Songs & Sentences

So why do you like her?

Obvious as it sounds this was a question that used to stump me quite a good bit whenever I was in a relationship. I remember the earliest answer I generated, when someone asked me this question about my first girlfriend. With nearly a decade since of hindsight, I realise now that the answer I gave then was informed by the kind of trashy love songs and questionable love stories that saturated (and still saturates) our airwaves, our social media, our very daily lives.

“because she completes my sentences.”

Yes, it’s incredibly cringe-worthy. But what could you expect from an emotional, impressionable,  hormone-drunk Arts student with his first girlfriend? Suddenly you have someone to project all the capitalist, consumerist visions of “love” to, all the socially expected “sweet nothings” that defy the norm! She completed my sentences. We completed each other’s thoughts,  that was true somewhat. But life doesn’t work like that. There are no happily ever afters, because when you’re complete you are also finished…anyway,  life, and people, are far complicated and complex than easily completed equations, or boxes to fill up, or flames to set alight. All language is poor approximation. We are fools if we start to believe literature literally.

It’s been many years, and many more burned bridges since those early, halcyon – and highly volatile – days of teenage love. I’ve since learnt a lot about myself, sometimes in the affirming, mutual glow of affection in another’s eyes; more often in the (deceptively) bleak wilderness of rejection and solitude.

Cycles of breaking, making, re-breaking and re-making. Each time, the problems are similar; but each time I have also gotten a closer look at the faultlines of my soul, and each time I have become milder, more careful, more thoughtful, more respectful. My volatile mercurial temper has since become slower, I think; I feel.

I acknowledge it is hard, nonetheless, to see these changes from a distance, from the high orbit of judgment. To some, I may still be the scoundrel of years ago. A planet appears smooth and unchanging from space, because nobody can see the underlying volcanic activity that moves and folds continents.

Anyway. What I really mean is – I’ve since had a lot of time to think about “love”, about the affection between two kindred spirits. And drawing a line between that very memorable first answer (which I remember telling a classmate long ago), and the answer in my heart these days, has made me realize how differently I now understand relationships.

So why do you like someone/her?

I think in all the briefness of our time together, there have been perhaps three collaborative sentences (a poem doesn’t count). And save for one very quiet evening where the general agreement was that it was nicer to admire the moon, because its light did not blind, we haven’t really talked so much about how alike we are. It’s not an ideal that has been aspired to.

It isnt because she completes my sentences, or I hers. If you think about it, looking for someone who thinks so similarly to you to that extent stinks of narcissism. Smells of uncertain, insecure teenagerism.

How many ways do I like thee? Let me use the metaphor of the sentence to complete this post.

I like her because she doesn’t complete my sentences. Instead, she gives me new words and new thoughts, so that my sentences blossom and radiate outwards. She gives me pause and spaces,  so that my sentences don’t erupt furiously without respite. She holds my sentences and my songs in a quiet, gentle embrace. She lets them rest in an easy half-light, between action and idea, unhurried about what they can yet become.

I have grown a little weary of a world that talks too much, that trafficks in absolutes. These days I don’t seek another half, because I am not a neat hemisphere to be sealed and filled. We are actually more like strange, jagged sounds and shapes. I think obsessing about a perfect fit is a fundamental failure to understand people, context, romance, biology, and history. I am not a scientist, not even of the Coldplay sort, methinks.

We are not carbon bonds or Lego blocks, that fit so neatly into one another.

We are all messy lines and meandering rivers and undulating Hills, and swirling songs of fear and hope, despair and joy.

Far better, perhaps, to find someone who will gift you with new words, to make new sentences with; someone who can share the delicate silence between the words and trees.

“She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.” | Toni Morrison, Beloved

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