“‘…did Rufus do that to you? Did he try to make you pay?’
Erick dropped his eyes, and his lips tightened. ‘Ah. He didn’t try. I paid.”
– Another Country by James Baldwin
I’ve thought of a million ways to attack this topic. This has sat in my draft box for at least five months. Possibly it’s an indication that this post shouldn’t be written. But every time I pull this draft up to delete it, something won’t let me. So arguably, the compulsion to post this because it needs to be said is just as strong.
In this book, Baldwin captured the exquisite unpleasantness of love. He explored how it’s not nearly as simplistic as boy meeting girl and discovering that they are perfect for one another. We can be weary of those we love. We can betray them. We can resent them. We can wound them. And in all of that, it’s never as simplistic as not loving them
Love does not only target the deserving. Not in the way we think. We are all deserving of love, when you consider the human right aspect of it all. However, when you approach it from a logical standpoint, life itself is the ultimate gimme, so every breath we take is pretty much an unearned gift. To speak of love? Well, it almost seems greedy.
So we go on this quest for something that we, in all honesty, have never quite mastered, yet desire deeply. And don’t be fooled, even the most cold-hearted bastard, at least at one point in their existence, has desired love. The unfortunate truth is that love bumps us around so much, we forget what we were looking for. We abandon the ideals of love and many of our own concepts, and stumble blindly looking for a thing that we understand even LESS of than when we started out. This leads to a world teeming with scores of fractured and wounded individuals.
And when you love them, you pay.
And when they love you, you make them pay.
And as the song goes, people are “payin’ for a debt [they] never owed.”
Because by the time you come to that thing on the verge of greatness, you’re too scarred to see it. Or maybe you’re too wounded to believe it. Or just maybe you’ve become so accustomed to sheltering yourself from hail, gale and the blistering sun, you forget that you once found the rain on your skin to be a delight. We warily squint behind our rose colored glasses, smile with clenched teeth and hug with closed fists all because we’ve fought for so long, we have no idea how to not fight. So we stay ready. We’ve battled so long that the only thing we managed to remember was not to lose. We’ve long since forgotten the goal.
Instead of opening ourselves to something that could be complete, we only crack the door. We give these shadowy slivers of ourselves and wonder why something solid doesn’t materialize. And we hold back emotion. And we hold back from loving. And we hold back from being vulnerable. And we hold back from our own humanity. And despite this lack of deposit into our emotional accounts, we wonder why we’ve borne no interest.
So I’ve made a conscious decision to slough my heart’s history. And I am scared as shit. But I’m also pretty fucking brave, and I think that’s a decent tool to have on my side.