Bittersweet Bravery and the Ballad of a Broken Heart

Your very soul stirs the shift of a season...
And in the winter of your absence...
I find a comfort in the summer of your memory.

Bittersweet

/ˌbɪtəˈswiːt/

Adorned with the quality of awakening a sensation of pleasure, tinged with traces of longing and heartache. The description given to that indescribable mix of emotion that preludes the dichotomous state of heart.

He stepped out of his car in a sizzling vibrancy. The very air was permeated by his presence, and it felt almost electric. A high voltage of anticipation coursed through my frame. His intensity was tangible, even in the dark. The sun had long since set behind the high hill in the distance, and thus was lent a mystery to the way the night draped itself over our awaited encounter.

As he closed the gap of the few feet that lay between us – which but a moment ago still felt like a thousand leagues to gather myself in a single functioning piece – my ribcage nearly bent with the rapid pounding of my heart.

Get it together man! It’s just a date… Adjust your petals, and stop blushing. You’re not a damn rose…

But a rose by any other name could be as red… And as he offered a hand in greeting, I organically leaned forward instead to draw him into an embrace. Well done Wallflower… way to start it off on a good whiff of your savvy!

I could not help myself though. I was immediately drawn to him, and somehow I did not mind any awkward first impression at all… But he gave a playful smirk, a deep chuckle and then was more than willing to return the gesture.

… a moth drawn to the flame…. and I hoped that, whatever the consequence, I was not about to burn…

He took a few steps into the alleyway leading to my front door as I closed the gate behind us. In that momentary solace where I had my back turned to slide the bolt back into place, I caught my breath and turned down the heat a bit to help me get through this not-so impromptu date. As a wallflower, my sensitivity to minute detail was functioning at an optimal level tonight, and boy… my feelers were just picking up all kind of wavelengths from this guy that I had not anticipated. He was on a completely different frequency than I was ready for, and his radioactive presence was unraveling the DNA of any cool composure I had hoped to maintain during the evening.

In the stairway light that illuminated the climb up to my first-floor apartment, I must have seemed all a fluster with a freshly formed flush and audible palpitations. Because clearly the episode earlier was not to be an isolated event! My feet felt like lead as I dragged them up step by step in the small perpetual ascent to what would truly be our first face-to-face encounter. The landing brought us to the kitchen, and as he stepped around the counter to stand on the side facing the living room, he turned and we locked gazes for the first time that evening.

He was casually clad in a windbreaker, a pair of blue jeans and a NYC baseball cap that shaded a playfully knitted brow and dark mischievous eyes; and with his slightly crooked smile that was a one-way ticket to my wildest fantasies, I knew I was in trouble. F*ck… this was going to be hard… He was all at once the man I would introduce to my father and the man I wanted my father never to find out about! A chivalrous bad-boy, with ambition and courtesy, who speeded across the spectrum of stereotypes and enigmas within the realm of dating types. It made me dizy and made any coherence to my free flow and façade evaporate in the heat of his wisecracks and warm eyes. I think I was so deep in the seductions of his sorcery that any resistance was futile from the get-go. And we had not even sparked up a flow of convo yet.

Now for a wallflower like myself, dating pretty much comprised of a careful and patient observational game. One develops a sharpened eye for bodily cues, the shape of social exchange and that overall intuitive feel of the other’s presence – rich sources of information that undergo any number of layers of processing. Paradoxically, your date is not an objectification of your interest, but yet they are an anomaly that is novel, different, and ready for exploration. So, metaphorical notebook in hand, one steadily soaks up the complexity of their character and prods their personality, testing how well it meshes with your own. And if by some divine providence or stroke of luck you come across a handsome, tall drink of water… you may want a refill of their company very soon. But being introspective, high-reactive, sensitive and perceptive, your multidimensional spirit becomes selective in matchmaking. You are open-minded to the nuances, yet at the same time you have a fine-tuned set of filters in place to simplify the great volley of observational input. Pretty empirical for a common game of courtship, right? Well, for a wallflower, the quest for love can be an over-stimulating odyssey, so having some way to map the matrix is pretty handy.

It was not about to work on this guy though… He was entirely non-reducible to a set of simple descriptive mental shortcuts. The great irony was that he was a pretty straightforward kind of shooter stitched together from an open-hearted and direct demeanour. And his judgment was undeviating and honest. Simplicity was certainly an architect to his pedigree. Yet, I had hardly met a man who filled me with a more complicated kind of reaction. And damn, I was so shy when he glanced my way… In his way…

I was possibly his opposite in nearly every aspect, but that merely bred a magnetic attraction that was steadily growing unchecked and much faster than my proud pondering self could keep pace with. I was certainly fast becoming a moth drawn to the flame of his wildfire suave; and I hoped that, whatever the consequence, I was not about to burn…

A defence was but the delay of an assault…

But I had taken a keen sense of foresight for such predicaments early on. I had a nice little DMC and sit-down with the Universe, and set the record straight as only a gay man could. She was not about to make my love life a divine comedy! That was simply not the constructive approach with me. She had to understand that the Karmic bus was going to require a renewal of her driver’s licence before she came speeding through my parade!

But I think my well-positioned pleas and plans got lost somewhere in that little spaced-out encounter with this guy. The tell-tale signs were rapidly becoming red flags waving frantically and it brought my soaring ideals in for an emergency landing. So I had to fall back on that beautiful prehistoric programming that imbued us with a deeply innate ability to navigate human courtship: instinct.

Little did I know that was like bringing fire near gasoline…

I had this little habit of downplaying emotional intensity with a little bit of humour (well… a lot, actually). I was a little queer (pun unintended), weird, imaginative… living it up in my inner world. I could throw a quip, even a little bit of playful banter. It just helped to steer the situation a bit and keep things lighthearted and amicable, while not displacing the topic.

The tables turned however, when the metre of his jokes seemed to match my own, and we realised that we had met an interesting predicament where we played set match on the sarcasm scale of our deflections, serves, and verbal volleys. It was like an immovable object meeting an unstoppable force, and the titanic clash left us with long silences which teased at our composed temperaments. The tension was tangible, and it oscillated between the small gap that separated us on the bamboo-framed two-seater that was digging into our backs through the cushions (he was too much of a gentleman to ever attempt to address that uncomfort).

God he was handsome… he drove me crazy, he drove me wild… and I wonder if he ever really knew that I had already succumbed to the siege of his smoulder.

Hours had passed in which we had carefully trodden this situation. Refined and reserved: that was my way of approach, but for all that was good and sacred… I wished so desperately for a misstep or a Freudian slip that would give away my patient game. And that got me thinking… why was I playing a game? Why was I so intensely focused on this process of self-monitoring?

A defence was but the delay of an assault, and I was clearly feeling heavily bombarded by this situation. I was myself, and yet, so unlike what I felt I wanted to be – around him. Some deep part of me yearned for him to see that the blossom was not the bud – that this wallflower was already blooming in the shadow of my own hesitations. He was living proof that chivalry was not dead, and yet he was an unapologetic bastard at heart (God I loved it!). A diamond in the rough for sure, but a priceless rarity amidst the mining ground of male eligibles. He was not about to overstep in any way, but the gleam in his eye spoke of a playful side that could take you for quite the spin on the playground. But did he even comprehend the precise allure of his personality? His charisma was a flame that licked at my defences and melted my cool exterior like so much ice. And perhaps, just perhaps, I was trying to futilely postpone his near effortless victory.

Your pattern will be broken…

Another awkward moment seeped it’s way into the exchanges. Nearly every story ended with a deep moment of contemplation, a placid pause or an amiable look that left us both grappling for words. My mind raced desperately to look for another hot topic to play with, but he looked at me again and snatched my mind in another direction with that cheeky smile in his eyes. “Hey, what’s up?”, he teased (not for the first time). God this self-restraint was unbearable! And all at once the elastic tension that had stretched past its cue for the night forced some action, and finally snapped. I gave a final quiet laugh, amused by my out-of-character bravado which was making me turn toward him, and then lean over…

And somewhere during the evening, navigating past the thorny silences and the ridiculous amount of terrifying attraction, a kiss was planted that would grow to encumber any other hindrance to the inevitable affinity of our desiring spirits. My hard-earned strategems were undone. My petals were pried open. In all the ways of a wallflower, no hidden wisdom prepared you…

It did not prepare you for that realisation… that:

Among an infinite set of impossibilities, you will meet a soul – a being who will unravel the cosmic stitching within the fabric of your life. Your pattern will be broken. It will quake you to the core and force you from the toppling walls of your inner fortress. It will force you right into the arms of the most familiar stranger…

…and oh the force behind that collision. For it sent us both toppling backward and blind into the unknown ether of our unconscious wishes. “The heart wants what it wants” they say.

We drowned despite the warning…

And when his kisses spoke of a requited desire to be closer, to feel more connected, and to break the barriers, I could not help but feel a surge of joy as our bodies talked with a similar cellular diction that made every nerve ending spark with excitement.

But a veil hung over the already rosy hue of the scene that had begun playing in all its intensity, and further obscured the logic that remained to keep those same hearts intact. It loomed at the back of our minds even as we allowed ourselves the sweet surrender to feelings we had long since forgotten. Beyond this moment of chaotic perfection – beyond this new impenetrable space created with one another – awaited an inevitable parting. It was this moment that was about the only thing we had foreseen before the dice were cast. Yet, we took the impulsive plunge into the depths of each other’s eyes. We drowned despite the warning…

He was not from here. This town was no longer his home. Long ago, he had sought out his adventure in the great wide somewhere. And we knew, that a goodbye was an imminent reality that neither of us could truly change. We knew we were lost amidst the oceanic vastness of this encounter, and if anything…we circumnavigated the Bermuda triangle of our denial in a desperate hope to be lost in that moment forever.

We were caught in the throes of a bittersweet impasse.

How exactly do you resist the call of passion, when it is crisp, clarion and clear. We sheathe our souls under layers of refinement, ego deceptions and self-doubt to ultimately restrain us from our natural affinities. So often, we miss the call of passion. We miss the chance to become ridiculously infatuated with all it’s beautiful and disastrous consequences. Consequence is, after all, a harsh, yet nurturing teacher; a teacher that imparts its lesson to a degree measurable to the act that preceded it.

We knew all to well the shape of the consequence that lay before us – me and him – yet the result was not one of immeasurable heartache. It was a parting made bitter by the very injustice of having to say farewell; but a parting tinged with the sweet knowledge that such a stir of emotion is, in fact, possible – even if rare. It imbues your outlook with hope. It is restorative to the cynic disbelief in an emotive magic. And it reawakens the romantic that you had long thought to be exiled from your forced maturity – a maturity validated among a generation that relentlessly strives to rationalise all affective repertoire.

We were caught in the throes of a bittersweet impasse that required of us to face the music; yet, the melody of this ballad was not about to end in the happy sentimentality of giving in to the truth. And the truth was evident in our electric proximity; in the many whispers exchanged within our bated breaths. I had once said, in another writing of mine, that the truth permits growth sooner than does misdirection. But to say we were in love… Now that was a truth that neither of us wanted to admit for fear of the hardship it would afford us. Whatever the lesson was, whatever the insight from this experience would be, neither of us wanted to deal with the hurt in reaching that epiphany.

But as love rewrites the self-imposed conduct and personal rules we set to ourselves, so does it rewrite the caution we would take in trying not to crack our own castles of glass.

This heart is a fractured melody... 
And in the soft chimes of the gleam
That played on the prismatic edges of every crack
Was the reshaped yearnings of a forlorn feeling.
And as I teased at the old stir of memories, I picked up broken shards that had once been
My impregnable castle of glass...
That has so easily succumbed to the siege
of your eyes.

“What did you do to me?”, he asked tenderly, echoing the thought that had crossed my mind so many times since that evening. The words had left his lips in a heavy sigh, reverberating with the deep tragedy of an attraction that would be tensed over miles in but the count of a few days. And as the weeks had passed, that moment had become a a crystalline memory that captured the tremors those words had sent into the small pocket of air that seperated us when we were together.

In the test of bravery those idle hours afforded – knowing that it would soon be time to say goodbye – I did not regret the dutiful response to my heart. The experience of love is not regrettable. The heartwrenching hurt of the farewell to the object of that love, is not regrettable. Our time invested in love, is not regrettable. What is regrettable, is the minutes wasted in giving stock to the suppression of love when our time to experience it is so finite to begin with.

Especially when the lesson from that love, is that you are not a bud to be plucked when you have not been permitted the time to bloom. And as a wallflower, you want to bloom unabashed amid the field of your lush vibrancy. You want to absorb the natural freedom emanating from your will, and then bask in the light of another who permits you the security and acceptance to express that energy. Love is a prototype to the tending we feel we deserve, lessened only by the perceptions of what we have been made to think we deserve.

And for a brief moment, he made me feel like I was the only one that ever mattered…

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.

Lao Tzu

So what lessons are left to us in this near irreparable state of heart? Perhaps this: beware not the battle to be bested. Bitter may be the bravery in overcoming a broken heart, but sweet is the ballad that sings of its memory. Love in all its consequence allows us a divine brush against the best versions of ourselves.

Therefore, resist not the pull of your heart, as the tide does not resist the pull of the moon. Your attraction is a natural alignment of your celestial energy. Be one with the flow of your experience, and surrender to the lessons of limerence.

Love and light fellow bloomers.

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