On love, novelty, endings and erosion.
Ever have one of those initial breathless encounters with a kindred spirit? A soul at your altitude, wings tempted to touch, zooming at speeds that top out at “keep thrusting?”
It’s spellbinding. A whirring hum that holds you transfixed to the sound of the silence between you. The pauses that sink you lower into your sheets, deeper into your soul, easing you into comfort. The pace — at long last — powers down, and the compulsion to relentlessly hammer each other with the entirety of your everything releases. You’ve finished. You’re safe here. Now you’re mere humans — not ideal, nor romanticism — humans. You’ve reached the cream-filled center. How many licks? Well … it depends upon your tongue and how you use it, I suppose.
I had one of those. Recently … and who has time for self-discipline when presented with exactly what, or who, you want at exactly that given moment — someone who ceaselessly injects you with the strength, confidence and ASMRian blissful bells and whistles you want to ring forever?
We spoke, unbroken, unashamedly, unabashedly, for hours upon hours. Deliciously dotted within the conversation, little beats where moments breathed. The uncorked, full-bodied magic opened up at our temperature. Then the manic energy gave way to pitch-perfect vibration. Had I still been a smoker, I’d have lit up in bed at the end of our hours. She knows that.
No further detail, your honor. I won’t incriminate myself here. Let’s move along to the next stanza, for there’s a larger point to make.
The photo that leads off today’s piece is a snapshot of where I used to spend weeks during the winter. The inside of that quasi-deco, Miami-lite condo-plex on the wrong Florida coast once housed my Papa’s condo. I recall long afternoons leading to sunsets on the beach, the giant orange orb gracefully dropping like a wedding cake in slow-motion into the cradle of the Gulf of Mexico. I was 2, or 5, or 8, or 11, or 14. I was young. I was soaked in sunshine — as we all were at that age when we’re too young to know we’re engulfed in flames.
In this picture, I’m staring back from the water’s edge. It’s a cold February afternoon, 2015 — some 18 years since I’d last arrived. The strip’s long-since been remodeled, remixed and remastered. The charming outposts bulldozed with bustling high-rises built upon the bedrock where we once built memories. They’ve faded now. I’m not just staring back from the brink; I’m gazing back through time. The lens, foggier than ever. Crisp recollections crystallize, then dissolve, into vague, obfuscated warm reminders. The gulf between the past and the present wider than the Gulf is deep.
The past was always more exciting as it happened, yet less warm-and-rosy than that emotion felt. The buildings decay, settle into dust, washed away and lost to ever-more-skyward efforts, with opulent floor-plans and impractical budgets. Some breathtaking luxury dwell-castles sit unfinished just up the road. Some 70’s-era signs sit in disrepair. The cars sit at standstills; the passage of time and breakneck development turned the strip into a stoplight parade, a stutter-stop series of checkpoints where each mile lasts an hour and each driver sighs in sadness as they lament the “good ol’ days” when the convertible used to catch the breath of a breeze before suffocating in sheer exhaustion.
I put down the camera. The sand whips into my mouth. The mist catches me the way gentle glimpses of simpler, warmer times always do — their salty flavor impossible to mistake for anything other than what they always were, yet my taste-buds have changed, my palate’s more refined, and when I see the smooth white sand, I now notice more sharp rocks and shells than the glassy softness that cradled my sandals as a youth.
Things get old, and so do we. All that’s left to document is the decay and decline of all that was once the one thing that dared to be the latest and greatest. We were all the youngest person on the planet once, and the warmest winter never hits the same after time wises you up to get used to 66 degrees in Florida. I used to wear shorts. I left in a hoodie.
Itell stories of lost love because all love —all romantic notions of it, anyway — ends up lost. That which crackles prose cracks and burns in the sunlight, summer gives way to autumn, bleaches the paint-job, forcing endless remodels, tear-downs, reassessments and relocation. In a way, it’s the magic and mystery of novelty, thrill, breathless building and the sun-soaked warm glow of what we once held as dear as our own inner light that act as little sparks of energy that propel us into the horizon, ever-chasing the sun as it sinks in the sky.
True love, true life, truth itself, is dull. It aches. It frustrates, fractures and fizzles in over the passage of time, as the mind acclimatizes itself to new normals and old reliables. My favorite love songs are those that make no sound at all. They’re the houses that sit anonymous, still inhabited, built into a home, lightly touched up, their foundations sturdy, their curb-appeal as vanilla as their sex surely isn’t.
A lasting love doesn’t ring in with fanfare, nor explode in a supernova. The narrative arc is often blander than a three-camera sitcom plot. The jokes don’t all land. The laugh track sputters. Yet the show airs forever, the stars stay shining, the trumpets drone, breathlessly, in elegiac, mournful melody that brings knowing lovers to joyful tears and those who never loved to tears of the opposite kind.
All my aching, longing tales wink and sing with nostalgia, grief, stinging pain and surrealist drama. They’re love stories. They’re not love. They were erected quickly, opulently, they sparkle and glow both in the sunshine and the sunset. Yet after the orb drops off the frame, the sky is still dark. And no matter the length of the night, the stars either twinkle or won’t, the clouds block them or don’t, and we’re awash in the memory of the warmth we wasted on days when we dared too hard— all currents reverse flow, all current becomes past, all currency loses its value. Nothing’s forever — whether you’re reminiscing over love, seasons, homes, places or faces.
Faces age. Homes decay. Perhaps it’s only incumbent upon us to meet and appreciate all of it when and where we find it, seek the beauty and warmth in the places we catch it, hold our gaze for as long it greets us, and release it on time.
Iwant a love that bores me — a song with no sound that sings only to us. I want an approximation of permanence in a transient world. I want to remodel the condo when it could use a face-lift. I don’t want to tell that story. I want to live it. I don’t want to remember things as better than they were, or better than they’ve become, or better than they will be. I want to be the memory time can’t erase.
Novelty’s fine, sure — the occasional spice that accents the dish that’s as dependable as the sun’s trail through the sky. A soul at my altitude, flying with me, wings too close not to touch, pilot and co-pilot, alternating in roles so when one gets too tired to fly, the other grabs the wheel and neither can tell the difference. Pitch-perfect vibration — no fireworks necessary.
Life is fine where it is. I’m a lion in summer. 37. I can visit that long-since-faded place when I want to, even AirBnB in the exact dwelling within the high-rise where I once laced up my sneakers and put on my Swimmies and sprinted toward the horizon out to the sea, letting the saltwater linger in my mouth as the waves came crashing against me.
But the waves don’t hit the same. Life never quite hits the same. And no amount of recreation of an imagined nostalgia will ever quite tickle the senses the way you believed they could. Only the slow build of something eternal: a legacy, a love, a leisurely walk arm-and-arm through the passage of time, and the occasional pocket of paradise, is all that ever carries us across our ache and into the wild yonder where nothing comes after us and no wave can wash us away.
The sun begins to set. I start the car. I sit in traffic. A love song plays on the speakers; and the silence is deafening. Each mile, in a way all the miles that came before never did, lasts an hour. No further detail, your honor. Let’s move along to the next stanza.