I remember his hand on my shoulder, the squeeze of long, elegant fingers surging with warmth in a quickly proffered affirmation.
I think of my name in his mouth, sliding off his tongue, a silken, floating laud.
And the way our eyes would meet, a merriment, a gratitude, some unspoken ribbon of light reaching across the room.
He would enfold me once, the lean sturdy length of him an unexpected and brief shelter, with the graze of his cheek against mine, and then his lips on that soft curve, swift and fervent.
At one point, I am aware the arm he slips around me in casual conversation with others is a brazen, unnecessary weight, and I don’t care.
Nor does it matter that we leave each other, in the sea of strangers where we found each other, without exchanging more than this. The interludes go unacknowledged, their possibilities unpacked, tethered only to the fleeting moments already evaporating.
Yet hours later, having picked up my life’s familiar rhythm and he, I’m sure his, each uncurling memory leaves me flushed. I grin widely, even giggle, every peal a sprouting sun streaking its dance in my chest.
For two weeks before, I sat across from another man over lunch, a deliberate encounter after the exchange of several long, thoughtful messages and a series of phone conversations. I was plumbing the easy rapport already established in the short time we’d known each other, seeking another pulse beneath all that effortless banter. He was a kind man, infinitely so, with an intelligence I found immensely attractive. When I connected with him online, it was his eloquence and cultured, eclectic interests that captured my attention.
But all afternoon, though he plied me with a generous attention and curiosity, though we laughed and leisurely strolled the city after our meal, and I caught in his gaze a man who would adore me if I let him, the ease of our unfolding time together was no propelling force.
And so after only one date, without the frisson of anything more than a placid enjoyment, I cut myself loose. Then I wondered if I were being hasty, unfair, judgmental — if my vague, irresolute desire for a spark, that almost indescribable blend of physical attraction and some deeper inner recognition would be my constant saboteur. What if I dismissed the latent potential in any match, waiting for that slow, undulating flood?
I could see myself becoming fond of this man, yet while the desire for romantic partnership is no longer the hunger that’s tugged at me since I left my last relationship almost two years ago, I want more than such lukewarm consideration.
I do not know what, if anything, could have evolved from my more recent encounter, so unplanned and unanticipated, with this other man, who was more a stranger than my date had been. But I do know it was the kind of organic meeting I crave despite my profile in the world of cyberspace matchmaking — and even though our introduction was an inevitably orchestrated affair given the group function we were both attending. The fact that we never talked at length, never did more than skate the surface of a soft, shimmering current yet I was so vitally aware of that thrumming connection was like a flare thrown to rescue me from my own relationship ambivalence.
I am ambivalent because I have been dwelling in a place where the love I yearn for and the love that is coming to me are bigger than the intimacy of traditional partnership. Because after my experience in Tanzania this past summer, I know the fulfillment of my heart lies in something more than what I could build with one person. Because I have had grand and sweeping love, been enthralled by its magic, embraced in arms that offered a profound and healing adoration. And I have told myself that once is maybe all I need, that the lure of madly, deeply, truly has lost its luster — or at least become a shadow in the light of a greater calling seeking its full expression.
So I date with a great restlessness, wanting more than anything to know and give myself to whatever that happens to be. Yet I also date preemptively, to avoid resigning myself to a future of my aloneness, to shake myself from the stasis of my own easy contentment, fulfilled as I am in so many areas of my life. And lately, I’ve realized that I date almost without any expectation — to be dazzled, to fall into another’s eyes and then into intoxicating layer upon layer of possibility, to break out in song and laughter and ridiculous dancing after we’ve parted because my world is suddenly awash in marvelous electric, color.
Yet I want, and deserve, all of that and more.
My desire to serve a more universal heart can exist alongside the desire to be swept up in deliciously extravagant romance.
This awareness is the gift of a moment’s flitting infatuation, that and every trill of sensation he left me, an ancient, potent language too essential to forget.