she was there if i wanted to talk. she is a poet and we speak similar languages, like my other angel. she acknowledged how obviously connected we are; we went back and forth about this. my ultimate plea to her was/is that she help navigate me through this, since i don’t want to fuck it up. ‘help me be in love with you without sin’ is my proposition to her. and she, i believe, has accepted it.” jerry and i move outside once again. “i can really let it get the best of me though; in my weaker moments. but i think this ties into the lesson she is teaching me. a way to be connected with and without boundaries and limits.”

i asked jerry if he thought, by nature, i was supposed to “burn” through her or her family, just because she could be the one. i knew he obviously didn’t, so it was more of a rhetorical question. i said “she wouldn’t let me anyway. she is one of the strongest people i’ve ever met.” he laughs. i know he’s laughing because i’ve never even met her. i tell him that he is right and he is wrong.

“we always want more, but sometimes the best perfection is imperfect.” i state, pretty drunk by this point. “that is what both my angels of mercy have taught me. i don’t deserve them and i don’t know where the hell they came from; but i don’t care. i will walk the line for both of them.” i stand up and pantomime a toast “in fact, if there is a one and she is anything like either of these goddesses i will wait a thousand lifetimes.”

“you may have to.” jerry says, only half-joking.

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