He said, handing me a bag of little bits of Indian spices as he shuffles nervously outside his tidy old Toyota with it’s bottled water and remnants left from the last time his son was in the car, “I bought these for you. It’s a gift!” Explaining each little packet of spices and its uses he shuffled from his good leg to his other one damaged by childhood polio.
Later over my coffee, “I don’t take coffee or tea” he shrugs without much explanation as he dives into his belief in a God to whom he prays. His God does not appear to have a particular name but the belief moves him along when he can’t move another way.
We are on a date. It appears I have a secret. I know it’s not going in any particular direction except meeting a stranger and learning something about them. He appears more hopeful. “Poor guy”, I think.
I suspect he really does know there’s not much to this, no real attraction, no possible future but he’s in recent free fall heart ache and wants to grab a branch on the way down. I’ve been there.
Being a religious person has a certain convenience. When it all becomes too hard to figure out or there is too much pain to manage, a person with a God can fall back on faith.
Jesus take the wheel, drive this car for awhile, I can’t figure out where to go.
I don’t know if I’m religious. I don’t know if there is a God, many gods, or a collective understanding tied together by whatever animates all this life, death and wonder. But I can see where having a God can be better than not having one.
He has his wavy, salt and pepper hair very short. His Hawaiian shirt an Americanized variation to allow him color. He misses India. He wants me to understand his god.
Whatever it is–sometimes I trust it. When that trust swallows me into its great belly of joy, life is a hammock hanging in the stars with the moon warming and breeze blowing the planets around. I’m a child in love with life and totally trusting. I’m holding hands with the Universe in full faith.
Other times, I don’t trust it. I climb out of that belly, fall off the hammock and decide I’ve rested enough. I strike out, walking stick in hand for defense and direction and I chart a course toward some goal. The striking out almost always feels strong and sure, there is certainty that of course success is one correct turn away, and if not, there is strength to take whatever comes, but the goal will be reached.
Both approaches eventually yield to one consistent understanding: I do not understand. I do not know if the goal I hoped to reach is really in my highest good or that of others. Failure cannot be defined. Perhaps not hitting the mark is the best thing that can happen.
The fact is, this foray into seeking love after 50 has made me transparently confused. Not hitting the mark of finding “love” may be the Universe doing me a solid.
In today’s internet ordering, “everything can be found on line” culture, we reduce each other down to products. It’s shame inducing.
Still, there is nothing all good or all bad. There is no need to change the world or maybe even me.
I will find the good in this, damn it. Somehow I will.
Here’s one thing I’ve learned or really re-learned: There is a clear and present need to show the world and me compassion and understanding. I say this looking at this once little girl’s face now aging with her wrinkles and smiles buried under an avalanche of criticism and misunderstandings on these “dates” which are really more like job interviews. I see this looking at this also aging man. He is kind. Nervous. Making it worse.
“I came here with 500 dollars in my pocket and undergraduate degree. There were 50 seats and thousands who wanted it. But I got it. Then I got my Master’s.”
He is bringing his merits to the discussion to pass the interview. When I discuss my work he brings me back to him or his travels or oddly, my appearance.
What. The. Hell?
Apparently the way I look has become my resume.
He wants to hold hands. I feel like a drug dealer.
I’ll leave meanness to the world. I’ll just go ahead and love this face and in this moment hold his hand. It’s probably the wrong decision but what does one actually do when another is standing, slightly broken, with his hand out?
Sometimes I am a mom. Sometimes I know how broken I am too.
This process has left me hurt, weakened, but not shattered, not yet. There are some cracks, but they let the light through.
Look, life can be hard. I want someone to smile at me, walk through it with me, tell me when I’m okay and help me when I’m not. I want that. But it is not worth any price.
Some things may just be too expensive.
I don’t think the dating game brings out the best there is in humans. In the goal to find or create the “perfect mate” we dehumanize each other, reduce us down to the individual parts rather than a sum total-a full person, an entire book that adds up to the truly miraculous story we each carry.
Today I am in the hammock, a harder bound copy of me, but no pages are ripped out and the words matter more than the pictures. I have not broken. Bent some, a few dog ears (thanks to those who cared enough to fold back a page or two) and there are some wine stains and faded ink passages but that goes with it.
One day maybe this old book will make it to the backseat of a car with Jesus driving and he’ll know where we’re going. Maybe it’ll fluff itself and start a passage unknown.
Either way, there is love. There is a mother, a god or gods, a universe with its hand out and the very soul of compassion. The Universe loves itself and so do I as a part of all her majesty.
I hope the bright man with his spices finds the mom, the drug, the care taker, the woman who wants his resume but won’t leave him battered.
But once again I am more Bob Dylan than any of those things, “….it aint me babe. I aint the one you’re lookin’ for.”