the interview, overheard

I was watching from the side, pretending not to notice but completely attuned. The young girl held the recording device up to the older woman’s mouth to catch every word. And every silence too. The girl held a sheet of questions in her hand and after asking the older woman to state her name and age, the two paused a little awkwardly. The young girl wanted to press forward but she could see the older woman was a bit nervous.
“Are you ready?”
The older woman smoothed her hair into place and took one long, deep breath.
“Yes. Yes, I think so.”
“Ok, let’s begin.”

Interviewer:
What words or ideas do you think of when you think of love?

Subject:
Um….Complicated.  That’s the first word I think of. I used to think – or maybe wish – that love could have a fairy tale ending. It’s certainly what I hoped for. But as I got older, I realized that love is much more complicated than those romantic notions.

Interviewer:
Why is love important to you?

Subject:
{sigh} Oh, this is a difficult one. Uh, let’s see…..

Interviewer:
Do you need more time to think about the question? We can come back to it at the end.

Subject:
No, no. It’s just …. Difficult. I want to find the right words.

Interviewer:
Oh, ok. Well, let me know if you need more time.

Subject:
No, I just want to make sense, that’s all.

{long silence}

Subject:
Alright. So. I think that people can flourish when they are loved. 

I mean: knowing that you are loved for who you are ? That is the greatest feeling in the world. And it can give you a really good foundation for going out into the world and taking chances. And making change happen.

And, well, I believe that love is at the bottom of charity and generosity and empathy – and it is really important to me to have a life full of these things. I always wanted to help other people and sometimes it is love that makes that possible. I don’t think I’ve done a very good job all the time in my life but I tried. It’s a struggle every day to find that love and to live it.

Also: love pushed me to be a better person for my family, my friends.  I wanted to do everything I could for them …. out of my love for them.  Sometimes I showed my love in a language they didn’t understand but it was my way. It made me work hard; it made me set priorities; it made me do things I never imagined I would do.

Interviewer:
Describe a time when love played a significant role in your life.

Subject:
Oh…..I think I need something to drink.
{laughter}
Well, probably love played a significant role in my life when I became a parent. It was only at that moment that I realized how deeply I could feel it.  Once you have a baby, you feel forever connected to this tiny little person you are holding in your arms – and the most satisfying moments in my life have been when I have been able to watch my children grow into their own skin and thrive.

Interviewer:
When love becomes too overwhelming, what do you do?

Subject:
I usually have to walk away from it.  I need to give myself time alone to sort through my feelings and to parse out what is love and what is not love. And I need to understand the reasons for my feelings – why do I think it is love; what do I think true love means and what are its boundaries; am I really in love or am I just happy that someone is giving me attention – things like that.  Sometimes it helps for me to talk to someone I trust about what I am feeling as well — but sometimes the very person I want to talk to is also the person I need to walk away from. And then life can be complex.

Interviewer:
What would the world be like without love?

Subject:
The world would be a terrible, cold place without love – so many wonderful things come from love — and from love gone awry, too!  So much great literature is based on love and its consequences, good and bad.  And I love stories.

I think that love softens all the hardship of life, and shows us how to be kind to each other and to ourselves. I feel lucky that love exists in the world.

Interviewer:
Thank you.

Subject:
You’re welcome. How did I do?

{end of recording}

They walked away, and I was left with more questions than answers.

The complaint of the adult

just once

i want to fall down and be picked up
by someone other than myself

just once

i don’t want to be the
one who holds everything together

just once

i want to come totally undone
and let someone else figure it out

just once

Note to world #768

The good thing was that she could stand right next to him in any public place and he would never notice her.

She knew. She had tested it out, like an adolescent girl.

Of course, that was the bad thing too: she could stand right next to him and he would not see her.

She wilted inside her skin and walked away from him …. You know, before he might notice her.

dog epiphany

She was standing in the grocery store buying tea when she finally realized it.

She had reached for the tea bags wrapped in a label with a cute little dog on the front and …

suddenly.
everything.
was.
explained.

All these years: she had been in love with the dog, not the man.

She gasped in surprise and relief and went home, happy with her new revelation.

And those cute little tea bags.

 

Promise

promise this:
one day I will wake up,
it will no longer hurt,
not even just a little bit.
it will just be another mark,
scar upon my body and heart.
I will be more than this,
memory will not cut
but strengthen, liberate.
promise myself.

honey cake

We baked a honey cake, the girls and I, like this:

I had too much honey and some whiskey and spices.

The old man sat at home alone, forgotten by the world.

Morning turned into afternoon.

We went to visit, he reminiscing over childhood honigkuchen and

Then he smiled over sticky honey cake.

The little girl came to play, forgotten by her parents.

Afternoon turned into evening.

She stayed for dinner, she full of warm ham and laughter and

Then she smiled over sticky honey cake.

The woman remembered the first time, forgotten by her lover.

Evening turned to night.

I ate a sliver before bed, I lost in fond memories and

Then I smiled over sticky honey cake.

 

 

Note to world #584

Halfway through her morning commute, she sensed that she should be more prepared for this day than she was. It all started when the train lurched to a stop and the conductor announced that all trains were being diverted to another terminal, far away from where she needed to be.

When she emerged from the train, much later than anticipated, she stopped at the bathroom in the train station and, elbow to elbow with the homeless women, put on makeup. With care, she applied more to her face than her usual Chapstick and left feeling as though there was now a fragile but important layer between her and the judging, probing and uncertain world.

Then she pulled out her iPhone and planted it firmly in front of her to discourage any possible human eye contact or distraction of any kind.

She tucked her smile in her pocket so that no one would think to ask for directions from her, and hunched her shoulders just a little so she would blend more easily into the throbbing mass of people.

And then she walked carefully toward the next part of the day.

She was ready. For what, she didn’t know. But she was ready.

The circus

She rode home with the second rate circus acts last night.

The cousin of the world’s largest man was next to her, squishing her up against the bearded lady. The aisles were crowded with the stacked chairs and heavy tangled chains of the two-fingered animal tamer, who straddled a filthy bag in which sat the saddest mean bulldog ever. Girls in skin tight bedazzled costumes clung to the metal poles, arched in acrobatic pose. Angry clowns dotted the other spaces, still practicing their car trick and all jammed in to see how many could fit.

This was the city and she loved it, even when it annoyed her. If this wasn’t interesting, what was?