Almost every morning just before eight, a woman rides her bicycle through Riverside Park with a Siamese cat on her shoulder. This morning she rode slowly by me in the rain, and as she passed, the cat turned it's head; its blue eyes fixed on me as they continued north round the path, and disappeared.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am as a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.
Love of art -
Or of nature or of food or of style or of form or of goodness.
Is it enough?
I'm guilty of often entertaining a romantic notion of what my life might've looked like had those contemporaries who left too soon still been here to share it with me. Perhaps we'd have drifted away from each other with either indifference or bitterness. Or maybe we'd have grown closer - our mutual fondness increasing with time, even as we recognized in each other the inevitable wear and decay of our earthly vessels - remembering fondly what we once were; taught, virile, urgent - loving what we had become despite age and physical deterioration.
I never got to see Tom with a potbelly or receding hair, nor was I allowed to make amends for the selfish behavior of a youthful fool. I never saw Greg go grey or watch the skin around his eyes go slack and wrinkle - never was able to tell him how much I loved him; too afraid. I never imagined there wouldn't be time. (I miss showering with him. Holding hands. Talking.) They left too early - them and others too. They will always be young - always beautiful. Lucky to have missed their own physical degeneration - unfortunate not to have experienced their own maturity. I'm lucky to hold my youthful loves forever as they were - hapless not to be able to hold them as grown men.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
I ask to be useful - that my experience might help others. I ask to have my difficulties lifted so that I may be of service. I am willing for this to happen. Sometimes it happens - often it does not. I allow the willingness to wash over me just as I allow the discomfort to wash over me. I sit with it. I walk through it - discomfort, sadness, doubt; a hundred forms of self-pity and self-delusion. I endure it knowing all things pass. This too shall pass despite feeling that it will go on forever. What seems insurmountable will undoubtedly prove frivolous with time. Tuesday - Thursday - February - June.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face:
The cat's blue eyes burrow holes deep into me as it recedes into the rainy distance on its mistress' shoulder. All-knowing opals; able to see behind the layers of make-up that's taken years to apply.
"I see you, you self-centered fuck. There's no hiding place down here."
Still, fruitless, I wait with an adolescent appetite for a vampire kiss. Bite me, suck me in and govern me. Always a top, never in control. Swallow me. Steal me. Own me. Bridle my potential as you see fit. Make me all that I could never imagine for myself, all that I am not. Good. Whole. Change me. Not gentle; no time for gentleness - the wait has been too long for gentleness. Times a wasting - swing your partner-dosey-doe. Too much has gone unused, untapped, impotent. Open, willing, unable to manipulate any longer, I've surrendered. Take my hand before it crumbles to dust. The sadness and promise of everything that could have been chokes me with remorse, with loss. Without loss I fear I am nothing.
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
In tongues of angels and demons and bicycle cats, I blather on the noisy gong, the insistent clapper of a recalcitrant bell. Hear me, hear me, I somersault the antiseptic halls, the blue institutional day rooms and settle in grace. Grace that allows me to be accepted as I am, not the person I imagine myself to be. I may fail more than succeed - again and again and again. I may be weak, messy, irritable, unhappy, sloppy, intensely human. I remain, nonetheless, cradled in the hollow of God's hand - swaddled in unmerited favor. Flawed and forgiven. Encouraged and protected.