Thursday, February 22, 2007

close enough to touch and still so far away

In 1996 I went to Europe. It was hectic. Six countries in five weeks, a vocal jazz tour, a relationship on its way out, a lot of first class experiences crammed into a really short time frame. If I had it to do over, I'd rather have the second class eurail pass and a backpack and let my wanderings lead me where they may.

Still, it was a good trip. I sang jazz in France (4 parts -- the vocal arrangement of Miles Davis's Freddie Freeloader; I sang Miles' part in his key, back when I was in practice and had that sort of range). I saw dame Judi Dench and Vanessa Redgrave on stage in London, I went to the river I was named after in Ireland, spent an afternoon walking the staircases in Montparnasse, visiting the Dali Museum, thinking up ways I could live for a year in Paris...

I remember one stretch, a four day break from the tour, where we left Germany to take a train to Italy. The train took us into Austria briefly and through the northern Italian Alps. I remember looking out the window of the train, these massive green mountains jutted up against the rolling hills beneath them. Austria close enough to touch, Italy just unfolding. I remember thinking it looked like a painting. A small house, more of a shack really, might appear here or there, dotting the landscape, but otherwise it was like an unoccupied dream. I remember wanting to throw myself off that train and wander these hillsides indefinitely.

I haven't made it back to those countries, though I hope to one day. There is so much of the world I haven't seen and so much that speaks to me. I have the urge to travel. I always do, and traveling only feeds the traveling bug. It quells it for a time as well, but it has been too long. I can feel it in my bones; I need to go somewhere.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

there are such things as perfect moments...

Today, while having coffee with my friend Sarah, she complained that she was not only a hopeless romantic, but also merciless cynic. "How does that happen?" she asked me.

I've always known one could stumble upon pockets of happiness, whether in love or just a very good day, the trouble for me is that usually I simply continue stumbling. There has been love, there has been kindness, there have also been pains too innumerable to mention. There have definitely been moments that I will always be grateful for, people who have touched me, shaped me, made me hopeful. And, I have always wanted to believe that love was enough, that it truly could conquer anything.

When Sarah asked me this question, I immediately said, "It happens because everyday your romanticism is thwarted by the overwhelming presence of reality." I paused. "But that doesn't mean it's not possible."

I thought of all the hard lessons I have learned, the times when love wasn't enough, the failures, if one can call them that, to be faithful to the love that has been created. I thought of certain conversations I've had with my mother, where I described the kind of life and the kind of love I wanted. She would respond as the cynic. She would tell me that the reason Hollywood makes such good money from films about true love is because they are selling the myth--the dream-- that everyone wants to buy, but that doesn't really exist.

I love my mother, but I had to tell myself she was nuts. Despite the mounting evidence to the contrary, I have always held on to this dream of love. Real, imperfectly perfect, honest, bone-shattering, mountain-moving, everything-you-ever-wanted kind of love. In fact, I'm fairly certain that I've fucked up quite a few good relationships on account of this belief.

This past summer, during the crush of wedding season (which deserves an essay all to itself: the effect of one person's wedding on everyone else's relationships), I saw my lover, the groom's Best Man, walking down the aisle with the Maid of Honor. She was already married. She is a fine person, beautiful and kind. There was nothing remotely inappropriate unfolding, but, watching them, watching her smile up at him, I saw what he might look like if he were truly happy.

It was beautiful and it hurt. I think a part of me gave up on love right then. Looking at them, looking at the bride and groom and seeing what was so obviously between them, I knew that was not us. I really wanted it to be him. Truly, I did. He is a good man. He'd have been a good father. He is the first person I have ever been with that I actually wanted to remain friends with, after the end. But when I had thought about our future, this burgeoning desire to have a child, I did not ask myself whether this was a man I would love, who would love me until the end of time, but rather, once it all goes to crap (as it always had before, seemingly inevitably), is this a man I would want in my life forever?

I could answer yes, because he is really a fine human being. What more could a person ask for? But I saw how unable I was to make him truly happy. I knew he deserved that kind of happiness and I knew, deep down, that I couldn't give it to him. And I knew that I deserved to be that happy too. No matter what either of us might have wanted, we didn't seem able to do that for each other. There is more to this story. There is always more. I will always love him and he has taught me much about who I am and what I am capable of (both good and bad) and I will be grateful to him always, deeply grateful for all the moments we lived inside together, for a long time.

I have been jaded. I have been thwarted. I have been so down. And there I was this morning in the coffee shop telling Sarah that anything was possible. Despite everything, it seems, I have never stopped believing, no matter how tenuous my hope and how thin my belief. This dream of love... for it to be possible, it is vital that one never cease to believe in it. Right now, I feel in love with the whole universe and I want to shout at the top of my lungs to anyone who will hear me-- anything is possible. I know it now, in my bones. Even with all the hurt and sadness, this cynic in me has been put to rest. I have never been happier.