A Room with No Mirror
The Buddhas’ teachings emphasize that because the object is always unsatisfying to some
degree, it is our insistence on its being otherwise that causes suffering. Not that
desiring is negative in itself. We can learn to linger in that space between desire and
its satisfaction, explore that space a bit more. Mark Epstein
It’s unbearably hot today. So much so that slowing down is my body’s only choice, slowing way down. My body smells kind of good actually. The heat makes it warmer, makes my body want to be a body; be as hot and rhythmic as it is on the inside. I start to move a little, touch my skin a little, just barely so that my finger tips can feel every last little hair on the surface of my skin. My body starts to think about you; touch the tip of you, feeling as though it’s skimming over the surface of water. Your flesh is soft and smooth, the lightness of you so near the edge of my skin.
I kiss you. And then I begin to find you.
I find you in the tangling of limbs, wrap my legs around you and pull you in, hearing your deepest groan. In the movement of your hips I know you’re not all talk. You aren’t all words, you understand the rhythm you are heard repeating over and over again the sounds you’ve put to paper, put with ink and slid across the page as though sliding is what you were made to do, into water, over paper, into me. It starts with the rhythm of my body and becomes yours and back to mine up and through yours.
Everything is rhythm, is timing. Longing is rhythm, is push then pull, is scream then echo, is question then answer.
Desire asks a question and waits for answer.
Waits for an answer.
Creates space for an answer.
I wait for an answer.
In the space I have two choices. Two ways of circular motion, one the path of race cars spinning around and around and around, never touching the center, and the other a motion that begins in the center like a ripple that slowly makes its way out across the water. A round, soft movement so slow I can feel that each dip and rise and each small movement is everything, is me, is you.
Most of the time I choose race cars.
Question after question after question. Why did I say that? Will you come back to me? Do you have the strength? Do I know myself well enough to know you? Questions all day long. Question marks turned upside down and sunk in me like hooks that don’t let go. Don’t let go! Please don’t let me go!
But to what?
Your grown man image is a mixture of every school-boy crush. Cory, the blond haired, freckled son of a surfer.
Geoff, the tender and sweet best friend who played all of my games. Chad, the slouchy, tough, heavy metal kid.
You’re all of them.
The image of you is. The shiny surface image of you, like a mirror.
“It’s like looking in a mirror.” I say.
“Down to the freckles,” you say. “It freaks me out.”
But you’re not here. I can’t look into the reflection that astounds me. It’s like being in a room with no mirror and the only place I can go is inside. And once in there I find answers to my questions, echoes to my screams, where something deeper resides.
How your quivering shoulders were the visible expression of my jittering belly.
How you said you’ve spent your whole life searching others’ eyes for what you see so clearly in mine.
How almost every touch from you had something in it that held back from me.
“This isn’t like me.” You say. Until the edges of you would slowly begin to soften and your body would begin to shake and I could see you begin to get lost in the sea, not knowing which way is north, which way is south, and you’d look at me like the only thing, the last thing you wanted to do was grab hold of the life perserver you’d shaped in my eyes.
Rescue me, don’t rescue me. Stab me, don’t stab me. Come to me, don’t come to me.
Somewhere in the middle lie the answers to our screams. And oh how I scream:
Why can’t YOU SEE what is so clear to ME?
Don’t you know that the strength you see in me, is you reflected back through me?
I keep looking for you there inside and it becomes less about the familiarity and freckles and more like listening for a child who has fallen deep in a well. I hear you. Your longing like the ocean and your laughter like a cry, like a baby reaching for his mother only inches away. It taints the edges of your laughter and makes me want to rush in and hold you every time you begin to smile.
One of my first Buddhist teachers, Jack Kornfield, writes…about his early experiences with long-term meditation at a monastery in Thailand. His mind was just filled with lust. He was freaking out about it, but his teacher just told him to note it. Despairing that it would never change, he tried his best to follow his teacher’s instructions. And what he found was that, after a long period of time, his lust turned to loneliness, one that he recognized from childhood and that spoke of his feeling of not being good enough, not deserving enough of his parents’ love. I think he said something like, “There’s something wrong with me, and I will never be loved.” Something like that. But
his teacher told him to just stay with those feelings, too; just to note them. The point wasn’t to recover the childhood pain, it was to go through it. And eventually the lonliness turned into empty space. […] This is one way to unhook ourselves from
repetitive, destructive, addictive desire. It lets us go in a new direction—it frees
desire up. (Epstein)
There’s something wrong with me, and I will never be seen.
But you’ve seen me, now I’m hooked.
Sometimes you have to sit with things in order for them to reveal
themselves and sometimes it’s as if you’ve been struck by lightning.
You were lightning. And like all near-death experiences, once over the
shock, all I wanted was to love and live and love and live more than
It was all there in front of me. In each explosive flash. The misfit
girl who’d felt so alone all her life and now her friend was back at
her side. An ally, a partner in misfit crime. You said it yourself,
“It was like I’d found another misfit, like the island of misfit
toys.” When I’d asked, “Why did I feel so right?”
So here I am in front of you: the eyes, the freckles, the misfit, the
longing. And somehow you manage to turn, and turn and turn.
Every time you turn from me I take aim throwing blades.
Isn’t that what you asked for?
Pages upon pages begging for daggers,
here I stand ready and you run away.
All I have left is to shape you around me like a voice, like an echo.
The shape of you rounds me like your songs. Echoing on the verge of a
canyon that is long, entrenched and snarled. A huge splitting wound in
the desert. Dusty and dry and reeking of carnage and things that
you’ve eaten and spit over the edge. I want to stop every last bone
that begins to make its way to your mouth. The juice of it dripping
down your chin as if you can’t stop devouring everything in sight.
Slow down! Slow down, slow down.
I can’t stop the need for control. The need to hold my hand out in
front of you and yell stop! or point my finger and say go! I want to
tie you to the tracks, make your life flash before your eyes and then
make you tell me what you see.
I don’t know. I want to say I don’t know anymore. You haven’t answered me. You haven’t called back. I don’t hear the sound of you from the edge anymore.
There is something very useful about the capacity for renunciation. I think that renunciation actually deepens desire. That’s one of its main purposes. By renouncing clinging, or addiction, we deepen desire.
I’m slipping away on the edge of goodbye. I can’t hold on any longer.
You know that don’t you? As though you’ve slowly been lifting each finger, one by one just as I began to mistake them for hands reaching in to find me.
It was you I’d heard first at the bottom of the well. I must have been straining over the edge and fallen in myself. I don’t remember the fall and all I know is that I woke and here I am lost, empty and alone, with no shapes to distract me now. I can barely put an image to this place. Usually, underwater, I can see a far-away bright light wavering over the water, spilling down in streams and lighting every reef and fish in front of me, but this time a darkness has come over me. Still and haunting shadows above me, so long like fingers, the way they are before the sun goes down.
It’s like nowhere I’ve been before. The only surprise is that I breath underwater — I have to stay it seems. My body is making it so that I can stay here awhile, find a reef to rest with. Find a reef and learn how to make space. Learn how to let longing become me, or me become the longing instead of me longing for you.
I stop writing. I’m empty. What if there is nothing there? Like the time I stood in front of you and saw the scared little boy I wanted to love but knew I couldn’t save. I felt nothing. I saw empty space. And
here I sit and discover the emptiness I feel in my desire for you.
My heart has stopped pounding.
I can’t place an image or a sound to any of it.
I feel utterly still, not a ripple.
What if deep down I feel nothing for you?
I retrace the shape of you.
To know you are still alive.
To know that I want you.
To know that I’ve thrown the pebble.
My fear begins to rise.
What if I don’t really want you or I am afraid to?
I’ve been so caught in a hook of questions that I don’t even know how deep my desire lies.
So what if I stayed with the ripple, the center, what if I stayed with the longing to reach for you, but let myself just reach instead.
I sit still for a moment and find silence in space. In space I find emptiness and in emptiness I find it all:
I want to live like an outlaw live the surfers of the fifties, living for the moment, living on the edge of darkness with Dick Dale’s sultry guitar playing in the background as we slink down the alleys of shopping malls, steal shopping carts and push each other into the middle of the night.
I want to live like an outlaw and make movies and plays and only go to bed because in the morning I want to do yoga, wake up with the animals and sun-salute the world.
I want each breath of moment to be as strong as the next and the next and the next.
To take a ferry and weave through the islands under northwest stars. I want to slip away to paradise and eat fruit by the ocean. I want to hide in the trees, sleep in a hammock and swing with the moon.
To dress in the slinkiest lingerie and pull it off piece by piece in front of you.
I want to live like an outlaw and do everything I’m not supposed to, everything that is living with my heart, living on the edge, living enraptured by the stars. I want dusk to fall over me, slow my motions, make it easier to hear my breath and slowly count the moments until each in and out is heard out loud.
This is why I want you,
You’re the shape of my longing,
you’re what I find inside.