Monday, December 15, 2014

Other Lives

Photo by Patrick Calder
Life is messy.

So are hearts.

At one point in my life, it looked as if I were going to do all the right things.

Once upon a time I was on track to get some of the big-ticket items checked off my life “to-do” list, and at an impressively over-achiever pace. At age 20, I was engaged to a guy who was completing his master’s degree in computer science, and I was poised to begin my final year of college with the goal of receiving a B.A. from the same school. I had a diamond ring and everything; I was legit. This budding computer scientist and I had decided to get married at the same church where my parents had held their wedding; my fiancĂ©’s mom knew a lady at her church who could make us a cake for cheap.

We were making plans.

And then I fell in love with my fiancĂ©’s then- best friend, a six-years-older-than-I-am, chronically unemployed guy with severe manic depression, suicidal urges, and self-inflicted cuts all up and down his arms. Abruptly jumping tracks in life, I dumped the parent-approved dude with the good earning potential, and life sort of exploded. For the next ten years that I remained with the manic-depressive guy, I was poor and stressed. We were poor and stressed. He wanted marriage, he wanted kids, but I knew better. It was not a good life for us, and an even worse one to bring a kid into.

I ended it.

I spent a few years after that as a self-proclaimed bachelorette, living first in rented guest rooms and finally my own threadbare apartment, drinking a lot and going to a lot of nightclubs. Guys would ask me to “hang out” (we would pretend the night was about going to a nightclub or movie, but really it was always about “hooking up” as the kids say). These guys, a dismal turnstile succession of them, would keep me at arm’s length, not wanting to mislead me into thinking they were interested in being the terribly serious entity that is a boyfriend-girlfriend, not wanting to lead me on.

For my part, having felt ugly and boring and all-around inferior to everyone else for all of my teens and twenties – I was just grateful for the attention.

I was bad at being single; I wanted too badly to be in a relationship. I would pretend to only want to date (i.e., hook up after the flimsiest of pretexts: a club, a show), but I would do stuff such as send these guys too-long, "getting to know you" e-mails in which I poured my heart (and past) out to them, or I would say one too many complimentary things. I became aware of a grim sort of bachelorette physics: the more you want a guy, the less he's going to want you. And vice versa.

Then I met the guy who would eventually become my husband. He was a new breed to me, a breath of fresh air – while other guys had seemed to live in fear of being “tagged” in a photo with me in it (heaven forbid their shallow pals see them with this less-than-Maxim-model-hot chick), this guy said he was “honored” to be in photos with me that I shared online. He was working through his own relationship issues that I won’t go into here, but before too long we were living together, and then before you knew it we were married, and now here we are trying to have a baby. If I decide to be buried rather than cremated, he is the person I will be buried beside.

So all’s well that ends well, right? You might be thinking that all I've told you so far follows a proper, story-arc sort of relationship trajectory – I go through some hard times, but they mostly just make me appreciate what I’ve got now. A picket fence at the end.

Except there was this other guy, with whom I was romantically involved, especially before my now-husband got more serious about me. And I still consider this other guy to be a soul mate to me.


Let me tell you about Kier.

In another life, in some parallel universe, Kier and I were probably once joined together like those four-legged, four-armed, two-faced, male-female creatures in Plato’s “Symposium,” split in half by Zeus to keep humans from becoming more powerful than gods. From good ol’ Wikipedia about human life, post-split:

“Each human would then … forever long for his/her other half, the other half of his/her soul. It is said that when the two find each other, there is an unspoken understanding, that they feel unified and would lie with each other in unity and would know no greater joy than that.”

Kier believes that I am the One for him, and that
he and I should be spending our lives together. All of that is putting it too mildly: He believes that he's spent many different lifetimes looking for me.

In this life, I have chosen not to be with him. Here's something I truly believe, and am not just saying to sound hard-core or stoic: Just because a person is your soul mate is no reason to marry them.


I should mention that it’s OK for me to talk about Kier here. One way in which Kier and I are astonishingly alike is the public light we shine on our relationship histories. (In fact, for a while now he has kept up a website/blog, How to Crush Without Being Crushed, which focuses on relationships – real, imagined, would-be, and otherwise – and contains many stories from his own lovelorn life.)

Kier and I are no longer Facebook friends (his decision; he doesn’t want to see daily evidence of my living a life that he views as counter to what he believes I really want, deep in my heart), but he is a faithful reader of this blog. I have asked for his permission in the past to post things about him, about us, and he has always been open to this.

In fact, the whole impetus for my writing this post is that he – understandably – feels that he was given short shrift in the encapsulated story-of-my-love-life synopsis that I provided in my previous post. He feels that I willfully edit him out of my life story, because he doesn’t neatly fit anywhere.

This post is my attempt to fix that. Because he does play a significant role in the story of my life, and in my emotional landscape.

Maybe the best way to explain it is to simply say this: When I look at the moon, I think of Kier. Every time.


More about Kier:

Kier wears a worn brown hat he found at a sporting-goods store, something like 20 years ago. He wears it so much that, at this point, it’s pretty much a part of his body, a northernmost appendage. It looks as if it might have been oiled in places, and friends are often (only half-jokingly) telling him to throw it away. It has some glow-in-the-dark glitter on it from a themed club night, when some chick rubbed up against it somehow. It’s an old-man hat, a hobo hat. It suits him perfectly.

Kier wears an obsidian pendant whose opaque black stone, he says, helps absorb negativity, to keep it from swamping him with darkness. He has worn it for years, and during that time, he says, the stone has sucked up a lot of darkness.


2010, a Wednesday night sometime close to my September birthday
Little Miss Whiskey’s on H Street, Washington DC

I park my car on the street and start to walk down H Street. I arrive one block from Little Miss Whiskey’s, the small purple-lit bar where our friends DJ and bartend at the every-other-week alternative-'80s night, at precisely the same time as Kier appears there, like magic, like something I don’t normally believe in.

He has returned from Dragon*Con in Atlanta with a present for me, and he gives it to me there in the warm late-summer night, not many other people on the well-lit street. It’s a necklace, silver with a pendant holding a small black stone. I know what it’s for; he knows I have some darkness in my life that the stone could help deflect or suck up. It’s one of the most perfect, passionate, and heartfelt gifts I have ever received. I put it on immediately, and we walk into the club together.

A summer day in the woods, a time of great emotional turmoil for me

Kier leads me to a particular tree in the woods. It’s a tall, old, sturdy tree; it’s been around a while. He asks me to place my hand against its trunk, to feel its energy, and to close my eyes. He begins to talk about how this tree is connected to all of the other trees. He says the tree will give to me what I need it to, and that it will take from me what I need it to. Tears are rolling down my face.

A person could go a whole lifetime and never feel something like this.


I could tell you many more good things. I could tell you about the time we went to the home of some friends out in Strasburg, in the rural hinterlands of (sort of still) Northern Virginia, for a body-paint party – about how, amid the more irreverent revelry around us, Kier took his time and, onto my string-bikini-clad body, he painted a great, strong oak tree, with many branches for life to live on. (He has long known how badly I want to have a family.)

I could tell you about the times he accompanied me to photo shoots – the one where they painted my body with liquid latex, the one where a guy tied me up in electroluminescent wire (“el-wire” as it’s more informally called in some circles). Kier was my “plus one,” the “friend” I invited along for practical as well as moral support. I could tell you about going to IHOP after the el-wire one, me tipsy (but not smashed) on all the wine I’d drunk to loosen up for the shoot, pouring too much syrup onto my flapjacks so that it overflowed onto the table, to our giddy mirth.

I could post a link to one of the many short stories I've written about him

But by now you’re more likely wondering what the downside is here. You're likely wondering why – with all these sweet memories and soul-stimulating conversations (in real life, on the phone, in e-mails and IMs) and rare, once-in-a-lifetime moments of connection – I would choose to not be with him for the rest of my life.

I’m not going to say anything bad about Kier here. There are all the usual stupid little daily factors that people cite as reasons to not be in a relationship with another person, the dumb practical stuff that I feel like a soulless automaton for even thinking about. There are the bigger things that often lie at the back of the mundane reasons that get cited. 

I don’t really know how else to say it other than to say – Kier is a soul mate to me, and my husband is my husband, and that's the way I have chosen for it to be.

But the moon – that’s Kier. The longing I feel when I look at the moon, every single time I look at it – that’s Kier. That will always be Kier. 

Photo by Lenore

Photo by Patrick Calder

Photo by Patrick Calder

Photo by Patrick Calder

Photo by Patrick Calder

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