By Justin Thompson

It happened not this past weekend, but the one before. While we were lying in her bed, I told her, “Ya know.. I nearly researched something like ‘how to be more sexually attractive for your mate, on account of us not having sex in two weeks…” really not having her touch me at all in that time. She reassured me that she’s attracted to me, but her mind had not been on the sexual part of our relationship, but on the other parts. And then she fumbled over words, so I helped her.

I said, “These past few weeks, while feeling a kind of distance between us, I’ve been trying to figure out when one should fight to keep a relationship going, and when to concede. And I think it’s simple: ask yourself “Is this relationship what I want for the rest of my life? Is this it?” And if you’re not sure, then things can be worked on. But if you’re certain that it’s not, then very simply it isn’t it. And that’s all there is to be done.”

And then she said she thought she’d reached that point. And I believed her; I still do.

Tears joined us then. She said, “I don’t want to feel this way. I want to be with you.” And I said, “I know,” holding each other, trying to keep each other from falling to pieces. “I know.”

There began the weekend of gloom. I spent the rest of it at my friend’s parents’ place in Sonoma, where I was alone and lost and despairing; desiring nothing except the shadows of the memories I played over and over again; grasping at projections of our future selves reuniting further down our timelines; digging out a cave in the depths of a mountain of grief – it was dark.

I came across a box of matches though, and could bear a stick’s flame only for the time of its short life – for that light reminded me there was an external world with external responsibilities where I’d need to return shortly, whether or not my internal world was ready to come out of the shadows. Though within these transient moments of illumination, I managed to read a few pages of Alan Watts’ The Spirit of Zen, and within these pages I felt some of those shadows fading as slivers of light started reappearing within me.

It was not my first time reading about Zen, and I had read many works by Alan Watts, but not ever in those times had I been in such a state, feeling void of the flow of life. I was grasping for that flow which I felt so wholly when loving Elisa, and in doing so, that water of love and of life was more swiftly slipping through my fingers; I forgot, and was reminded, that grasping at life is futile because, very simply, I am also life and life cannot grasp itself. “Little steps,” I thought. “One little step at a time.”

We talked on the phone that Monday night, both sharing our unshakable sorrows from the weekend. We wanted to meet and talk – it seemed silly to be wanting only one another’s company and keeping ourselves from it. We decided it would be Thursday night.

There was a point I could anchor myself to – that Thursday night – knowing I’d be with her, seeing her and hearing her and feeling her embrace and eyes and love right there before me, with me and in me. It gave me so much comfort and freedom in allowing myself to take those days in between step by little step. I was wasting no time; I was starting to explore the waters of life and not just float along; I was rising with every moment, falling with it and rising again. Everything was becoming more and more actualized – not conceptualized with ideas of how to use things and people and ideas as means to some calculated end, but realizing the clarity of life when all of it simply is of itself and nothing more. I was walking on; and it felt beautiful – and Thursday night was its climax.

I showed up to her house at six o’clock. We sat on her bed and talked about our last few days, the ins and outs of our external lives, and then our inner thoughts and feelings. It felt like we were allowing each other to simply say and feel exactly what we wanted to say and feel without judgment, without guilt and without hesitation. We walked to a nearby restaurant/bar for a drink and food. That walking, that sitting, and more of that walking – in all of it, I was feeling so in rhythm with her, with everything really, but with Elisa I could feel that indescribable beauty… that flow of life and love.

We were flowing together by not grasping at what we wanted to feel, but simply by letting all things be and stepping forward – step by step, thought by thought, feeling by feeling – in stride with each other and with life. In turn, we were communicating together without reservation, and together we were playing with the idea of a possible future when versions of ourselves meet in a version of the world and all three of those entities come together and realize ‘this is it.’

But this wasn’t it. That version of her, that version of me, and that version of the world together were simply a point we believed could possibly exist at some possible bend in the river of life. When the laughter ended from our playing within these versions of ourselves, the silence that followed reminded us that the real versions of ourselves – the versions that are here and now – simply don’t belong together. And we had no fucking clue why not.

We had to stop our walk home at one point because she began to cry, and she said eventually, “Why can’t it be it with us? I feel like it’s my fault.”

I placed my hands on her cheeks, raised her crying eyes to my crying eyes, and said, “Not for one second, not even in the weekend of gloom, have I blamed you.” She sobbed into me. And I kissed the top of her head. “Not for one moment. Not once.”

And that’s truth; that’s beauty; that’s love. There can be no fault for life moving as life does – to think we change its course is to say we are apart from it and not actually a part of its whole. We often seek to complicate this simple truth, and in doing so we find despair and create false faults and false insecurities. This simple truth, however, does not offer much solace when we want nothing other than the opposite of what actually is – for these versions of ourselves and of this world to be those versions that could be, but probably never will be.

We agreed we wanted to see each other again… or at least it wouldn’t be the last time we see each other. We agreed to take the next few days to reflect, talk Sunday evening and decide when that would be.

The next few days were up and down and up and down – clarity, sadness, elation, confusion. By the time Sunday evening came around, I was eager to talk to her and figure out when we would get to see each other next. I thought, “All these things I’ve been feeling – within such a clarity of living with life, of walking on simply to walk – must be because she’s feeling them too.” I couldn’t grasp how she could not be. There wasn’t a thing to grasp. “It’s so simple, as it should be.” She called, and then she said she thought we shouldn’t communicate or see each other for a few weeks.


The anchor of another planned meeting I was about to throw into the future’s waters now simply clung to me, and there I sank.

“I just think we need to relearn that we can exist independently of each other,” she said and I gasped for air. She said seeing me and knowing she can depend on me to comfort her is making her feel confused because then when I’m not there, all she wants is for me to be there, rubbing her back, feeling our love again. So if we force ourselves not to rely on each other, we’ll remember we can be okay without each other.

“That makes sense,” I managed to say. “Yeah… makes sense.” But I didn’t want to exist independently; I wanted to exist with her. And I thought she might actually be wanting the same. But there she was, saying the opposite, “Just a few weeks. And if we feel like saying hello in a text, or something…” She’s sensing how much this is crushing me, “… then of course we can do that.”

“Okay,” came out of my throat… or some kind of sound resembling that sentiment. Three weeks? The room started spinning a bit. I couldn’t find any words that would stop it. “Yeah.”

There was a lot of silence in that phone call. I didn’t want to say anything that would bring us to the end of the conversation. Because then, for the first time in 10 months, I’d have to force myself not to contact her. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” I thought. “I can’t do it. There’s no way.”

“Okay,” she broke our silence. “I need to go to sleep.”
“Yeah,” is all I could find.
“We’re going to be okay,” she tried to solace.
“Yeah.. okay. I’ll talk to you soon…”

I spent the next few hours lying on various beds and couches and floors of my house, crying, blowing my nose, crying, getting up to blow my nose, taking a few steps, and then lying back down. Thinking, thinking, thinking, “Where is my Zen reading/training… I know how to do this. It’s simple; I’m just complicating it. But I FUCKING FELT IT! HOW COULD THERE BE ANYTHING ELSE TO FEEL!? There can’t be. But there is? Was she not feeling it? How is that possible? It’s not. Then she was feeling it? Maybe. And then:

“She doesn’t feel it;
She doesn’t feel it;
She doesn’t feel it;
She doesn’t feel it;
She doesn’t feel it;
She doesn’t feel it;
She doesn’t feel it;
She doesn’t feel it;
She doesn’t feel it;
She doesn’t feel it;
She doesn’t feel it;
She doesn’t feel it;
She doesn’t feel it;
She doesn’t…
She doesn’t…
She won’t…
She won’t… She won’t feel it she won’t feel it she won’t feel it she won’t feel it she won’t feel it she won’t feel it she won’t feel it.”

At some point I fell asleep. But before that, in that odd stage of being half-awake, half- asleep, I convinced myself that I was wrong. And that she indeed had to be feeling that “we are it.” And that she’s now confused, and can say she’s unsure whether or not she wants to be with me forever, instead of being able to say, without a doubt, that she doesn’t.

And I awoke with the same feeling. And so I thought about needing to hear from her that this was the case, or if it wasn’t and my feeling of perception was off. And so I texted her, asking if we could chat later that evening.

And so we did. And I told her everything I was feeling. And then I asked her if she was still certain. And she said she was. And I said, “Okay.” And then some kindness was shared, and then for a second time in 24 hours, we said goodbye for a few weeks.

Not as much devastation followed, but more of a numbness.

That was a few days ago. Much of these past few days has been hard – hard to do much of anything with much heart. My heart feels to be beating with less certainty, or clarity, or purpose, or desire to do anything more than beat on, slowly, not feeling excitement.”Let the currents do the work,” it seems to think. But when you’re wrapped around yourself in a ball, even the truest currents struggle keeping you afloat.

I haven’t taken many whole breaths since that phone call, but they’re coming back, slowly. I believe I’ll become flustered with their scarcity though – truly I already lightheartedly am; and some of those thoughts I thought and feelings I felt last week while I was so clearly walking on… they’ll return, slowly, most likely, and different definitely, because I’ll be different. But they will com;, and then I’ll start exploring, and maybe gain enough desire and strength to walk on with my heart again beating like it’s excited for its current beat to end and the next begin, beat by little beat.

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