Perhaps I shouldn’t be thinking about new love. Perhaps I shouldn’t have tried to find love in the first place. Perhaps I shouldn’t have listened to Ryan Adams and Emmylou Harris sing “Sweet Carolina” 17 times today and tried to sing it myself 27 times.
I looked in Jane’s diary today. Not a private one, just the dates one that she transcribed from year to year. April 30 has:
email #1 (2003)
The legend goes that I was sitting at home at Keswick St, 6 weeks out of my previous relationship thinking “must stay single… must stay single… i wonder whatever happened to… ” when I googled Jane and emailed her (I still have it, of course):
Subject: long shot
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 22:54:07 +1200
From: Dan Randow
To: : firstname.lastname@example.org
Found your email address while googling old friends.
If you happen to be the Jane Spears from Dunedin, tramping, correspondence and other adventures that I warmly recall, I’d be gladto hear from you.
Dan von Randow
You better have the next bit of this little story.
A day passed. Then half of another day passed. And then, sitting in what’s now our cup’o’tea room at Kenton Chambers, I received:
Subject: long shot hits target
Date: Fri, 02 May 2003 12:16:33 +1200
From: J Spears
To: D Randow
Would that be the same Dan von Randow who once wrote:
“I’m sure we’ll meet again and when we do, I’m going to slaughter you…” (4.3.80)
“And I also know that we will meet again many times and at one of those times I’m going to gouge out a piece of your character and stomp it intodirt.” (2.4.80)
“It doesn’t mean that much to me to mean that much to you – Neil Young (10.6.80)
“I’ll tell you everything I’ve learned. Show you. Sometime.” (26.11.80)
“P.P.S. I’ll never forget you Jane”
And you haven’t. But don’t worry – I don’t expect you to keep your other promises!
By my calculations, it’s 23+ years since we last met. I have been waiting for the karma to kick in, so I am delighted that it has.
We had both kept our old letters. I have quite a decent set now.
This morning, about three years later, I woke up in my bed. After a while, I opened my eyes and looked across a pillow to a gap and noticed it. I closed my eyes and imagined a naked woman. Not with my eyes, with my hands. The feel of her flesh under my fingers. Her arm, ribs, abdomen, hips, yielding softly to the track of my touch … Initially, her face belonged to someone imagined from either the future or the past (i can’t remember). Then she seemed too cool. Not springy. My eyes were open and she (her body anyway) was blue, grey. 60 or 70 kg. Well built (as in the report from the Pathologist who did the autopsy).
So, here now. Jane has been dead for nearly nine months. Insight into male psyche (mine, at least): my first thoughts that I was free to ‘play the field’ occurred the day that Jane died. I could put it down to denial. I carried on.
Being in the relationship with Jane was my dream come true. It was luxurious. We used to hold each other, gently, look into each other’s eyes and then gently draw each other into a new embrace. Exhaling to new eye contact, with a little levity, we would joke about our mutual indulgence. “Could we get any smugger?” was the joke. As if “smugger” was an illicit substance.
It was not all like that, tho. I will never forget the helplessness of the painful moments. Jane felt helpless, too. She couldn’t tell me what her concern was without getting a negative response from me. She was already turning herself through hoops to be gentle with me (or, to conform with my ‘criteria for communication’). Her style in conflict, after all, as she made plain to me up front was pugilistic. For all of that, tho, when the tension was high, my inner being seemed raw at all edges. I wanted to listen, to somehow let in how the world was for her. But any small edge on her way of letting me in on it jagged at me. I wanted her to see that I was for what she wanted and not just critical of her way of getting it across. I wanted her to love me, not to see me as bad. But i didn’t want to prostrate myself, to be assailed without saying that that was my experience. It is old, easy and perilous for me to do that. Like this, we wound each other into a frenzy of increasing agony.
We could get out, eventually with declarations of goodwill. Entering the full terror of the situation and finding a way through it had still to come for us. But it was early days. And we had journeyed to unknown places together from the start.
That I will some day enter a relationship with someone who is as willing to say yes to me, and to whom I am as willing to say yes.
When Jane died, she left rather a gap.
I grieve. You know cos u read it here. I know cos I feel it. The new bit for this account is how i have expresssed that grief in a search for another, and how that search has also been, gradually, the resumption of an old search for love. So the vacant positions are Jane’s and the vacant position made possible by Jane’s departure. It is not clear which I have been seeking to fill. It is clear that my search has been an expression of longing, of all my loverness with this phantom lover, a waxwork looking exactly like Jane but catatonic, to whom i keep relating but who does not respond. Will someone step into that waxwork, be Jane and respond to me?
Will someone enter that other vacancy? Maybe. But what is their guarantee I will not pressgang/project them into the first? Maybe, hearing the romantic tale, they’ll secretly quite like the idea. Maybe I’d even quite like that. Even in the supposedly really vacant slot, whoever steps in is going to have their ear filled with tears before delicate tongue traces, or at least right afterwards. What a mess.
Maybe, tho I over-estimate the grieving-for-Jane element in this heartache that i feel. Maybe it’s old yearning, perhaps for those universals, the unwitholding breast, the womb itself, being a single-celled organism (union with god).
Dear Walter said “hunger is not pathological” yesterday.
And I know that for all of this stuff, and whomever I become involved with, no matter at what level, this drama is enacted in all my relationships. Sometimes, much of the time, repetitively, but, when there are moments to be conscious of it with others, that is the deep magic of relationship happening: two willing participants in collaborative exploration of the unknown, both within and in relationship.
So, towards the unknown…
Statistics to be believed, my heart will keep beating until I am too expensive for any public health system. I’ll play “Heartbreaker” another 1,000 times. I’ll sing “Sweet Carolina” 100 times. Could my next partner please sing like Emmylou?
I recall that Jane liked Ryan Adams:
Oh my sweet Carolina
What compels me to go?
Oh my sweet disposition
May you one day carry me home.
And now I know that I like Sheryl Crow:
No one said it would be easy
No one said it’d be this hard
No one said it would be easy
No one thought we’d come this far
Oh, and look, we’ve come this far