SUCH AN INTENSE FLAME

Part of the THIS IS THE MOMENT series

Cook, Francis Ferdinand Maurice; Lovers at a Window by Night; Sir Francis Cook Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/lovers-at-a-window-by-night-137975

Among the many staggering lines in Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berriesa book I’ve mentioned beforethere is one, spoken by her then boyfriend, and now husband. During a very intense period in their relationship, she writes that he said:

 I’d burn my life down for you.”

I gasped. I read that statement and a feeling of heat and…envy rippled through my body. A shock wave. I wondered what It would mean to me, to be the woman who is told something like that—to want to say that to a lover—to have a man I love say that to me.

I’ve never been in such a relationship. I married the boy I met when I was barely 17.

Ashton, C. H.; Pastoral Lovers; Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/pastoral-lovers-74208

Younger, those words would have thrilled me, but not for long, and the fire of them, the intense passion of them, would have scared me too and caused me to back away.

But reading that line now, and understanding its context which is fully revealed in Heart Berries…Hmm…I think of what passed me by. What I missed. I feel a pang of desire and envy. To feel so intensely about someone; to be desired so intensely by someone (in the context of the memoir, he is a quiet, introverted man), an outer skin would melt away.

I’m sure of it.

But after that, in the aftermath of that, there is the inner voice asking:

What does that mean?

 How far would you go?

 What would-could be the collateral damage of that?

 Such an intense flame would frighten me, but I would also be bursting with my body’s response: heart pumping wildly, my very centre filled with such desire that I would do as a moth does…

Westmacott, Richard; Paolo and Francesca; National Trust, Nostell Priory; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/paolo-and-francesca-254453

*    *   *

What a startling way to be reminded that I am still a passionate, sexual person! That my body still wants what it wants.

Well, I know that already, those drum beats have stirred in me since my separation (and before, causing me such sadness and loneliness) and my diagnosis…With my hair falling out and my body and its energy being reshaped by cancer and treatment, feeling envious of the lovers in some Netflix movie…At bedtime, when memories of my skin being touched and meeting other skin make me restless and prevent my falling asleep…

Bloomer, Paul; Birds, Lovers and Northern Lights; Shetland Museum and Archives (Shetland Amenity Trust); http://www.artuk.org/artworks/birds-lovers-and-northern-lights-166252

I feel happy that my altered and damaged body is still very much alive to my sexuality and to its unique energy. But I also feel that that chapter of my life is over, and that door should remain closed.

How on earth could I do this to another person? Offering my body to a man now is offering him illness and decay; it’s trading insouciance—carefree lust, intimacy and love—for pain and sadness. It’s: HERE I AM, CANCER AND ALL. Ugly, damaged dry hands that will be rough against Your skin (You, that man); a body whose sexual responses will be unpredictable from one moment to the next. A sense of body shame that I don’t think I will ever shake. The unknown of it all…

The price of attachment.

I will be so much more trouble than I’m worth.

How could I do that to You (that man) ?

But then I sigh as I think of what it would be like to feel Your skin, the texture of it, how age has affected it, and Your smell, and Your hands and how You use them to touch…

Wouldn’t it all be lovely?

(SIGH)

(SIGH)

It would, it would. I would steal those moments and die having remembered that I was that woman too. Once. Again.

Smith, Matthew Arnold Bracy; The Purple Lovers; City of London Corporation; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-purple-lovers-51655

This brings me backward in time, to regret—not sexual, that was never a problem—and to emotional memory.

I know that it isn’t that I want You (that man) to burn down your life for me. No, after long years of heartache, I want the intensity and intimacy of KINDNESS. The loving that is wide open, exposed, vulnerable, wholehearted and generates JOY.

I would relish Your body, You (that man) who revealed in your smile, in the way Your eyes found mine anywhere, anytime, and showed warmth and love.

I would climb all over a body that held within it goodness, tenderness, patience, sensuality and generosity. I would blossom from this contact with You. I would risk in order to overcome my shyness, my self-consciousness and the pain I carry under my skin.

But it would be an invitation to suffering, for You. And that wouldn’t be love. Your kind heart would deserve better.

But I can daydream about what it would be like to fall passionately in love with a good, kind You. I believe You are possible. And that will have to do.

; Burning Light; Gallery Oldham; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/burning-light-263002

 

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