I want a soul mate, I said to my soul.
She looked up from her knitting, her large jungle green eyes. Aren’t I enough?
Well, I said, kind of, but you know, I get cold at night. I get lonely. I hear there’s a big big love out there just waiting.
She came and sat beside me. Placed her warm hands on my trembling heart. You don’t know what you’re asking for, she said.
But I do, I protested. I had been following the hoof beats ahead of me on the trail, a faint yee haw off in the distance. Into the woods, onto the seashore, following a yearning I could not name until I saw a painting of the Hindu god Krishna besotted, bedazzled, pouring the heat of his devotion straight into the deep brown forevers of the goddess Radha. Eternal love. Transcending time and space. The always no one else but you I was crawling thirsty across deserts seeking.
Like that, I said. Tight. Close. Deeply truly madly in love. Forever ever after.
Oh kiddo, she said kindly. You poor thing. You are asking for what only a god can provide. But ok. Here’s bread for the journey and a twenty if you need to call a cab.
I set out dressed all in white, patchouli on my pulse points, flowers in my hair. No map but the faint footprints left in the sand by the barefoot seekers before me.
OK. The first few years were rough. My dress got dirty if you catch my drift, and the flowers fell by the wayside. My hands my feet my innocent young girl burned up in a pyre.
But then. But then. I met and married my prince and holy shit was it hard. We fought like alley cats. We hurtled words hot as lava. We threatened and wept. Gradually I learned to hold back my asp tongue before the fast strike, before regrets. We survived, cautiously drew in our claws, began to listen to each other instead of pulling the pin on the grenade.
But yesterday after 34 years of marriage, I woke up missing my old self. I was tired of being and having a soul mate, always rubbing the hard edges off each other, always ready to point out the hubris, the inconsistencies, the plain daily pain in the assness of dirty socks and dishes left in the sink. I felt snappish, critical. I had wanted passion, the emotional and spiritual intensity of a committed relationship, but had been dumb blind to what a committed relationship would ask of me, how it would transform the very fabric of my being.
My soul had by now knitted several dozen afghans and watched quietly from the corner.
Told you so, she said. Told you it would be hard. No lovey dovey all day all night. Just the dirty work of getting down to loving each other in all your shadow and light. The hard work of seeing the other as yourself.
Yeah, well, I need a time out.
I began planning a trip to the coast to see a friend. Refused dinner.
Then it was bedtime. My beloved fell like a brick into dreamworld while I chewed my cuticles.
Wake up, I finally said around midnight.
He bolted awake. What? What happened?
I’m upset. I want to run away. This soul mate shit is too hard.
Now you tell me, he laughed. After 34 years?
Don’t laugh, I sad jamming my finger into his rib.
Don’t hurt me, he said.
I will if I want to.
Ok, I was five years old, needing something I couldn’t name, some freedom, some time to spin with the planet turning from spring to summer, time to have coffee with strangers. Nothing but time to dance under the sweet soft jazz of the full moon. I wanted to kick off my shoes and wander the earth looking for Krishna in a dappled shade forest. I wanted to hear him say what took you so long?
I hated you today I said, and we laughed.
And then for the next two hours we hashed it out…how he felt when I said X. Why I said Y. How he feels pressured, how I feel invisible. The same fight we’ve been having for 34 years, only now it’s transistorized. We are both quicker to say I know. I do that. I’m sorry. Our outbursts of outrage are tempered with laughter that floats above the bed like fairy dust And then it’s all been said. We agree we have both been wrong and both been right.
And there it was. The conflict that has followed me, defined me in this lifetime, in the lifetimes before this one that I have glimpsed in dreams and altered states. I need to be alone. I need to be with my mate. One lifetime alone in a field of wild plants, a botanist on my own, free of commitments, no children, no chores. And then the loneliness and yearning that pulled me into the next life, mother of six, wife lover baker songmaker, the work of sustaining a family all consuming, yearning for a taste of alone. Alone, Together. But never alone together.
Alone together that does not swallow me until I need to break out, take a hammer to the adobe walls of our union so that I might pick through the rubble, gather the ash- covered pieces of my long abandoned self and bolt for the door.
I gentle my heart like a wild tossing mare in from the heat. I nudge my mate, whisper I’m home move closer together like fated young lovers.