Once more with feeling. The last, final hurrah. One more college try before admitting defeat. Before the decay sets in, and you begin to crumble, a ruin of riches falling to dust; a wreck one can never revisit.
It wasn’t that long ago you felt so terribly young, so terribly alive. Yet it feels suddenly as though youth itself is cut short, before the last hold out, a Mexican standoff between beauty and the loss of beauty, where there is one inevitable outcome. Time seems to make you more stubborn, as though longing is the one last thread holding you to the earth; — not fate or an internal clock, but the capture or loss of desire.
The longing comes in waves some nights, and it never quite leaves you. It grows inside you where life belongs, growing and expanding, until it is a monster who mocks your solitude. You lie awake and feel yourself changing. The monster remains. It is watching while you bide your time with dazzling hopes and plans, which appear foolish in the light of day.
When you’re closer to death, and no longer feel beautiful— boldness deserts you. Instead of life feeling more fleeting it overpowers the senses. You long to be lost in something, in someone, in yourself most of all. You must break out of all the building and balancing and routine and live before this one final chance eludes you but you don’t know how. And that’s what makes the roots take hold faster and stronger before they pull you down. The tree of life is also your coffin. The delicate balance keeps shifting. You recede back into it.
Longing is a question without an answer.
I write to you from Italy. It’s where I belong, if I belong anywhere in this world. I should be writing this in Italian, that beautiful language… the language of Dante, and poetry, and of the maestros, but I’ve mastered one language only, English. Mastered it with the devotion of a life long lover who never grows bored. Such is my devotion to Italia itself. To the stories of Italy, to the soil, the sun, the gleaming stripped marble of ruins, the art, the hum of life for centuries still playing in stone.
Love and Italy are entwined for me. But love for a place feels less dangerous than love for another soul. What is it about love more than any other sensation or state that makes it worth dying for for nearly everybody? Is it the intoxication? Is it that danger of falling; first in love, —the surrender of giving oneself so completely to another, and then, —the alluring danger of falling into disrepute and disintegration?
(‘before sunrise’ trilogy film still)
You’ll never have nowhere to go, I heard in a song once. That’s the other thing about love too, isn’t it? If you are my fail safe, I’ll be your home. We’ll never have nowhere to go, we’ll never be quite alone, never be utterly lost in the world with our pieces of love tethered to an anchor. Love gives you the buoyancy of floating, even at the end of a rope. The deeper the love, the deeper the water, the longer the line, the sweeter the kiss, the saltier the tears. The deeper the knife plunge. Something like that.
Loving is swimming that feels like floating, falling that feels like flying, until loving feels like drowning when there’s still a spark in the brain and air in the lungs, — quickly quickly at first, then slower, slower so there’s a flicker of hope, until the last tick tick tock of blue veins and dark arterial blood, and with the sounds of a few trite memories, voices of ghosts before you’ve forgotten, —then the spark is faltering again, then flickering out, the air is now escaping, —then, at once — nothing.
Keats said, “Love is my religion; I could die for it.” Not for religion, not for country, not for god or even one’s soul, but for love itself, that fickle slow dying and quickening and petering out and rushing back and dissolving of self, that is worth dying for, each and every time.
We hope for one great love in life, but perhaps there is a beauty in a few great loves, slipped into and out of like different characters? Multiple loves for multiple lives.
That’s what we have, you and I, isn’t it? We fall in and out of love, in and out of each other? We hunt and repel, we submerge together, and reemerge on opposite sides, —we crash back into, then back away, sometimes we look away when speaking…
Tell me when does love stagnate? When the newness of sex becomes too familiar or the nuances of our narratives loses their mystery? When we lose ourselves a little too much to capture the other, and no longer “get each other?” When the brains soften followed by the body?
I fear I’ll never feel that with Italy, my love will never die for its myths and beauty. I’ll always return to its warmth, its reminder of death, and of the temporary. My love for you also feels endless, for it is already a ruin we revisit, happily, to hold onto the dust a little longer, to declare we were once here, to hope when we’re carrion our love will find itself in the hum pressed into stone too.