Thursday, February 3, 2011

Losing Everything by Loving too Hard.

From my as yet unpublished autobiography,
"Entertaining Naked Folks":

From Light on the Path:
“… the light of the world … is beyond you,
because when you reach it you have lost yourself.
It is unattainable, because it forever recedes.
You will enter the light, but you will never touch the Flame.”

Chapter Sixteen.


Julie and I met when we “happened to” move to Olcott, an occult center in a tiny town, on the same day but from different parts of the country. It was St. Patty’s Day; a traditional day of joy, magic, and bizarre good fortune. Of leprechauns, pots of gold, and wicked curses put on those who try to own what’s not rightfully theirs.
We saw each other for the first time at a staff meeting that afternoon, across a circle of chairs on an outside patio. She’d gotten lost in her unpacking and showed up late, taking a seat directly across from mine. She was strikingly beautiful. Her soft, natural grace communicated class, intelligence, and that humble kind of confidence only the gifted can afford. Dora, the center president, was listening to other residents pipe in about purloined laundry soap and needing extra help in the kitchen. Then this stunning beauty walked up, took a good look at me, and paused. Cool spring breezes refreshed my spirits as they stirred her sunny reddish hair and the small silk scarf she’d tied so tastefully, almost casually around her neck. Then she sat down, still watching. I treasure the photo I shot of her in her green blouse our first minutes together. She’s studying me with such focused intent.
In a matter of days we opened our lives and bared our souls to each other. I started sneaking over to her building, then creeping back to my own just before sunrise. We could make love three times while drifting off to sleep all entwined, each trying to dig ever deeper into the other’s embrace, and soul. We’d wake up, chat about the dreams we had just dreamed together, then make love again. She’d snuggle back into her covers as I headed home.
She treasured long afternoon soaks in hot, scented bubble baths as I spread out my red checked shirt on her grass-green carpet like a picnic cloth, set out candles and plates. She could soak for an hour if she felt like it, but eventually she’d climb out, a rich, deep scarlet, her flesh plumped with moisture. I’d kiss away each lingering drop of blessed dew from her warm, pulsing flesh, let those caught in her pubic hair linger on my tongue. We’d settle down onto the floor, piecing through an intimate naked picnic and luxurious exploration. We made love with deep caring, and passionate appreciation, spent hours absorbed in honoring and treasuring each rich and wondrous nuance.
Olcott was a vegetarian, no smoking, no drinking; just meditating, doing paperwork, and studying kind of place. Once a month I’d have to sneak across the street to a Burger King to have it my way. Sometimes others would come along. Julie might ask for a whopper with extra sauce and onions, hold the burger. Sometimes they charged extra for that, sometimes they’d have to call in a manager first, and sometimes we’d get it with a side order of consternation.
One night, she snuck a bottle of champagne onto the grounds, though we’d never be disrespectful enough to carry it inside. We sat off under a canopy of trees, taking sips to toast each other. As we drew deeper into communion and caring, she shared every ache in her heart. It was a sweet, pain-wracked, unforgettable night.
Everyone in her Tennessee family was named T. J. Crenna: Tyler James Crenna, Tamara Jean, Tara Jenna Crenna … She sobbed her heart out through horrendous tales of her drunk and raging father forcing his tiny daughters to their knees. He’d held a knife to their shrieking, weeping mama’s throat, threatening to kill her in front of the girls. He’d driven every lesson home with horrifying, graphic descriptions of what he’d do to them if they didn’t mind him.
Somehow she grew up. She fled to college and married a football coach who abused her, told her she was insane when she didn’t want to be used in ways he used her. She bared her soul to me that night about imprisonment in the role of perfect housewife and token arm candy at faculty gatherings. About that Christian Tennessee coach telling her if, when, and under what conditions he might allow her to have friends.
Julie was fighting to escape the control of abusive men, so I knew I could never hold her back from anyone who wanted to love her, just as long as he cared for her gently. It would hurt terribly if I wasn’t enough for her and she needed to fly free, but nothing could be sweeter than the love I felt inside that blessed pain.
She cried streaks of mascara into my handkerchief and the shoulder of my white cable knit sweater that night. I never washed either again. I’d carry them around the country in a gift box with a pair of shoes she left behind when she moved on. With a menu, and a receipt from a hotel we stayed in when we took a trip together. A small collection of cards and notes and I Love You’s in her handwriting. A napkin with a luscious red kiss. A matchbox and a small incense burner. Through the decades that followed, whatever strange worlds grabbed hold and dug in, I could always anchor my heart in our love.
But even that night had to end. When I walked back into my building, Randy, a senior department head, was waiting just inside the door.
He was a great-looking young man with eyes like a hypnotist in some over-the-top 1920’s film. He got to know every even halfway attractive young lady in his apartment their first night there, but I sensed he took it as an affront that the most beautiful one had settled for me, though she would definitely have cramped his style.
I drifted in, smudged with mascara and floating on tenderness. He tried to shrivel me with a glare of rebuke. But I was in love and walked right on past.
He made a point of walking downstairs to use my photocopier the next morning. He tried several times to berate me for mixing alcohol with psychic development, but I kept blowing him off with smart-ass remarks about how I’d somehow manage to survive if my chakras spun backwards for a while.
Launching one final condescending glare, he strode out, willing himself to appear nonchalant and unbent. Inside he was marching on my head, grinding my face into gravel. Pitying me for my vast inferiority.
Julie and I rented a car to spend a weekend in Evanston. In and around Chicago, a couple of guys calling themselves Lettuce Entertain You, Inc., had opened a few theme restaurants, like Jonathan Livingston Seafood, and Lawrence of Oregano. We ate at Fritz, That’s It, where the menu sat in the middle of each table, wrapped around a toilet paper roll. I kept the whole roll for a while, but eventually just flattened out the menu and put it in my box of treasures under a handkerchief and sweater laced with mascara and tears.
We toured Fermilab Nuclear Testing facilities, where they were working out the underpinnings of our material world. On the other end of reality, we visited the Baha’i temple with its nine lovely gardens honoring nine great world teachers and the truths they brought. Progressive Revelation, they called it. Moses brought some of the truth, Jesus revealed more. Mohammed and the Buddha taught what the world was ready for in their own times and cultures. Sermons from any religion could be offered there, any holy songs sung, any great teacher, wisdom, or deity shared.
I sat in its center, exploding with passion like never before. Twining columns carried my eyes and spirit ever upward through an intricate calligraphy skylight as I flooded over with tears of joy, my heart and soul bursting with love. I’d spent my whole life searching for that oneness everywhere, in pain and in beauty and sometimes both at once. In starry skies, and sermons, and pictures of Jesus. It all felt so vast and yet so personal. So complete and intact, yet formless and flowing everywhere. Never had I felt my whole Being so alive, and yet numbed by the vastness and beauty of God’s love.
That night, in our hotel room, Julie’s tears of joy tore through my heart as we burned with a conflagration of bliss. And I knew that even genital love could be God love.
In July came the curtain incident. Raised in an era when women did all the housework while men mowed lawns and shoveled snow; I could keep things clean and tidy, but couldn’t sew. I barely knew which end of the needle to thread. After moving into a tiny room at Olcott with no door I’d bought a spring-loaded curtain rod and about seven feet of textured green material. I’d tried to sew a seam to slip the rod through, but after a long bout of back-aching, tongue-straining labor, had nothing but a big green maze of puckers and sags. So I fixed it to the rod in a ridiculous, wavering, only very remote semblance of a seam with paperclips, safety pins, adhesive tape, duct tape, packing tape, and whatever else I could scrounge up. When a section came loose, I’d go hunting for another kind of tape.
Five months into our romance, Julie uncovered her sewing machine and offered to finally and properly hem this poor frayed mutant with some dignity.
And so, one hellacious hot day in the cruel heart of summer, as I was wearing a sleeveless shirt, I grabbed the material off the rod and wadded it up under my arm, trotted downstairs and over to her building. By the time I got there, I had every kind of tape, adhesive, and scunge known to man, melted in wads through my underarm hair.
It took days of scrubbing with Borax and printing press cleaner to get it all out.
But Julie did a beautiful hem! And I got a lot of fine hearty laughs and Oh, you poor baby’s over the armpit mess every time I told another pal my classic tale of idiocy.
I still haven’t learned to sew, but I’m more careful now with what I wear when I’m carrying tape.

Later that summer, at our Lake Geneva convention, Julie went sailing with Randy. They capsized and she turned blue in the icy waters. She rushed to me afterward and the horror of it consumed me. We’d all nearly lost her; I felt so helpless and small.
Hours later, Randy gave me a look that could only be described as smug.
Inside my tiny cellar of worthlessness sprouted seeds of contempt and terror. Had he taken her out at least partly to get me back for slighting him? Was he showing me she’d still come when he summoned? Was whatever panic she had suffered less important to him than reigning uncontested and supreme?
I saw more clearly than ever before that she wasn’t mine and never could be. I would always carry the love; I could never lose that; but you can’t own what needs to fly free.
Not if you love her, you can’t.
She took a couple of trips with mutual male buddies. I sent her off with love and wished her joy. They’d been good friends for both of us, and I’m sure their time together was innocent, but even if it hadn’t been, she was not mine to control.
In our few months together, I threw not only my whole heart at her, but crammed every tid and wittle of my existence into worshiping each vibration of her being; into praise to the heavens for the very fact that she existed; until not even the wildest drug-induced dream could have held all that passion. Certainly, no delicate beauty seeded in a sadistic childhood deserved confinement in such hero worship.
She’d been imprisoned in a horrifying childhood had escaped only through marriage. Then her husband had crammed her into a tight locked box of dutiful wife and underling. Of backdrop at social events with his colleagues only. Where had Julie ever been fully Julie?
She’d finally escaped by fleeing to Olcott, where I’d bound her up in romance and adoration.
Julie started spending more and more time with a close friend who called herself Mike and had no real use for men.  I could feel a distance settling between us, growing jealous of every lost moment, but still cherished her too much to grip tightly. She’d been squeezed by too many men, and too harshly; so I could only release her as gently as I could manage through tears she never saw.
We still had many wonderful moments, but I wanted nothing in my future but Julie, while she was just beginning to open to life. I tried to step out of her way by shutting myself down so she could grab more of everything else. Each moment together we came more alive, while slowly a mute part of me was fading.
She took to spending days on end at Mike’s house. Mike encouraged her to move out and take up her education again. Julie’s dream-sapping husband had stolen her post-graduate college career. He’d let her finance his, but then reneged on his promise to return the favor.
Once Julie set her heart on that, so did I. She headed off to Kansas City under the care, protection, and generosity of a good-looking doctor, and no matter how hard I tried to let her go with blessings, I wept.
She sent me cassette tapes from Kansas City. “I’ve been thinking about you a lot; picturing what we’ve had together. But for right now, I’m experiencing things I’ve never had a chance to before: Being alone, living alone, going to bed and getting up whenever I feel like, and just sort of keeping company with myself. It’s giving me a chance to look inside, to be with my own thoughts more. To write, and read, listen to music; to dance, and cook, and think.
“Even doing eighty driving out here, I was in an altered state. I completely lost track of hours at a time. I felt like part of the landscape, the car, part of everything. It was a vast new feeling of wholeness, and quietness.” I wanted her to live in that wholeness.
Then, watching “Sybil” again had stirred up a lot of her old hurts. A little girl personality, Peggy, imagines the doctor holding her, but then starts crying. “She just can’t believe,” Julie told me on tape, “anyone could ever really care for her. That they don’t just want something, or want to make her feel good, but could actually care for her.” Julie wept, then, and it tore me apart.
She said, “I guess that’s still a real big part of me. Not believing I could be loved. My God, Honey, you show me so much beautiful love and affection, and I can feel it. I know it’s real; I feel that same love for you. But all this pain, this crippling, self-blinding pain is from years and years and years before I met you. It’s still there, and it still hurts so terribly.”
Tears I heard but couldn’t touch ate right through me. That such a sweet, gentle being would have all those years and abuses to work through. My God! I wanted to take her in, and rock her; let her feel that no one ever need hurt her again. From now on, there’d be two of us there to stand up against all the world’s bullies.
But she needed to face the first of them alone. The woman I adored, the only one who had ever completed me, was so far away and might never come back. And yet she needed that more than anything my love could have offered by holding her close inside it, letting her know I’d always be there. She still had to heal from those who hadn’t been.
She had the courage to step outside the protection and power of our romance to take that on alone. I could only love and admire her all the more for that.
Julie had had a real catharsis watching Sybil. She wanted to dig up, explore, unfold every bit of herself. She’d taken my chart with her to an astrologer, who had started by telling her I had creative talent, but things I’d been born with would keep me from being recognized for it. That I’d be doing a lot of traveling, working with different people and moving on. She told Julie we were each exactly what the other wanted, “But that I have a lot of trouble trusting you,” I heard her poor, choking voice tell me. “I know exactly what she meant. I always have trouble trusting in our relationship. It’s too perfect; too beautiful. Beauty this bright, love like yours can’t be mine. The glamour of our romance, the beauty of what we have; it couldn’t last.
“Ohhh, I want to make you mine! To show you I’m the very best for you; that you could never like anyone as much as me. But then I meet a beautiful, brilliant, very special woman, and I think, Wow, I can see Bob with somebody like that; really being happy, and I feel like I’m growing, just thinking of you with someone wonderful.
“I guess I’m trying to work through to where I can release you for that. I want you to have that.  – If you want it. You’ve just begun to come alive in your sexuality; your confidence. Your lack of confidence had always held you down before. But now to limit yourself to just me might deny you a chance to meet other people who could show you who you are.  I see so much in you, Honey! Sometimes maybe you think, ‘Well. She’s prejudiced. I’m glad she sees me that way, but that’s not really how I am.’ But if several women could get to know you, you could see common threads. ‘So I must be okay. I must be handsome. I must be a beautiful person…’
“I’m not encouraging anything. I’m just saying it’s important for our future to not deny yourself anything for my sake – for our sake; not at this point, not right now. Something in me says, If he’s given himself freedom to look around, he’s been with other women, and he still chooses me, then I’ll see it’s true, but I’m afraid I might not trust your feelings toward me. That maybe what we have is just so far and above anything you’ve ever had before, I just seem like what you want.”
I tried to send her unsullied blessings for every new growth, discovery, joy, and freedom her poor tortured heart could handle, while my own was festering and bleeding out. It all sounded too ominous. My deep-seated “I suck” kept turning her every selfless word against me: See? You weren’t good enough to hold on to such a bright and wondrous beauty! She’s had enough of you and wants to move on. She’s just being polite, trying to let you down easy, but she’s had enough.
“I’ve been thinking about how Ron always got really upset about ‘Why, if we’re married, would you be willing to even talk to another man?’ It really bothered him. So I don’t wanna treat you that way, Honey; I know how that hurts, so I don’t want to hurt you by holding you back. Don’t shut yourself off for me like I had to do. I love you too much to do that to you. I’m still trying to get over his rejection. How I deal with relationships is coming very slowly. Trying to experience different kinds of people, and test out different things.”
There. She said it. She wants to date other men.
“I so terribly fear that some time much later, once you and I have committed ourselves, and we’ve more or less moved through this tremendous romantic pull between us, and the glamour, and the excitement; I’m afraid, maybe you’ll start looking around; maybe have an affair or two. I have no moral feelings against that.”
Well, why the hell not? I sure do.
“I love you. - So much! I keep searching for seeds of things that might cause problems later on. I shouldn’t … I know that. I also want to give myself the freedom to find out who I am; to become who I might become, not lock myself into any one particular slot too soon.”
How could I listen to all this love, to her self-sacrificing heart, and feel so terribly, terribly hurt? Between the lines, was she was telling me I should find some other woman because she didn’t want to be with me? I couldn’t imagine ever wanting or loving anyone but her.
“Oh, Bob, we share so many wonderful things; such a tremendous spiritual oneness. Little bits and essences from past lifetimes we shared are just now coming together; what we have is the heart of our spiritual journey. I keep thinking about our love. And our happiness. And our fun. And our – SEX!” She laughs. “Laughter, and our jokes, and nicknames, and our walks and special places. And laying together, talking, and cuddling closely. And I feel so happy.
“Ohhh, I love you, Honey. I pray that you’re happy. You’re so beautiful, Bob! So beautiful! I need you to help me not clutch at you, or wanna possess you. If I can face you being with other women, it’ll be a major breakthrough for me. I’m trying so hard to release you to your own growth; not try to hold on to you in any way out of fear of losing you. You’re able to do that for me in such a major, major way; I have to be able to do that for you, Honey, or we’re not gonna be good for each other.”
But I hadn’t let her go; not really. Everything in me was tearing itself apart even trying to.
“I love you an awful lot! I’m so glad we’ve met again in this lifetime, too. I’ll never forget meditating together and seeing so very clearly how you’ve been so important to me. In several past lives. So tremendously important to me. Meditating; picturing you so clearly before I even met you. And then, there you were. - We meet again at the perfect moment, when we both need so badly to feel our special love again. And there you were! You know that has to be karmic, Honey. I’m so grateful for you, Honey. I just think you are really … Amazing!
“I love you dearly; I wanna be able to do it with the same unpossessiveness, generosity, and compassion you love me with, Honey. Thank you so much for everything.
I love you!”

From “Living in the Light,” by Shakti Gawain: “… I was going through a place that all of us must pass through at one time or another – what the mystics call piercing the veil of illusion. It’s the point where we truly recognize that our physical world is not the ultimate reality and we begin to turn inward to discover the true nature of existence. … we usually feel emotionally that we are hitting bottom, but as we actually hit the bottom, we fall through the trap door into a bright new world – the realm of spiritual truth. Only by moving fully into the darkness can we move through into the light.”

I made arrangements to move out and head back to my own part of the country. I started training a new resident, Isaiah, as my replacement. He was learning to run the printing press one morning when my thoughts faded to incoherence and I had trouble forming sentences. I grew confused. Nausea welled up within me that I knew wasn’t my own. I was flooded by an overwhelming realization that Julie was in trouble, hundreds of miles away, and she needed me.
I told Isaiah what was going on, said I was going up to my room, and didn’t know when I’d be back.
By then I was living in a room with a door. I shut it behind me, left the light off, and lay down on the bed. The darkness was deep and rich with her beauty; and with her need.
The nausea hit hard. I drove right through thick, dull colored fog to grab hold of her, buried myself in her stupor and confusion, looking around at nothing solid or recognizable. I knew she was lost, wandering blindly, groping, and frightened; that she didn’t know where she was, and saw me as her anchor. I interpreted that as her being in surgery and starting to slip dangerously away. Fighting off my terror for her, I sent her only positive, supportive, thoughts, telling her with all the focus I could force into my mind and heart, “I’m with you, Honey. I love you. We’ll be fine”. I told her not to panic - to just trust in us, and I’d carry her out of it.
She responded almost immediately. It felt like we were pushing for the surface of some thick murky lake. I had no sense of time, but it seemed only moments before our heads broke the surface and we were clear.
And then, just as suddenly, it was over. She was safe. It was like awakening from a kind, refreshing nap. For several long minutes I felt around for her, and for that other realm we’d just moved through together, but it had closed me out. I was back in my room. She was gone. I was sure she would now be okay.
Down in the print shop then, Isaiah asked no questions.
Julie phoned from Kansas City to thank me that night. We had no money for long distance calls and may not have chatted in weeks. She said she’d had minor surgery; then the doctor had left her alone. She’d tried to get up too soon, had radically over-reacted to the drugs, and fallen to the floor. Disoriented and terrified, she had reached out to me.
And I’d heard her.
She had felt me come into her.
Once she’d found her way back to the bed, lain down, and felt safe again, she’d thanked me in her heart, and our connection had dissolved.
It was sad, but always beautiful to hear her sweet voice again.
But her surgery had been a tubal ligation. So I was supportive, but had to pull away a bit inside. It’s not like anything really changed, and yet everything was different, completely and forever, and all in an instant. That moment, and all time before it, was never coming back.
I knew then that it was all over.
Except for a love beyond all imagining.

Several Months, and One Chapter Later:

From Light on the Path:
“… do not be deceived by your own heart.
For now, at the threshold, a mistake can be corrected.
But carry it on with you and it will grow and come to fruition
 or else you must suffer bitterly in its destruction.”

Chapter Eighteen.

Every Good Flower Deserves Manure.

Julie found work at a methadone clinic for street addicts. To get to classes, she had to park in a high crime area and walk in, terrified at every step she was about to get mugged. I wanted to pull her out of there, or move in myself, but she wanted to step out into her life, and her terrors, alone. As I tried to send nothing but love, I felt only panic, depression, and loss. Every night, her family’s rejection clawed at her in nightmares. Was it wrong wanting to hold her through her darkest hours until she had nothing to feel in the night but adoration? Did I really have to stand back and let them overwhelm her? When I spoke of marriage; she couldn’t handle the concept; but I couldn’t handle not having her beside me, to love every night through forever. She knew I was hurting, but my way of giving her space was by telling her those were my necessary growing pains and I’d be big enough to handle them.
Oh, why couldn’t we just have faced our battles together?
We couldn’t afford phone calls, so we sent the same cassette back and forth. A mere recording of her sweet soft voice told me, “I listened to your tape last night, and I just went crazy. It was like being with you again. These past few weeks without you have been almost impossible.”
Then why were there so many miles between us? Thin strips of tape could stretch only so far, and we were in so much pain. I had no one to hold. I couldn’t even tell her, “Goodnight, sweet loved one,” and “Good Morning, Lovelight.”
I had to hunch over a cheap Radio Shack recorder to learn she was battling anemia and hypoglycemia, having big problems with scholarships, being threatened by addicts. How could anyone just sit through those terrors from so far away? I wanted to fly out there and hug her and find a job for both of us. She said she’d been on the pill for five years and maybe that’s why she was having such health issues. She didn’t ever want to have children, hence the tubal ligation. How could she mention so casually that she was going to find others to have sex with? I loved her terribly, and everything inside me, everything she told me, hurt.
She said “I know how strong your feelings must be about my dating another man. I really respect you so much for how you can consciously direct your feelings into being so unselfish.” How cold and empty it sounded when she put it that way. Who wants to be respected that badly? Who even wants to be conscious? Directing my emotions was exactly what the psychic had told me I had to stop doing for my own sanity. It had never been harder to subdue passions with intellect. It became impossible. I did not want her with another man.
And yet, if she could find even small breaks from what hurt her, I’d destroy myself to set her free.
I didn’t tell her that. I just swallowed all the hurt and told her, “Sure. I understand.”
She told me, “That takes an awfully big person.”
Well, the bigger I was, the more room for all that agony.
I fought the need to slam the tape deck’s off switch as she rubbed it in. “He’s excruciatingly good looking. Very, very handsome. He’s very, very nice. And gentlemanly. And kind. He’s very friendly. I really enjoy dating him when he’s in town. I like him a lot.” I prayed for her every happiness, but it felt like a shrapnel missile to the heart that she could be so casual about sharing the details with me.
She said, “I’m being asked out quite a lot by a lot of guys, but I’ve refused. My time alone is important to me. I won’t go out just to be going out.”
But she was so beautiful they would keep asking. What chance did I have? It was over.
“But with him it’s like a friendship. We talk, and joke, but don’t take each other too seriously. But as for what’s most vitally important to me above all, what you and I share, he just thinks I’m weird, and we’d end up polarized. It’s not based on anything substantial. It will probably just wear itself out.”
My heart, mind and soul were in chaos. The constant thunder of adoration roared through clouds I couldn’t deal with. The tape said, “My feelings toward him are very, very warm. But it’s nowhere near the nature of our relationship. With you and I there’s a great deal of potential. We share passions, interests, the driving force of our life. So don’t put this in a category with our relationship. I love you dearly, Honey.”
I sent her my own tape, trying to play it cool. “I got four letters today from my sweet love. Some real extremes of emotions there. But you don’t need to apologize. You and I have always been able to vent our feelings, and get things out. I’m perfectly okay with that.” But I wasn’t. “If you can’t get them off your chest with me, how could you do it? Whatever it is, write it down; I won’t be hurt.” Was I lying, or dangerously naive?
I could hear her fighting back the anger locked and quivering in her voice as she said, “I get so frustrated by our letters getting to each other so slowly!” I told her, “I know. I know. I’m writing you four or five times a day. Neither of us has money for phone calls, but I couldn’t possibly love you any more. That’s been burning so hard since I don’t know when.”
She wrote, “I’m amazed at how well your healing classes are going. I am so proud of you.” I wrote back, “I don’t think anyone’s ever told me they were proud of me.”
I wrote, “People talk about how lovely you are, and I just beam! I spend a lot of hours sending you love. I just can’t conceive of my love for you ever moving on to someone else. I’m trying so hard to work past clutching at you, not wanting to let go. I’m sorry I sound so possessive.” I struggled to tell her I was glad she was dating, to not hold back, but the words never came out feeling real.
Tears splotched her handwriting, and lipstick sealed each letter, but you can’t hug a tear. And when you keep trying to, again and again, slowly the lipstick will fade.
That winter hit everybody at Olcott pretty hard. It snowed at least once a week, and never reached above freezing. Large bushes were buried as ice kept rising to swallow everything. Confined indoors, working and living in the same small spaces, with the same people, no money, no movies, no entertainment or unwinding. Those of us who lived like receptacles for the moods of other’s sucked it all in. I dove into my deep, wracking feelings of rejection and loss. There was no way to climb out. I tried to shut my emotions down so Julie would only feel love from me. but failed miserably. I had no way to spare that poor, vulnerable lady the extremes of my passions polluting hers. Neither of us could deal with the throes and storms of depression I plummeted down through as I shared all my weak sides with the woman I’d love forever. I told her, “My love for you gives me the power and drive to conquer everything – even myself.” But self-destruction would have to be the first step toward reconstruction.
Her voice cracked on tape, wracked with caring and frustration. “I don’t want you to feel so bad you may have hurt me because you haven’t. I over-reacted. Just because you feel so strongly you want to marry me when that isn’t where I am right now, it doesn’t make you, or your feelings, wrong. Maybe it’s me.”
We were both trying so hard to be understanding; why did it feel we were digging ourselves deeper into separation?
Her tape said, “I don’t want you to be miserable. Oh, I don’t want you to hurt! I don’t want you to hurt! I don’t want you to hurt! I guess I need to be able to allow that, too, but I hurt when you hurt. We’re both feeling so awfully isolated and alone. Anything we try makes things worse. What’s missing in our lives seems so obvious. It’s so very lonely now, for both of us. No one can live up to what we need. No one! We have each other; we know that. If I focus just on the love I felt …” Felt? Past tense? “… but our needs aren’t being met. So we flounder around in these seas of emotions we can’t break free of.
 “Oh, Honey, I’m gonna cry! I wanna see you; I wanna talk to you right now! Oh, I love you! I almost called you three times tonight. I keep thinking I can use a friend’s credit card, and just call you and then pay later. But I shouldn’t do that. And, anyway, it was ten at night, and by the time someone at Olcott picked up, and then found you …
“Honey, I don’t want you to hurt. I understand what you said in your letters that whatever you’re feeling, you have to pull yourself up through it. Not be dependent on someone else. I know what you mean; I’m in the same place. It’s vital to my self-concept to know I can go it alone. Be able to pull myself up. Once you’ve pulled away all the props and superficial things holding you up –you’re left with nothing but yourself. Then, if you pull yourself through it, you have confidence you never had before. I guess that’s what we’re both caught in now. Learning to fall back on ourselves. - And we’ll do it! I know we will.
“This one sided communication we have to endure is really bothering me. With no immediate feedback, we have no chance to clear up misunderstandings.
“It’s not easy, is it, Sweetie Pie?
“But you get here on the day after your sweet birthday. So it’s just two weeks and two days until I see you. Oh, Travis, Oh, Snookums. Sweetheart, I love you so much! Bob, I love you!   I love you, Honey! I want you to feel that.
“We’re in a real uncomfortable place between us right now.  I think there’s a lot of misunderstandings or something. I’m feeling like something’s closed down between us. Whether it’s from your reaction to what I said, or maybe my insensitivity to you, or something I said, or what, I don’t know; but I feel like there’s some kind of barrier between us right now, that only being together can get rid of. But I’m sure we can, Sweetie…
“I love you very much, Honey. Just remember that, okay? Be good to yourself. And keep feeling my love around you during the day. Know that it’s true; it’s real. And I’ll be sending it to you constantly. I love you, Sweetheart.
“Good night, Honey.
“Bye bye.”
And that’s it. My last recorded words from sweet J-love.

On December 29th, I arrived in Kansas City. Bursting with joy to see me, she charged across the airport into my arms with the brightest smile I had ever seen. My joy reached its peak in that moment. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her for an instant along that whole drive back from the airport, and we kept pulling over to the road shoulder for hugs and kisses and soul-warming cuddles. We stepped in through the door to her apartment, dropped luggage, tore each other’s clothes off and made long, passionate, heart-bursting love on the floor.
But then later she told me she was dating. She had needs.
It felt like someone had slammed a log through my chest.
She walked around her apartment nude and cheerful for the rest of that day and the next while I fought to be okay with completely releasing her to her fulfillment. To let her open to all the joys, beauty, and love she could ever call into her life. She had certainly paid her dues.
Should I have been less disciplined and self-sacrificing? If we’d made love one more time, and I’d held her, and told her I didn’t want her to go, that I’d stay if she wanted, would that have changed things? Did she not really want me to pull back and let her walk away?
No, I’d been a maudlin, pain-wracked freak over this whole thing; I had not managed to hold myself together at all; and in trying to hide as much of that as I could from her, I had cut off our honest and healthy sharing. She’d heard nothing from me but moaning and false bravado for so long, I’d have kicked me out, too. Who could ever want to be with someone who could sink to such dire depths of depression?
I just could not rally my spirits from that blow. She stayed cheerful. And nude. Sweet and beautiful. And nude. She lay down right in front of me on the floor, her delicious butt tasting the cool apartment air below my face as she wrote out notes for me to pass on to friends. She squatted nude by her stereo to put soft jazz on she thought I would like. She sipped tea nude.
It felt cruel.
I left early. My brother was a reservations clerk for Amtrak, and got me onto an all-nighter back home. Kids around me folded their seats back, played cards, invited me into games and chats, but I had to throw every bit of willpower I had into damming up the tears. I wanted to weep, but for much of that trip, anyway, I think I managed to hold most of the sobs, groans, and convulsions of grief in. But still the other kids pulled away.
I dug myself into a cavernous depression I couldn’t crawl out of.
I’d lost my dad on the night after my twenty-first birthday, and my love the night after my twenty-seventh. Christmas; that most magical, blessed, and hopeful of nights; is not what it once was for me.
I would dearly love to end this little story by telling you that some years later, Julie and I ran into each other in a laundromat in some ragged town in Middle America. That we took right up where we’d left off, got hitched, and everything’s been all peaches and roses ever since.
But we didn’t.
I might even be willing to give this tale a heart-wrenching twist, telling you I ‘d finally tracked her down on her deathbed after wandering my own desert for thirty-some years. That I told her there would have to be more shared lives ahead so I could love her for ages to come.
I really did believe that for years. It was the driving passion of my life. Maybe I still hold out some hope.
In this tale, I’d have her smile up at me through both of our tears; tell me that through all our lost decades she had nursed that same dream. That now she could finally die, having heard our one dream in my voice.
We’d make a pact: “Let’s meet each other earlier next life. And let’s not blow it this time. Let’s get together before all the bad stuff hits us.”
We’d agree to meet younger, and at all costs hang onto it.
But that never happened.
Somewhere out there, she may or may not still be. I pray she’s been healthy and happy. In my heart she is still joy and light. Giggles and cuddles. Hot soaks, blue eyes, and picnics on a shirt. That soft, sweet Tennessee voice.
Enough love to have made all my years of wandering, before and since, worth the struggles.
But this really isn’t fiction. This is my life.
And I can’t tweak the ending.