When our eyes met, we knew.
It struck like a bolt through my breastbone and into my soul, freeing things I never knew were bound. to say it was a spark that jumped between us and then hung suspended, connecting us, would be to cheapen what was a very deep and profound moment of two souls recognizing that they were meant for each other.
we think ‘meant for each other’ means you’ll be happy together, that yours will be the kind of love about which songs and sonnets are written and for a while, our love was all of that and more. but being meant for each other doesn’t always mean you’ll stay together. it doesn’t always mean that you stop being the people you are, people for whom happily-ever-after must remain a fairytale. it doesn’t mean you stop being too messed-up and too broken to be lovable for longer than the time it takes for your brokenness to make its presence felt. sometimes past mistakes and the taint of another lifetime mean that when you do meet your soulmate you’re both too rough, too skeptical and cynical -those enemies of pure love- to stay together when the passion begins to deepen and broaden into every day love. sometimes love just isn’t enough.
that fire that ignited when our eyes met was hot, white-hot, and blinding. it was new, or perhaps it had become new in the year that we’d been apart, but because it was him it was also achingly familiar, heady, like a favourite wine. it felt like home.
the first time i met him he was with his brother, and it’s the brother who first caught my interest. that night my attraction to him was acknowledged- he is a better-looking man than most- but barely noticeable. it was his brother, with a chunky ‘fro and the lanky swagger that some creatives have, who first made my insides twist in anticipation of good things in darkness. i think we were both surprised when lightning struck us instead of me and his brother, welding us together as though we were psyche and cupid.
that was three years ago. three years during which we’d traversed a lifetime of ecstasy and anguish, moving from fierce, deep, naked love, to it’s uncompromising opposite, nothingness. emptiness. vast tracts of wasteland in my soul lay barren, seared by his capture, ravaging and eventual betrayal of my heart. i have spaces, wide open gaps in my heart, cold tundra, silent darkness where i used to keep my womanhood, my joie de vivre, my laughter. i leaked when he left, in drips and in torrents, my very being bleeding from invisible wounds, my pain screaming with a thousand mouths, the bones of my spirit irreparably broken and bleached white in the harsh desert sun of his rejection. like a mango seed after a determined child has been at it, there is nothing left in me to nourish anybody or anything. i can’t feel, can barely breathe, i exist only in the moments i take breaths, instead of fully and constantly inhabiting the space and the time that God continues to give me. i am all but dead. he didn’t just break my heart, he annihilated, obliterated it, left me a cold, broken lonely husk of the woman i used to be.
but when i saw him again -! it was a gasp of shock, an exclamation of incredulity that left my mouth involuntarily open. when our eyes met it was as though our very souls collided, and all i could do was gasp and recoil, and hope that no one else had noticed my reaction to him, so visceral that i’d been hard pressed to hide it. i felt a sharp tight heat spread across my chest, constricting my breathing, drumming in my ears, pounding between my legs – and in that sweet exquisite moment i knew i would always love him, knew my body would always ache for his, knew in the way i know my own name, that i’d regret and treasure him forever. he would never be my past, never be an old almost-forgotten story. he would always be a painful memory, the pain never fading with time like other scars, other hurts, other heartbreaks. it will always be too soon to talk about him.
he showed no sign that he’d just been slammed by an 18-wheeler of emotion and desire and i like to think that neither my face nor my voice, after that first barely audible gasp, betrayed that i too had been flattened. of course he felt it too, that depth of emotion and feeling is always mutual, never unrequited.
we mingled and smiled and laughed. i talked with other people and he talked with other people, but throughout the night i was constantly aware of him, as he was of me, even when we were separated by a roomful of people. every time i looked for him to srcretly taste him with my eyes, for i could not resist the urge to feast upon his deliciousness, his raw manliness, i was thwarted in my efforts. i found him always looking at me, eyes hooded, staring, no gazing at me, pulling me, tempting me, making me respond in ways i didn’t want to but relished anyway, moisture pooling and heat spreading.
when i stepped outside -i had to, the room had become suffocating, and it had become too difficult to keep pretending that i wasn’t noticing him, wasn’t feeling him- i knew he’d follow. i knew he’d come to be with me. what would it be like, talking to him after so long? what would i say? what should i say? i thought about going back in before he came to join me as i knew he must, but the God who’d fled me made no reappearance, and i remained where i was.
-i want to kiss you.
any other man, a lesser man, would have made me repeat myself. i swallowed my pride, forcing the lump in my throat down into my roiling stomach so i could give in to the urge i didn’t even try to resist. i braced to say the words again.
-i also want to kiss you.
this was not what i expected, not how i thought he would respond to the words i straight away spoke in place of a greeting when he eventually joined me.
-then what are you waiting for?
i spoke the words defiantly, yet without meeting his eyes, keeping my gaze cast on a point to the left of his. when he put his hands on my waist, i stiffened. i held back, suddenly shy -God! how i love this man! the thought struck me with such force, the breath was almost knocked out of my chest. How had it come to this? stolen kisses in the dark night when we’d shared a home, a life!- a mere year ago? if a mutual friend wasn’t getting married, how long would it have been before we were in the same place, breathing the same air again? would more time have made a difference to the riot of despair and ecstasy coursing through my body, singing in my veins?
his hands rested below my shoulder blades, our lower bodies almost touching but not quite. if either of us shifted even a little bit our bodies would be full frontal, and i ached and yearned for that contact, for him to fit snugly into that place he’d once called his own. still i held back, holding my body stiff, afraid to relax into his arms in case by so doing i consummated contact, set off an explosion that i knew would consume me, burn me alive. i couldn’t meet his eyes, neither could i step out of the circle of his arms. i didn’t want to! so we stood, bated breath on my part and i like to imagine on his too. it was all i could do not to cast my head all the way down and trace meaningless doodles with the toe of my shoe, so submissive and girlish did he make me feel. he tightened his hold and stepped still closer.
-i also want to kiss you, he repeated, bringing his mouth to my neck, inhaling my scent and lightly licking there, bringing goosebumps down my arms and an uncoiling at the base of my spine. the tension continued to thrill through my body and i sighed, surrendering, leaning forward into his chest, relaxing into this touching, this melding of our bodies. i felt a buzz in my forebrain, a clamour at my temples like the beginnings of a faint, and i swayed gently. how do you almost stumble when you’re standing still? somehow i managed it. he held me tight, then tighter-
if i only slightly turned my head our lips would meet and it would be like the union of two things that never should have been separated. go ahead then, insert the appropriate metaphor here for i don’t have the language to capture the pregnant delicacy of that moment.
click. that sound of things fitting into place. i knew that we would click together.
the ball was in my court. he’d made it so that we both had to act to make it happen. neither of us could claim to have been kissed, we were both going to do the kissing, i had to kiss him as he was kissing me, no room left for later unfair apportioning of blame here, and he’d already done his part, done it while leaving me room to say no. i could meet him halfway or stop it here.
if i made the right move, i knew we’d go back indoors and rejoin the celebrations without awkwardness and things would be like they had been for the year since he walked out of my life – dead. no contact, no news, not even a text. perhaps God would even talk to me again, having been so silent since i accepted that invitation, knowing full well that by doing so i’d inevitably end up in this moment.
if i made the other right move, if i turned to him –
his tongue gently slid against mine and he groaned under his breath, like a man when he first sinks into that long-awaited wet softness after his desire has been stirred and shaken, when he has been teased and provoked to a gentle fury of -. i felt the muscles of his shoulder move beneath my hand as he drew me into him, engulfed me with his heat and, suddenly, throbbed against me. my knees collapsed but he held me, he held me, and i allowed, finally allowed, my body to relax into his. i have never been able to successfully explain what a luxury that is, being with a man whose strength i trust to hold me up – so many lightweights playing at being men out here. here, i was with a man who could hold me and hold me up, and i didn’t worry that he was going to break, topple and end up on the ground under me. here, i was in the arms of a man and could be all the woman i wanted, needed, to be. i drew him close with one hand on his belt-loop, the other firmly grasping his bicep so i could feel the muscles play as his arms roamed my back. is there anything hotter than holding onto a man while he holds you? i think not. nothing that can be done while standing, anyway.
i kissed him back and i kissed him. i bit his lower lip, the feel of the soft flesh between my teeth, warm and smooth on the tip of my tongue -oh! oh! something unraveled and untwisted deep within my body, tendrils snaking all over me, stretching, awakening feelings i never thought i’d feel again, making me hold him even tighter as he, inexplicably, brought me. i shuddered and shook against him, that thing that he’d awoken curling through my body, moving slowly yet swiftly, like a river of lava – hot molten sex – drawing deep moans from i knew not where, a place i thought had long since dried up, a place whose existence i’d forgotten.
it was slow and right and without urgency. time stood still. when it’s right it never feels rushed or frantic.
-i missed you, he murmured against my mouth, his arms keeping me upright. a sharp burning pain behind my closed eyelids, tears gathering as i whispered back.
-i missed you too.
i knew what he meant. i missed this. oh God! -how i missed this! this rightness, this fitting together. i missed clicking with him.
my eyes opened and when a heartbeat later his opened too, we continued kissing, trying to eat each other’s souls, knowing that as right as it felt this moment could not last, wanting to squeeze every drop of life from it, not wanting to miss a single morsel. gazes locked. then we both closed our eyes and tightened hold as the moment washed over us, pounded against the rocks of reality and began to ebb. the kiss flowed into a very tight hug, his head bent into my neck. we’d come full circle.
that we both spoke at the same time saying the same thing is testament to how thoroughly in tune we were. why oh why could we not make it work? i want to throw something against a wall, maybe breaking something will mean mending what i had with him.
for several heartbeats after the mutual apology no words were said. then he gently kissed me below my ear. i held myself still. i felt the magic of the moment fade away, having ripped through my body and through my soul with the power of a tornado. i knew, felt without an iota of doubt, that it was over. this was the end. the thing that had been lacking in the year of no contact, when though i wasn’t talking to him i thought of him, often and at the most inopportune of times, a year when every conversation i had, no matter how unrelated, was about him; words swallowed because i knew no one else would get it. a year of pretending to care about other things, many many other things, when all i cared about was why he wasn’t with me, and making sure that the facade that said i was over him, remained intact. i knew that after today that door had closed. that goodbye had been said, finally. i could once and for all let go.
no more words were necessary. it had already been a year and now the rest of my life without him could begin, this time with nothing left unsaid or undone. we’d said and done it all.
you can’t truly love another person without loving yourself first. having learnt to love myself, really love myself, i could see that he was not ever going to be good enough, and i loved myself too much to settle for the perfect albeit mediocre. when you love someone as deeply and as truly madly as i loved him, and as deeply as i loved myself, you love them enough to see their flaws, acknowledge their mediocrity and you also love yourself enough to know that you cannot fix those flaws, that you shouldn’t kill yourself trying. he was good- i lie, he was great, we were great together, perfect even; just not perfect enough for each other. now that we’d said our apologies and our goodbyes, i knew i was going to be ok.
i gently untangled myself from him, and he did not resist. we drew apart, slowly, and when we were no longer breathing each other’s air, i looked up at him, half-smiling, sadness and peace perfectly balanced in my heart. he smiled too, then he took my hand and together, in companionable silence, we walked back toward the light and noise. i heard Voice gently speak to my soul, that Voice i’d missed in the cacophony of anticipation about seeing him and not knowing what to do with him. “it is well, and all shall be well. fear not, daughter.”