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    Run For Your Life, Black Hockey Jesus!
    « The Trick Is, Of Couse, How To Vomit On The Sidewalk And Still Love It All | Main | Neil »

    Poor Beauty

    I just ended a quick 3 month relationship with a woman I met in my apartment’s gym. There was a lot of sneaky eyeballing, by both of us, so when she stopped her treadmill just seconds after I stopped mine, I knew I could take the risk. “I just moved in a couple days ago.” I said, “You wanna see my new place?” “Yeah,” she nodded, “Okay.” We fought and struggled into becoming one thing. We didn’t even shower but it was still really awesome. You should’ve been there.

    Also, she was married.

    But I don’t want to talk about all that. More later. What’s most interesting me right now is her reaction to getting a little 6 line poem I wrote about her neck and collarbone and shadows and light. She just collapsed in my arms, crying, and I told her—hey—it was only a first draft; I could give it another go. “No one’s ever written me a poem.” she cried. “No one’s ever written me anything. I don’t even think my husband’s ever seen my collarbone.”

    Are you seen and heard? Who’s your witness?

    I know enough about stories to know that this particular one either ends with me getting shot, dying in a puddle of my own lovely blood, or with me slipping out the backdoor, so I chose the latter. When I emailed a friend about it she replied “Poor her. Poor you. Poor fucking little bit of beauty. It’s hard to live for beauty.”

    And it is. It’s hard to live for beauty. But somebody’s gotta do it. Someone needs to see all those hungry collarbones.

    Reader Comments (76)

    I want to read all the details of J and N but want to get this in before the comments close. I was the other woman, and he walked through fire to be with me, and there was pain and passion and exile and even a death. It was terrible but it had to be done. There was just no way it could not be done - or undone. It was the Gigantic Big Big Love. We're still together 13 years later, but it's been harder than I thought it would be, and in some ways are still paying for our crime. But there's just no way to walk away from a love like that.

    April 15, 2011 at 6:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterLisa

    This is all very Bridges of Madison County. Do you leave? Do you stay? How do you chose? I love my husband very much and sometimes I remind him that I need him to see my collarbone. But I try to always remember to see his too. My heart goes out to all, there's no easy answer.

    April 15, 2011 at 6:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterEmsxiety


    April 15, 2011 at 6:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterBHJ

    Holy. I'm not there or even close to it, but reading your post and all the comments, I kinda wish I was. Happily married, great sexual chemistry and all. How messed up is that?

    Good writers are hot. That's all there is to it.

    April 15, 2011 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheresa

    Lisa, I'm not sure if your comment made me feel better or worse....I've tried running, I've tried walking, I am now onto seeing if a skipping rope will do the trick. I keep waiting for a way to unring the bell, but it simply can't be done.

    J, no, we are not monsters, nor unintelligent women. And we are neither victims, nor villains. I refuse to play that game. We're simply people who have tripped and fell into this space that was previously unseen and uninvented. I too, am not terribly unhappy....but in retrospect prior to being lit from within...I was only living with half a soul, I just didn't know it. My expansion has been painful...yet I would not trade it for the world. Does my lack of courage to make this leap make me a bad person? I'd like to think it doesn't...but it's hard to be objective on this issue.

    BHJ, sorry for highjacking your comments. This is the most honest conversation I have seen in a long time.

    April 15, 2011 at 8:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterN

    I hate to see the conversation end, I agree it's the most honest I've been in a long time. I wouldn't trade the experience either, I'm forever changed and better for having it and I agree although I wasn't unhappy I wasn't fully alive before either. Now it's a matter of finding other things to feed my soul. I never want to fall asleep in my own life again. Can I find it without him? Can a passion for what I do replace a passion like ours was? Remains to be seen...

    It's too bad BHJ is shutting us down, I was going to share pieces of the so steamy poetry I once inspired. If the little bit of my story that you have heard has touched you in anyway then reading the words he wrote would break your heart. You would understand why it hurts so much...I've actually been advised by a therapist and a friend that I should destroy the poems and I absolutely can not. It's far too beautiful to be bad for me.

    BHJ~thank you for letting us be heard, I'm sure this was not what you expected. I do have one more question for you though. Do you wish you had given it more time, given it a chance to become more, taken the risk I didn't take either? Do you have a matching hole in your heart? J

    April 15, 2011 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterJ

    BHJ - amazing, painful and beautiful. As ALWAYS.

    J, N, Jo - oh my god yes. I happen to be right in the middle of this right now and I can't even... Just, yes. Fuck.

    April 15, 2011 at 9:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterEm

    i chose well & really never had to worry about this. i was cheated on once after having my heart broken by the same boy for other reasons. he ripped it from my chest twice & it hurt like a motherfucker. i've never been able to do the same to another. nor would i want to. it's my limit. i'd never cross the line. never. one can have many loves, but i won't have them at the same time. it's just too much for me. i don't know why to say past that.

    April 15, 2011 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered Commentermommymae

    mommymae-I hope that's true for you but I think it's very naive. I would have said the same two years ago. My dad was a serial cheater and I had been cheated on in several relationships before my marriage and it sucks and I believed it was unforgivable. I was completely shocked by my own behavior and now nothing people do really surprises me anymore. Be careful...that which we fear the most we often become...J

    April 16, 2011 at 4:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterJ

    j - i wouldn't call me naive. i've been presented with the opportunity before & didn't act on it. a love that was never realized or realized too late and even lost me one of my best friends wasn't worth the pain I'd have caused in my family. and myself. I know that the pain & guilt would completely outweigh the beauty in love.

    April 16, 2011 at 7:12 AM | Unregistered Commentermommymae

    I commented yesterday...and it's not here...figures...a perfect example of what feels like complete non-existence. There's no one to see my beauty because there's no beauty to see.

    I'm glad you were there to witness that woman's beauty...everyone deserves to be seen...

    Shade and Sweetwater,

    April 16, 2011 at 8:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterKyddryn

    The problem with all the absolutism is that everyone is weighted differently. What's ok and what's not ok, what's worth a risk and what isn't - there is no one standard for all, I don't think.

    I think judging someone for staying with their family and sacrificing their personal emotional potential is as useful as 'a mom' telling BHJ he should have worked out his relationship problems for the sake of his children. Easy 'shoulds' that don't necessarily fit the life of the stranger you're admonishing on the internet.

    Sure, there's fear, but there's also convictions and responsibilities. Yes, I know it's bad for my kids not to see their mother being adored and loved and attended to. And yes, I feel bad about it. But I also know that they care more about their own stability and being with their parents than they give a crap about me being fulfilled and getting to have good orgasms. I'm pretty sure of that. The people I know whose mothers chased their own happiness from country to country do not thank them for it. I don't think it's the same for everyone and the day my fear of my non-relationship damaging them is greater than my fear of a family split damaging them is the day I'll make the move. Sometimes leaving is shitty and right. Sometimes staying is shitty and right. Sometimes there is no right and it's all shades of grey. And I don't think it's up to anyone but the people in the situation to decide.

    April 16, 2011 at 8:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterJo

    i physically ache for you both while reading this beautiful post... this painfully beautiful post.

    fuck. this just sucks. in so many ways.

    please don't even stop writing.

    April 16, 2011 at 12:33 PM | Unregistered Commenternic

    "while the clouds swirled among the darkness
    And the rain drummed upon my body
    My only thoughts were of you and the words you spoke
    How alive I felt in that short time I had with you
    How I hadn't noticed the weather in that time
    How nothing in the world mattered but us
    How the conversation faded into caresses
    And the continued search for answers ended in kisses
    How our only enemy was the passing of minutes
    How the warmth of your skin ignited my heart
    How the smell of your hair lingered in myind
    And that shared moment haunted my drive home
    So I stood in the pulsating rain
    Oblivious to the outside world; lost in thought
    I missed you once I saw you again
    I miss you more the moment you're gone"

    "lay there
    Next to me
    Breathing the fresh air of ecstasy
    With hearts beating fast
    Time rushes past
    The sting of sweat in our eyes
    Imagine the moments
    both future and shared
    That created this connection between us
    Remember it's never
    Easy to hold on
    And even more difficult to let go
    So lay there beside me
    And that is reason enough
    To never want to leave
    Press up against me
    And remind me of promises
    That were made long ago
    Forget about the world
    And all of it's problems
    Because right now we are here alone"

    "I rolled down the window to soak in the breeze
    My senses overwhelmed by the blast of fresh air
    Reminding me of you as you laid there with me
    And the soft sweet smell of my sweat and your hair
    As the towns passed by and the roads stretched ahead
    I couldn't help but think of the times we could share
    In a moon lit room with a warm safe bed
    Our bodies and souls left naked and bare..."

    Just a sample...J

    April 16, 2011 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterJ

    I think it's telling - and well, I suppose it's appropriate for the space that BHJ occupies currently-that the only person the author agrees with in the comment stream is the one who left. But perhaps worth mentioning is that the percentage of relationships (Great Big Loves) that begin this way that are strong and healthy years and years later is very, very small. Certainly it happens, but it should be said that sometimes what we think is "I'm so in love" 3 months in is just a blip on the radar, a passionate distraction of an affair that a married couple never talks about during their 50 years together because they got through it and moved on.

    It's just..sometimes life is less romantic than what we see in the poetry that we save in the memory box.

    April 16, 2011 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterlogicalbuzzikill

    Well of course I'm cheering for the people who follow their hearts and don't remain in miserable situations out of a sense of obligation and duty. Some of the commenters here (you included; just changed your name) say their marriages are great, etc. I can't argue with that. To say I disagree with you is too strong. I don't have ideas about what you should do. I do think, though, that I made a good point about it being unfair to untold husbands. Maybe I'm wrong. I'm not that invested in being right or wrong, in agreeing or disagreeing. I just like stories where people go all in for love and for that I don't apologize.

    As for your percentages, cite sources. Wait. Don't cite sources. Who cares about percentages and logic? Love is blind and irrational and it doesn't care about percentages and logic. Why would you not risk mad love just because you'll probably lose? We're all going to lose. We may as well lose having been crazy for poems and love. That's how I'm going to lose: crazy, alive, and in love.

    April 16, 2011 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterBHJ

    In another lifetime, I was the woman with the collarbone. As I read your beautiful post and the comments, I was taken back there, to that other life.

    I think about the concept of maya/illusion and samsara. The mind is insatiable.

    April 16, 2011 at 10:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterE

    Why wouldn't I risk it? Because it would kill my children, and I've been that child.

    April 17, 2011 at 7:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterUnknown, buzzkill, um

    Fair enough. Some people are stay in it for the kids people.

    April 17, 2011 at 7:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterBHJ

    It's been seven years since he and I last met, and my collarbone hungers to be seen again.

    April 17, 2011 at 8:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterR

    but you snuck out the backdoor just as my lover did...she wept with joy at having been seen and now she may be weeping with sorrow at having been seen then left. What is she left to think? That you loved her and you really saw her and you decided she wasn't worth the pain?

    I think all the time how unfair this is to my husband...who by the way knows enough about the whole thing to know he needed to wake up in this marriage as well. He tries to see me, and now there's part of me I won't let him see. This is where the big beautiful love affair gets ugly I suppose~J

    April 17, 2011 at 8:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterJ

    Sometimes women get married women all lit up, too. :)

    This is a sad and beautiful post, with some sad and beautiful comments. 21 months ago, I fell in love with a woman who I had just helped through a difficult miscarriage. We had this connection, that was, well, insane. I resisted the most intense feelings I'd ever experienced for three weeks of emotional tumult. I had a partner of 8 years and a toddler, she had a husband and a three year old, we were happy and content and, and...

    On the 21st day, I found myself in the woods with her, in the rain, under a tree, at sunset, angstily agreeing to get the fuck out of each others' lives. Four seconds later, we kissed. Nothing was the same again. Upending 34 years of caution and care and being a chickenshit, I just did it. I left my partner, she left her husband. Like Lisa above, I in no way could have predicted the depth of the pain of the past 21 months - we have lost family, friends, and many times, almost each other. Love in the wreckage of shattered families and all that - not something I would wish on anyone. But I would do it again, and again, and again. I had to. My kid may hate me some day, but at least I have this to give her - I know what it is to be alive. I didn't, and I didn't know I didn't (other than that nagging feeling I used to get while reading Jeanette Winterson), but now I do. Thank fucking god, now I do.

    April 17, 2011 at 6:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterKathleen

    OMG - how beautiful and sad this is. It breaks my heart. When I was young I had several guys see my hungry collarbone, but I ended up with a total shit that never saw it, never wrote me a poem, never told me I was beautiful, never wanted to feel our baby kick when I was pregnant. Now that I finally got the courage to leave him I fear I'm too old for anyone to appreciate my hungry collarbone. It is still starved. I mourn the loss of my youth and for wasting so many precious years.

    April 18, 2011 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterB

    I think this is such a difficult discussion for many people. We know when we marry we are still going to meet interesting, intriguing people we will be attracted to but we are tied to the whole commitment of respect for our marital decision. I completely get what many writers are expressing about making decisions to be involved outside of their marriages, I refuse to be judgemental about that.
    But it's complicated isn't it? My husband fell in love (and in a real way) every year from the time my kids were 5 and 6 until they were 12 and 13 and I said well this is as far as I can go. The day he left the house for the last time my daughter cried and screamed "but you promised to stay to gether through sickness and health!" Honestly, it broke my heart but I grinned when she said it - clearly we didn't know what that "promise" meant.
    The hard part for many of us, who do respect that shift in love while still trying to preserve our own love, is that we pay a price with the pain of our families and communities. I just got my 15 year old daughter out of the hospital from a percoset od and the very first thing she said to me was "so is daddy coming back now?"
    So yeah, I get it, I think it's how the world works but I can't hide from the fact that there are unintended consequences sometimes. While your post was beautifically lyrical I can't escape the part that can go wrong with great loves. I'm really glad this doesn't happen to everyone.

    April 18, 2011 at 9:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterLucy's mom

    steal a clipper ship. bounce on a trade wind.
    set a fire -

    that the blind may see.

    April 19, 2011 at 5:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterc.

    People would destroy you for such a thing. For loving. And fuck them, all of them.

    Love is the higher purpose, the higher power. In all things, the ultimate truth, the ultimate reality. I know this. I lived this. And no one can dissuade me from the truth I know.

    The things those people don't know could fill OED-sized volumes. Love is worth everything, anything.

    Also, I love you. You know this. There's truth of a different kind there.

    Keep kicking ass, keep loving. I know you will.

    April 19, 2011 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered Commentersweetney

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