Every mother has one story about each child that, over and over, they still love to tell. In this one, I am standing in the grocery store, maybe four years old – up to her knees or so – and I tug on her jeans.
“Mommy! Mom! Moooooom!” I say, eyes full and round.
She crouches down to my tiny level, cream cheese in one hand and lunch meat in the other, and as she does I throw my arms around her neck and breathe in deep.
“Mommy,” I say, “I would know you in the dark. You smell so good.”
It’s something a child that small would say. It is earnest and endearing, because it is honest. Because it is true.
I wonder what it is that makes us feel that kind of tethered connection to another person. One could argue that it’s biological. That we know those joined to us through twisting strands of DNA, cavorting in the minutia of space. One could argue that it’s emotional. That we form a bond by choice, by desire, by proximity and repetition. That we nurture our decisions to follow through. That once we’ve chosen something, we feel the need to back it up, regardless of how illogical or nonsensical it might truly be. We’re hooked, reel us in. It’s too late.
The neurons in our brains, they dance. But they like to dance the dances they know. They look crappy trying out new shit on the dance floor. Maybe we’re just replicating the past in endless loops of static electricity, failing to notice that it’s all just rhythm with no reason at all.
My friend Shanna likes to look at the world as energy, all connected, moving in force to and away from itself. She says that we don’t know why we feel it, but we feel it. It’s how your mother knows when your broccoli goes bad and your heart is broken. It’s the reason your married ex-boyfriend texts you out of the blue after two years of dead air, when you’ve only recently stopped thinking of him. They do, in a way, have radar. Energy moved away from them, and although they don’t know why, even though there could have been years of silence between you, they suddenly felt a loss. The clip of a string, a free flying corner in the breeze. The weightiness of you is gone. They can feel it.
I don’t know if I buy that crap.
My married ex boyfriend texted me because he was drunk on a Thursday. My mom knows my broccoli is bad because I’m always emptying and filling my fridge with sporadic fervor and no sense of due process. There are reasons, I say. It’s logical, mathematical even. Read a book, I say. Duh.
My heart never presents it’s arguments in complete sentences. Allowing me to amble onwards with a quiet ache, though pain and subtlety, it warns my body that something isn’t right. A tiny, persistent wonder, a needing to touch and be touched. I can hardly stand to admit it, that despite all of my arguing and rationalizing, I feel it. My tiny hope that there a line to grasp. That there is something to hang onto in the panic of the deep.
For a year and a half, desire seemed impossible. Everything was scorched and barren. Everything tasted like ash. But now, peeking from the depths of a heart that speaks to me in silence, I know a part of me is still waiting. That I feel a blind, mad hope. That despite everything I’ve been through, despite everything my mind tells me is true, my heart feels a tug from a cord, even though I have no idea what lays pulling at the end of it.
I am groping around in the mess of things, blind. Feeling my way desperately towards something that feels like home.
When everything is peaceful. When I am still within myself. When I lay with him in the quietness of it, satisfied in silence, I’ll know it. I’ll reach across the counterpane of the sheets; my fingers will find his.
And I’ll say to him “I knew you. I found you in the dark.”