How to describe it? A shift in disposition, a fall from grace; like being banished from a magic kingdom. Not everyone seeks this from love: an ongoing state of reciprocal perception, attunement to nuance, an unbroken thread of communication in which the subtlest allusion is registered with the keenest, the humblest attention. To pay tribute to another’s unique existence, to memorize each path taken, each injury incurred, a repertoire of recollections and the chimera that go unspoken. What was your life really like, I wonder as I listen to your story, a distillation of narratives that have been arrived at through hours of introspection, sifted through and mingling now as the past funnels further away and the future plods obdurately past, as silent and invisible as another uneventful afternoon.
And what is the story I tell myself? I wake up and find myself alone in bed, with a cat to either side of me. There are the facts: the countries I’ve lived in, the course of education and employment, the crises and indecision and meager savings. Dental records and tax returns and a constellation of small surgical scars; years of childrearing, parenting, falling prey to despair. And in between, the actual work: interrupted again and again, maddeningly and to the point of stupefaction, by outside forces and internal storms. Is it wrong to make that a reason to go on? And where does another person fit in?
A lonely business—and yet when you pare it down, when you strip it of its particulars, it resembles everyone else, in a way. What we seek from love—a commingling of perception and emotion, a verification of objective existence. The permission to communicate internal processes and the joy in recognition, the echo of understanding. There is no symbiosis; the mother’s love lures the infant out of his solipsism, but what follows is the gradual recognition that he is alone and without witness to his internal reality. We are astronauts floating in outer space, bubbles of being connected to life by a tube: all the more incredible when my story overlaps with yours, when the superimposition yields a pattern that seems to have meaning—one we invent, perhaps, but that is the nature of the thing.