Sunday, August 21, 2016

Second Voyage to Italy
 Cy Twombly, SF MoMa

The train is usually quiet and there aren't many passengers. If there are, they are older. Middle aged to the elderly. They are often asleep. Sometimes I rest my head against the window and sometimes I follow suit and doze off, but most of the time I don't. 
I grab a coffee. My favorite barista is an older Filipino woman. She is a little older than my own mom. Her smile is warm and in between her handing me my receipt and her handing me my coffee, we talk about life. She tells me about her children, her sick father in the hospital, what her plans are for her day off. In turn, she asks me if there are any 'special' men in my life, how my job is going, and her voice floods with warmth when she asks me

"And how are you? How are you doing, honey?"

It's Saturday and she's surprised to see me. She's cleaning the counter tops with a spray bottle and some folded paper towels that are crumpled up in her hand. 

"It's you!" She gasps. I give her a hug and tell her that I needed some coffee before heading back to the city. 

"You meeting a boy? You going on a date?"

She looks at me mischievously and the spray bottle is now resting on her hip. The hat that is a mandatory part of the uniform is slipping off her head. 

I laugh. 
I am not. 
But sure, I'm going on a date. 
A date with myself. 

She puts down the spray bottle and the crumpled dirty paper towels on the counter with the napkins, brown sugar packets, Sweet 'n' Low and scattered straw wrappers. She takes my hands and folds her hands around mine. 

Her skin feels thin and papery but strangely, they feel familiar. 

"You're blooming. 
You are blooming." 

When she says it the first time, her words are light and fluttery. They sound like butter. The second time she says it, it comes out stern. A declaration. A fact. There is no room to argue her on this. I am blooming. I don't ask her what she means. I don't ask

How am I Blooming?
Do you see it?
In what way?

Instead, I thank her. I thank her twice. Maybe even three times. But what I don't tell her is how much I needed to hear that and how her words seep deep into my being. I don't ask her how she knew I needed to hear this and how hearing it from someone who is an outside figure from my tiny circle made it feel true.

I chalk it up to the universe. I keep waiting for the universe to surprise me and sometimes she does. Sometimes she knows.

She waits, Seething, Blooming.

I'm listening to Adagio in G Minor on the train. This classical piece makes me cry every time I listen to it. One time, on the way home from dinner, I made my mom listen to it in the car. I turned the volume the highest she could tolerate it and I said,

"We can't talk. Just listen." 

She tried talking during the song

"Oh oh. I've heard this song before! I think it's famo-"

I cut her off by turning the volume a bit louder. I needed someone else to feel what I do when I listen to this piece. I wanted someone to cry with me. I didn't want to feel so alone.

I read a short essay while the train zooms by Mountain View. Adagio still blaring in my earphones. The somber tones do not match the bright sun that is glowing over every damn thing. I read a story about a woman who's sister in law is dying from cancer and in turn, she becomes a mother figure to her niece and nephew. But she never wanted children because she refused to give up her identity to become a mother. It makes me think of my favorite quote from Kate Chopin in The Awakening. As a teenager, I used to scribble it all over the insides of my binders and my notebooks. 
I would give up the unessential; I would give up my money, I would give up my life for my children; but I wouldn't give myself. I can't make it more clear; it's only something I am beginning to comprehend, which is revealing itself to me.
I laugh to myself because it makes me think of the woman who was interviewing me for a program to leave high school early. She was a short Chinese woman with stern black spectacles that sat too far down on the slope of her nose. She wore a bright fuchsia scarf and clunky brown shoes. She asked me what my favorite book was. I thought about it for a minute and told her I loved The Awakening by Kate Chopin. She crossed her arms and looked at me, surprised.

She says,

"I love that book too."

She asks,

"What did you like about it?"

"What did you think of Edna drowning herself in the sea?"

"What are your thoughts on Mademoiselle Reisz?"

But she didn't really care about what I thought of the book. She just wanted to know if I had actually read it. I told her about the quote that really stood out to me from the whole novel. I told her I understood what Kate Chopin was trying to say. I didn't really. Not then. But the vague understanding I had made me fall in love anyway.


Pachelbel's Canon comes on and it's a stark difference from the Adagio that had my eyes watering moments before. A man caught my eye across the aisle and he looked embarrassed to have caught me wiping away my tears. His mouth opened and then closed. He turned away and looked back at me. I knew he wanted to ask if I was okay.

I look out the window as views of San Carlos sweep by. The daydreams continue as the song continues. The only one I remember is daydreaming of washing my children's clothes with organic Lavender scented laundry detergent while Vivaldi's Four Season's Summer Presto radiates throughout the entire house.


I read another essay of a woman who writes about how she loves her husband more than she loves her children. She has four of them. She writes how if her children were to pass away, god forbid, she would be devastated. Of course. But she would be able to see a future that goes on beyond them. But were her husband to pass, she would be beyond devastated. It would ruin her. She concludes the end of her essay to say she hopes her children find this in their partners. She hopes they find a love so deep that they look at their partners the way she looks at her husband. Their father.

I think of the time my family and I are at Costco. No one is pushing a shopping cart. My parents are walking arm in arm which is a rare sight. Ethan is hanging back with them while I am basking in the affection that my parents are showing each other. I stop skipping around and get close to my parents just in time to hear my mom tell my father,

"You have to love your spouse more than you love your children. That's how it has to be."

As an adult, I have not forgotten this and I think about it quite often. I don't ever ask my mom about it. I don't ask her if she remembers every saying it or if she believes this to still be true for a lasting and loving marriage. Last year, I asked a friend what he thought about this and he laughed at me. He shook his head and scoffed. His brow furrowed.

"No fucking way. I don't have kids but I have friends that do and there is no way...."

He pauses.

"There's no way they love their spouse more than they love their kids. No way. I don't think that's physically or emotionally possible."

I wonder if I will love my spouse more than I love my children. I have neither so I can only guess. I imagine a life where I have my own baby, created with someone that I love purely and honestly as I possibly can. I imagine a baby who is so beautiful because they are half me and half of the one I love, I imagine peering into their eyes as they lay on my lap wondering just how something so magical and otherworldly is allowed to exist in this one. I imagine the baby who sleeps close on my chest, who's heartbeat I can feel with a touch of my fingertips. I imagine the baby who's very breath has the power to calm my soul. I imagine the day that I give birth to this being. I imagine the hours and hours of agony and the womb that stretches and bleeds so this little one can gasp for air and begin to exist in this world. I imagine the first time I feel their skin on mine and I imagine what my first words would be to them. I imagine becoming very afraid of Time because I know I will never, ever have enough time on this Earth to spend with this baby of mine. So, I imagine learning to give Time the respect it deserves. I imagine slowing down and reveling in the quiet and slower moments. I imagine squeezing their warmth against mine and truly realizing life will never be the same; there will never be anything that could ever surpass this. I imagine taking baths with my baby and listening to their tiny hands splash the water and hugging them close to my body and whispering to them how their existence has filled me with so much love.  I imagine knowing this is unconditional love. This is a love without conditions, rules or principals. This is love in the purest and most raw.

Could I love someone more than all of this? Am I brave enough to love someone unconditionally who I didn't give life to? Do I have the capacity and am I capable?

There is a man at the museum. He is of medium height and his dark hair is graying on the sides. He wears a white dress shirt and tortoise eyeglasses. He is striking from a distance. We make eye contact and he smiles. I smile back to be polite.

I am looking at Cy Twombly's Untitled painting and he comes up beside me. I don't notice him at first because I am not paying attention. There is nothing noticeable about him once he is up close. There is no appealing scent. There is no movement that catches my eye. He is nothing but air beside me.

I turn to walk away and as I do, his hand brushes against mine.

I notice but I do not feel anything.

I continue to walk and I feel a smug feeling of satisfaction in this.

I do not feel anything.