In a tangle of sheets, she leans back on one hand, dark hair in disarray around her shoulders. Following an amazing night – fierce and selfless – the morning after is suddenly upon us…and a different kind of nakedness sets in. She watches me watching her – eyes slightly shuttered, chin tilting forward…navigating the distance between open, sensual surrender and something much more complicated. The body quenched, the mind now seeking answers. Where do we go from here?
Emotions erupt, then back-paddle into uncertainty. We’d been circling closer and closer for a while…a bandwidth that zig-zagged from the snows of the Himalayas to the fried foods and Rock ’n Roll music that swept along the boardwalk of the Jersey Shore. We could laugh, we could fight…and we could make up. Our unspoken agreement. There would be no formal commitments.
But last night, something had broken open. Suddenly living on the edge wasn’t sexy or glamorous anymore. It was safe, conventional…dishonest.
Lying in the dark, staring up at the ceiling, she had quietly laid down the gauntlet. She didn’t use the words love or trust, she spoke about intimacy – the raw commitment to it. “It’s hard work, dangerous…like throwing yourself into the sun. But, it makes everything else seem tame…meaningless.” She said this wistfully, almost like a prayer. I heard this with my entire being, striking a thousand nerves, still ringing like distant church bells hours later.
Intimacy, true and sustained, seemed a bridge too far…or too close…or too treacherous to cross. But there she was – beautiful and vivid – calling from the other side, questioning the distance between us. Could two become one – not just in the flesh…but as a state of grace for souls who give themselves completely to each other?
I got up, went to the window, now filling with morning light. More than any other realm in my journey, this one had no distractions, took no prisoners; a barren room, a narrow bed and us – staring into the wilderness.
With no other place to go, I looked back at my years as traveler and witness in the Story-world of Hotel Earth. Instantly awash with images – of friendship, and laughter and kindness. But one layer down lurked the collage of troubled souls battling the epidemic of loneliness. Standing in doorways, looking out of windows, sitting in the lobby…seemingly waiting for the spell to break…for something or someone to call them back to whole.
I looked at her again. She met me with a half smile…and nodded. We’re not built for compromises. Either we step across this threshold and go for broke…or we let go…and walk away.
But by now, our realm was beginning to unravel, the journey calling me elsewhere. As the room folded inwards, I watched her face meld with the stream of sunlight…her presence slowly fading into empty space.
But the damage had already been done. Whether I liked it or not, the fire was raging now, the heart – exposed and dangerous – tracking through distances, gazing across the river of Time, vowing to find her again.