It’s so fun and awful to dream about someday love.
I sit at my piano sometimes in the wee hours and imagine you behind me, pressing a kiss to the top of my head the way my father sometimes does, but you know, in a more romantic way. Yet the feeling is the same. Love isn’t just sex.
I remember when my high school boyfriend broke up with me on a March afternoon and I wore a sweater I loved on purpose because I knew it was coming. And that night, the sun was setting over the west desert and I stood in the slight chill of my best friend’s driveway, my legs in their track shorts shaking a little bit, as she got out of her boyfriend’s car and held my hand instead of his all the way into the house. I remember her fingers, thin and cold, as she punched the garage door code with her other hand.
She left her window open that night and I did calculus with my feet up on her desk and stared out at the eastern mountains fading into the stony blue of a spring twilight, and we talked and shivered and I said what I needed to say and she said the right things, and I have no idea what any of them were, I don’t remember anything I said that night, I only remember her fingers when she held my hand.
Earlier that day, as he was trying to explain why he was breaking up with me, my boyfriend said something that still rankles on the days when the mountains are nothing but piles of mud. He said, “We are just not on the same wavelength of being people.”
I knew what he meant, but I was so hurt I hated him for saying it. I still don’t think it was a good way to say that, or even a reason to end the relationship (if I wait for only people whom I can understand to love, I’ll wait a long time), but he was right, and it does happen, that two people who find each other can’t understand each other.
It’s nearly two years on and I never did tell him how much I hated that statement, except maybe by an exceptionally racking sob as he said it. Shameless tears.
I find myself on different wavelengths from other people all the time. I have no idea what wavelength the guy from summer camp is operating on when he sends me Facebook invites to the millions of social justice events he attends in a city a thousand miles from where I live. But that is his wavelength, not mine, and the fact that he finds it hard to understand why anyone would not be on the social justice wavelength is forgivable.
I have no idea what wavelength the guy from high school is operating on when he sends me the text that he would like to “have intimate relations until neither of us can walk right” (and I am not editing his language, believe it or not). But that is his wavelength, not mine, and the fact that he finds it hard to understand that I would not be on the same sexual wavelength that he would is forgivable.
I have no idea what wavelength another of my best friends is operating on when he sits in my room late at night and tries to tell me what makes him feel so hopeless in stumbling, teary words. But that is his wavelength, not mine, and if his feelings are so real that it is incomprehensible to him how anyone else can fail to be on that wavelength, it is forgivable.
So far as I know I have never met anyone who was on my wavelength, and it is from there that I draw my conclusion that my ex-boyfriend was wrong when he decided that non-identical wavelengths was a good enough reason to end the relationship. Not that that relationship shouldn’t have ended. A bad reason for a good decision still amounts to a good decision, I think.
The best friend who held my hand the day I cried buckets about wavelengths is far away now, and I don’t think we’ve been on the same wavelength for a long time. But I love her still, for the fact that she is a beautiful human being, for the fact that she is still struggling along with German, for the fact that we’ve lain in bed in the doublewide at her dad’s ranch talking about Ted Bundy, collective consciousness, ex-boyfriends, college stories, Shakespeare and stars till late in the night, for the fact that I still have the shirt she made me based on an Internet idea for the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, and also the one we made together for The Fault in Our Stars movie, and for that matter I love her for the fact that she watched my first episodes of Doctor Who with me in the aftermath of the same breakup and let me steal The Fault in Our Stars out of her backpack in trigonometry long, long ago. I love her for many small reasons, but most of them are past.
Madeleine L’Engle wrote a thing that I love, and it is this. She quotes the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing: “By love God may be gotten and holden, but by thought or understanding, never.”
And then she follows it with the simple paragraph: “Love, not answers.”
I don’t need to know what my best friend is thinking. I don’t need to know why she habitually doesn’t respond to my messages, or almost never reaches out to me, or says she’ll come over and then doesn’t. I would like to know these things, but that is my selfishness talking, not me. I don’t need to know any of that. I don’t need to have answers.
I need to love.
By love Hannah may be gotten and holden, but by thought or understanding, never.
The same is true of everyone else I have ever said I loved, whether I meant it or not. By love, not by thought or understanding.
If I took a snarkier approach, I could say that the point is not to understand human beings because human beings are impossible to understand, and this is funny, if not necessarily true. I understand my best friend when I know what he is going to say next, or that after an emotional night he will probably have updated his Twitter profile in the morning. I understand him then, but that comes from having spent an inordinate amount of time with him over the last year and a half. But the point is not to understand, or at least not right away.
The point is to love.
If I love, if I insist on always responding lovingly to that person, I will either arrive at a point where I can graciously accept that they are disappearing from my life, or at a point where I know what that particular half-smile means a moment before they smile it.
Either way, I’m doing something right.
Once I told the same ex-boyfriend, after he made some comment about Mannheim Steamroller being only for Christmas, that his job was to look up their album Fresh Aire III. I don’t know if he ever did. Perhaps it wasn’t on his wavelength. The possibility that he will never understand why Mannheim Steamroller is important to me is a very real one. The point, though, is not to understand. He didn’t need to know why. He just needed to realize that it was important, and to love me despite the music taste that seemed heretic to him. That’s love, and it’s sure as hell not answers.
My best friend’s fingers in my hand on a March evening were love. They weren’t answers.
It’s so fun and awful to dream about someday love. Remember, that’s where we started.
By someday love, I mean dreaming about the people I’m going to love one day. Romantic and otherwise. I love thinking about the friendships I’ll love the hell out of in the future. I don’t need to know who these people will turn out to be. I just need to know that I will love them, and they will love me. And they will, and so will I.
And our wavelengths will fight and cause problems and get us in trouble with each other, but we don’t need to know what wavelength the other operates on, or what it says.
Love, not answers.
I live in a different town now than when that boyfriend broke up with me, and once I ran up the hill outside my apartment when a boy I liked messaged me. Seriously. All the way up on pure adrenaline. Where is that boy now? He lives in another state (well, he always did) and has a girlfriend. I don’t need to know why it never worked out for us. I just need to lovingly accept that he has disappeared from my life.
In this town the mountains are different – higher and closer, and even when the mist hangs low over them I look up and call it beautiful, and sometimes the chills hit me in my best friend’s living room when I realize how jealous I am of the view out his window.
One of these days I’ll probably be looking out at those mountains wondering about some boy and why it didn’t work out, or why my best friend never messages me anymore, or something else. But it’s love, it’s not answers. The mountains don’t give answers, that isn’t the point of them. They are both steady and steadfast. They are love. Even if I run up a mountain in November for a boy who will be out of my life within the year, I can run up that mountain in January for no reason at all. And that’s okay. There doesn’t need to be an answer to the question why. Or any other question, for that matter. There only needs to be love.
So when you come up behind me and press a kiss to the top of my head as I play the piano, I hope it’s because you love me.