The key

Some people think substance is style. The chip on his shoulder is a gaping hole that spreads to his navel. It’s sexy. It matches mine.

We’re holding a tiny wooden box of keys between us. All shapes and ages, found scattered in this old house. I wonder if there’s one here to unlock his chest. I wonder, too, if I hadn’t pursued, if he would have let me walk by.

His smile is broken. It hurts my heart. John Mellencamp had it right: “It’s a sad feeling when you’re living on those in betweens.” I am. I’m not sure what he’s living on. But it’s not hope.

Our timing is not in this moment, but it may change in the next. That might be all I know. I trust the universe. I have to. Because I have to believe in something. I wish someone over the age of 10 would believe in me.

My tendency is more toward steamroller than delicate flower. (Lifelong struggle.) He doubts me, and maybe everyone. He doesn’t say, but I feel it.

Still, when this woman says, “You are the only exception,” she means it. Every molecule she is comprised of backs those words.

Some things cannot be given, no matter how hard you try or how badly you want to bestow them. Faith is one. Fidelity and compassion also come to mind. He has to earn his. I cannot help him.

I know that I don’t want to be alone. I’ve been alone too long in this marriage. I believe joy, hope and happiness expand exponentially when they are shared. This year, some pretty amazing things happened to me. Some that I will never experience again. I didn’t have anyone to celebrate with. It sucked.

The sparks on his tongue taste like warm milk. They pull me down, hard. I like the way he looks at me. I like the way I feel sitting beside him.

This is not a dash for the finish line. This is a slow sip of scotch by the fire. A grin. A thoughtful pause. An intimate parting of lips.

But will we follow-through?

• • •


Leave the door ajar

It’s important that he validate my work. That he see the beauty, the effort. Yet, these many months, he is silent. Contemplation?

He taught me what I know. He is, in fact, personally responsible for shaping the writer I’ve become. It was a loop of patient listening and penetrative questions. No surrender, nor rescue. I learned to keep what is essential and disregard the rest.

Now, I want him to see the value produced. A talent honed and sent into the world. Because that’s what he did. He set the bar for my personal best – a friendly competition. Sometimes, you lose to win. Sometimes, that’s the best success.

Innocence and faith have their place, he said. But creating beauty is often arduous. Intimacy can be rigorous. So pace yourself.

And I did.

You cannot escape the truth. Every fool has a secret that protects him: The magic of synchronicity. Proceed without calculation, hesitation, resistance. Trust your own mystery.

The way it turns out is up to you. But waiting is important. Offer humble support, or join the dance. Don’t fear the wild card. Have the courage to rekindle purpose and hope. Renew the commitment to your desires. When you’re ready. When you’re ready . . . When you’re ready.

It took intense effort. It demanded energy I did not have to spare, or so I thought. But it promised rewards so great, I couldn’t look away from the horizon. The price of success is continued exertion.

I know he thinks about his student. But what does he think?

And then it came, almost 10 years from the day we began.

“I was intimidated with how well you write, and how your mind works,” he said. “You seem quite brilliant. You write at a different level than the rest of us.”

My deepest truths revealed, because I earned his trust and loyalty. He met me halfway. The dramatic agendas – the tenderness and vulnerability – were dropped years ago. But once in a while, we need to be told how well we’ve served our craft. Once in a while, only the words of your master will do.

Once in a while, you should leave the door ajar for abundance and fulfillment.