Third in a series [gs *]
So what happened at lunch?
Again, the eyes.
I arrive ahead of my lunch date, at an upscale organic cafe/coffee-shop in a little mall of expensive boutiques in a rich inner-ring suburb.
All the tables are taken, but I settle myself into the one empty overstuffed armchair facing the entrance, to await his arrival. Soon he walks in and I go to greet him. We make eye contact as I approach, hug hello, and move into line to order our lunches. Nothing unusual yet. But as we stand in line, I’m finding it hard to turn my eyes away from him. He’s staring again, peering into me, and I’m beginning to get that he finds this significant. He’s not just a regular eye-contact-y guy. He’s grinning from ear to ear, it’s making him happy, he’s beaming, he does ‘soft eyes’, and ‘joyful eyes’ and I feel that if I turn away, it will be like raining on his parade. So I relax into it. My job, as I see it, is to be present, not to second-guess his mode. I’m curious about what it all means, but I’m patient.
So, since his eyes don’t stop, neither do mine. However, it is beginning to interfere with talking to the counter person and ordering lunch. Luckily, the lunch rush is slowing down & no-one is standing in line behind us.
At one point he says “people are going to start thinking we’re freaks” which is mildly reassuring – at least he has some sense of public self-awareness. But ‘going to start’ seems wishful and I respond ‘they’re already sure of it’, and I’m starting to wonder just a tiny bit myself. I don’t mind a lot of eye contact, but there is something either clinging or challenging in this, something not right, and I’m trying to figure out what it is. My eyes want to take a break, but for some reason I don’t let them.
We find a little table, practically in the middle of the entry-way, (it’s the only one available) and sit down. We look in each other’s eyes some more and smile.
He says ‘I want to know how we can be one.’
I continue to smile while I contemplate an appropriate response and decide I need some clarification. “Do you mean ‘how is it that we already are one?’, or ‘how can we become one?’, or what?”
I’m not promising anything here, and I’m not trying to confuse anyone. But I’m serious. We are one. All of us. Already. Always. I know that (even when I’m raging with contempt) and I’m prepared to ponder the implications of that at any moment. Since I believe that we’re all connected, and that an inner (often unknown) purpose guides us, I can only assume that there’s a reason we’re sitting here together. What that might be, I don’t yet have a clue – we’ve exchanged a ton of eye contact at this point, but extremely few words. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m willing to give it a chance.
Anyway, I’m committed to this practice of being present, authentic and vulnerable in every possible moment. What makes this one any different? Why get suspicious now?
So I ask which he means – how can we already be ‘one’ (which I imagine would entail a highly philosophical, but interpersonally less gooey discussion) or how can we become ‘one’ (which seems infinitely trickier, but I’m willing to give it a chance)? He seems momentarily confused by the question, then says “all of it, everything. I want to be one with you.”
So I say “Other than the fact that we already are one, I don’t know that we can become more so. I can imagine plenty of answers to that question that I don’t want to be part of, so I’m not making any promises, but if you have any ideas, I’m willing to hear them.”
There’s no harm in listening. Maybe he knows some newfangled communication co-thinking techniques I’d like to be introduced to.
“I do have some ideas,” he says “but lets talk first.”
So we talk. We establish a little personal context. I’m married and have an adult son. He’s married and has much younger kids. He’s younger than me, but older than I thought. We share a little background about spiritual affiliations and schooling and then ‘tell me your story’ and then ‘now you tell me yours’.
My uncensored story is hard to capsulize easily, but I manage.
His involves a life of living in his head (both ‘heads’ to be precise – his words), and a recent dramatic life-altering, heart-opening experience.
Throughout lunch, he keeps up the intense eye-contact that I somehow feel stuck in, and exclaims frequently about how beautiful I am, how pure love is pouring from my eyes, how amazing it is that we can share this heartfelt connection, and how he wants to merge with me.
Eventually he asks more questions about my history, a little about prostitution, my relationship with my kid’s dad, my marriage. I love to tell stories, and we’re off into territory that perhaps he finds titillating (I get that in retrospect, but if so, it was mild and entirely un-intentional. But un-tempered male sexualities – you know – they’re pretty easily excited). Still I’m on solid ground, in control now, of the narrative, and the time passes, and eventually I say ‘so tell me about your ideas.’ Meaning, to be honest, “you left this stuff hanging, your ideas about being one, let’s put them on the table and wrap this thing up.”
I can see, as I write this, that I seem a little bimbo-ish here. But this part all took place before I was certain he was going in a direction I didn’t want to go. I was still gathering data, still trying to figure out what his trip was. I mean, I’ve experienced way weirder behavior that ultimately made sense. I like oddballs. I was just honestly responding to sincere questions. He was about as scary as a banana peel. I could have knocked him silly without impacting my heart rate if I was certain that was called for.
I could easily have responded differently – scared him off, shut him down, upstaged his whole agenda – it would have taken a lot less energy than what I did do. But I was trying to do a number of things all at once, in a combination new to me. First, to take him as he was, at face value. Not to second-guess, not to be cynical. I was trying to suspend my assumptions, as you’d call it in [gs Bohmian Dialog]. Or to use Theory U jargon – suspend the voices of cynicism, judgement, and fear. I was looking around for the magic.
I was also trying to be authentic through all that (note the willful, unrealized verb compliment there), and the authentic truth is – I’ve put much of my life into unravelling these tricky, painful male/female/Eros dynamics, and if someone is interested in hearing my experience or my thoughts on those matters, I’m more than happy to talk about them.
Plus, he had this eager, something-bursting-out-of-him-manner throughout, as though he could hardly wait to spill some beans. I kept wondering what it was he was waiting to say. In spite of what sounded to me like a fairly common and predictable story, his manner kept me curious.
Anyway, eventually I asked about his ideas (re: one-ness), and after gushing about wanting to be like a little boy clinging to his momma’s knees, following me around and hugging me as often as he possibly could, he said he’d thought, earlier, before lunch, that perhaps we could just hold hands, and gaze into one another’s eyes for awhile.
By then, really, I felt spent. I’d already let it go too far, I could see that. Not too far in the sense that I’d led him to believe we’d have an ongoing relationship, not too far, I felt, in allowing some erotic attachment to form. No. I didn’t think that. But too far in just trying to stay present when we had subtly slipped way past my ability to do so, too far without clearly asserting my own reality in the situation. Too far in allowing him to slide into a situation where he was bound to be hurt.
I should have said no to the hand-holding, because my attitude in saying “ok” was not right, and I could have known that, if I weren’t so fucking trapped in my eyes, and worrying that my face was going betray my jadedness and crush his freshly-opened heart.
I said “ok, let’s do that”. Not quite getting what it meant to him. Not quite able to give it what it needed. Needing something in the completely opposite direction myself, and just wanting to get this over with.
I said “ok” and reached my hands out over the table to hold his (yes, in the midst of all those power-lunchers bustling back to work). He made a gesture as if that wouldn’t do, so I began to examine how to work around the table, and scan the cafe for a better seating arrangement now that lunch was dying down, and he said “Not here – this is too public.”