A friend messaged me a few days ago. I had not seen her except on Facebook for nearly twenty years. She had found a trove of old letters and was surprised a bit, pleasantly, at how passionately we had corresponded, and disappointed that in the new era of 'social media' passionate friendships seem less likely to be expressed. Now we seem, she said, to exchange witticisms.
I responded that my love for her was undiminished, but that I hesitate to post intimacies in public. (Yet, here I am, doing just that.) She said that her friendships were as important and as sustaining as her relationship with her husband, although in a different way. I did not tell her that although I never expect to marry, and if I did it would be to a man, I was still a little disappointed that she had married someone else rather than pining away for me. That of course is a rather cruel attitude on my part.
Also I told her that I was about to write some posts about love and lovers, thinking at the time about an upcoming anniversary of the death of one of my most beloveds. But thinking around the topic has made me realize how complicated it is.
My love for my friend who messaged me was (is?) Platonic, but not in the sense that it was not sexual. Sexuality is much too complicated to make that assumption, and I certainly found her sexually beautiful. Rather it was Platonic in the sense that I saw in her some character I seemed to lack, but which I wished to possess. I suppose I thought when she married that she gave that quality to her husband.
I have another friend who describes himself as polyamorous. I chide him, gently, but honestly, that I think it's not polyamory that he supports, but polyconvoitism, lust for more than one person. Lust is so often, it seems, a more honest description of the emotion we call love than we want to admit, and not just when adolescent boys tell adolescent girls that they love them when they really just want to sex them.
It has been sad for me to observe that in many cases my friends who talk most about love in lofty terms have had the most disastrous sex/love partnerships. How to talk about this thing that is so central to our lives and which is usually assumed to be understood. Perhaps I can only do it anecdotally. So, here is some anecdotes about my 'falling in love' with the person thoughts of whom provoked this musing.
It was a late fall evening in the early 1990's, and I was at St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Santa Fe, preparing for a liturgical event to deal with the sense of loss and grief that the gay community felt from the failure of a gay rights bill to pass, a bill for which we had worked hard and which we had expected to pass. In the dusk I saw coming over a hill a person for whom I felt immediate and strong attraction. The figure, wearing a long black duster, could have been male or female, young or old, but something about the silhouette affected me deeply, in groin and heart and mind. The silhouette was that of a young man who was new to Santa Fe and had seen a flier for the event and had not quite known where St. Bede's was.
That meeting led to one of my most important, deep, and confusing relationships I had ever been in. It was not Platonic, in the sense that neither of us wanted to possess the other, and yet we shared more than I have ever shared with any other person. Despite that, as I was wandering off for a little tour, having earned a bit of money from an art show, and Tom wanted to go with me, I sent him away. What was I thinking? Any way I answer that question would be speculation. We remained friends and lovers for another seven years, until he died of AIDS in 1999.
The importance of our relationship was perhaps more evident to others than it was to me (perhaps to us). Both of us had other lovers. Once Tom and his new boyfriend came back to Santa Fe after he had made a trip back to his home state of North Carolina, and came by my apartment. They had just arrived in town, and had no place to stay. I said, 'stay with us', and Tom readily agreed. The other two parties, our 'current' lovers, objected vehemently. Later, after Tom's death, when I was visiting my mother, I found she had a photograph of him, which I had forgotten I had sent. She said how disappointed she was we had not stayed together longer, that from the photograph she had decided that he was an excellent person, and would have been very good for me, and why hadn't I brought him to meet her.
Ah yes. I had thought we would have more time.
(The photos are of two of the works of an unknown <3 tagger in Fayetteville, Arkansas, a place I love but left.)