After Marie Howe’s “After the Movie”
My friend David and I are standing outside arguing
about film romances and storylines. He says
he believes there’s such a thing as soul-mates.
I say, I don’t think so. He says, I think it’s normal
to expect the walls to fall down when your person stops loving you.
I hem and haw and twist my mouth up as I say, it’s complicated,
we’re complicated; it’s foolish to think
there’s only one person you could spend the rest of your life with without killing.
David says, I think we mean different things by the same word. Soul-mates.
Maybe it’s not just one. Maybe we stumble over our days,
trying to find them all so we can fit the jagged pieces of our insides to one another.
I tell David that sounds painful. What if you don’t meet them? I ask.
Or are you all destined to run into each other, bouncing off cities like pinballs
off the sides of their machines?
We’re leaning back to rest on the cool brick of the building, taking
turns inhaling tar from the same cigarette, and I find myself repeating
what I said to my last love: love is choice, I used to say to him.
Edgar Cayce says that soul-mates help us to become whole ourselves.
Liz Gilbert says, a soul-mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet,
but to live with one forever is too painful.
D.H. Laurence says, I prefer my heart to be broken, and when I tell David this he laughs
until he’s coughing, says, that’s crazy. I know, I say. That’s just exactly it.
I tell David, I prefer my heart not broken, and believing
that soul-mates exist is a kind of permanent brokenness
until they come along to seal the cracks. He says, that’s one perspective.
Between his fingers, our cigarette has burned all the way up
to the filter. He stubs what’s left out on the brick
carefully, dotting the wall with ash. We should probably
get tickets, David says. We should probably go in.
And what I hear David saying is, “Let’s stop. You are broken,
too cynical, a dry husk of biting words and bitter laughter.”
Then I think, what does it say of me, that this is what I hear?
And do I love David enough to let him think these things
even if he’s not thinking them? I pull my shoulders to my ears,
a shrug as I turn towards the door, and he follows.
I think about perspective, the sense of trying to remember
the world is going to keep turning whether we want it to or not.
The hall into the theater is cavernous, the vaulted ceiling covered
in mirrored panels that stare back at us. We stand and wait
as the ticket counter slowly tears each printed square he’s offered.
Maybe you’re right, I say. Maybe the people you talk about are real.
But I think it’s our own job to keep our own hearts whole.
I’ve been working on this for a while. It’s an imitation of one of my favorite poems, which you can find at this link. It’s also an idea I’m really interested in, hearing what people think about the idea of soul-mates, finding out what definitions resonate with people. So part of the reason this was written was to try to work out some of those different ideas for myself, and to talk myself through them. As it turns out, I’m nowhere near done with that wrestling.
But I still think love is a choice. The more I turn it over in my mind, the more I am convinced: I think there’s something that turns you towards a person, orientates you in their direction, so to speak. Something in the people we come to care about them that let’s us know it’s where we ought to go. But after that, I think, it’s a lot of choosing to love, to let them love you, to be vulnerable and trusting even when everything else tells you to clam back up. And that choice bit makes it all the more frightening, I think. Because if bad things happen, a lot of the hurt feels like your own fault.
This is just what’s sounding true for me, part of where this piece is coming from. I’m sure we’re still a few drafts away from done.