only to let the rain wash it away
and all i'm left with is the
fullness of nothing
She sent him this text the morning after their dinner date, the first of a series of revealing messages between them after 40 years. In high school she was the beauty queen, and he was the scholar. They had been paired off since second grade. The teasing from classmates made them both self-conscious, so they never spoke about their secret affection for each other. Until now. Forty years later.
It was her confession that broke the silence: I've had recurring dreams of you for ten years. In the dream the question was always the same: Why won't you love me? I know that dreams are not about the other person, but since you are here now, I want to ask, why won't you love me?
The truth, he said, is that he has always loved her. He said it was the only secret of his life that he has kept. Now he has confessed and he couldn't take it back.
For her it was the answer to a forty-year old question. But what does it really mean to hold on to a question for so long? She was good at introspection and came up with this:
I love you because you represent someone who never left the Homeland.
I had to leave in order to come Home.
I love you because you represent the part of me that wishes to have never left Home.
He didn't understand her philosophical musings. He only knew how he felt for her. He felt alive and loved. And guilty. They are both married. In fact she told him that the person she is married to is just like him: quiet, kind, a solid human being.
She challenged his guilty feelings by talking about the social construction of monogamy in the service of capitalism. Whose rules are these? And why is it illegal and wrong to love another human being? She analyzed this eruption of energy between them at their high school reunion as not so much romance but the blossoming of Eros. Eros is life’s vital energy that infuses the body-mind-soul. She didn’t feel guilty. This is not about romance, she told him. But this is her mind talking. She was already rationalizing her feelings and trying to make room in her life for this first love. It didn’t displace her current love; in fact, it made love more expansive. Nor was it about sex because they only held hands and nothing more. They were both aware of the integrity of their commitments to their families.
He was unfamiliar with the language she was using. He merely gushed about his excitement that he has finally told her of his secret. They eventually decided to change the language of love to the language of friendship so they could continue being in each other’s life. Alas, it wasn’t going to last. He has kept a picture of her tucked inside a book by the bedside and his wife found it and extracted a confession; he offered up the email exchanges. He didn’t know how to explain. He didn’t have the language of Eros.
As for her, she still dreams of him. In the dreams, he is saying good-bye and promising love beyond good-bye.
Nenita Manglangit is a pseudonym of an educator in the San Francisco Bay Area.