In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"

Sketching Six Faces of Love

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Credit: textnovel.com

She liked to flirt. Facebook was a deep well of satisfaction to her; there were so many “friends” to engage with from the superficial to the delicious. Friends from the past to the present, all over the country, were potential intrigues. She loved the game of it. Her charm and wit, the salacious comments kept men interested in her, especially with the weekly updated profile photos that boasted her tight jeans and sweater, smart blazers and slacks, or formal dresses and flashy make up, all with her best angle to delight and lure.

It was all a showcase, all for fun, mostly. It gave her options. Some of her friends lived in the neighborhood, or relatively so, shifting the flirting game to a goal. She could land a date, and sometimes she did, though mostly dates did not work out for one reason or another. Reality is always less photogenic than the portrayal in pictures and emoticons, pithy remarks and funny cat videos to express true emotions. Face to face, something is missing. Besides, the thrill of the chase is gone.

One time, she did hook up with someone who kept her interest longer than a month. He was obviously into her, wanted to do things, go places, and he filled a void of too much time to spend on Facebook. She got out in the world with him to movies and cafes, a show or two at the playhouse. They talked a lot and things appeared to get close and firm. When they slept together, it was passably good for a first time, which is always awkward until familiarity sets in and comfort and daring are permitted, the kinks worked in or out, as the case may be. It looked promising–for him. He was getting his heart settled in after those first adrenaline thumping real life meets when he did not know how the fun cyber banter would translate to flesh and blood. But he was falling–some. She was having fun–with him and her facebook admirers, always keeping her options open.

She was an answer to a call. He had been married for decades to the same woman, a kind woman of great heart and spirit, the mother of his children. M was still his best friend, but intimacy was never their connection. She came out soon after the kids were born, and they came to an agreement to keep it together for the kids. Each pursued interests outside of the marriage, the catchword being discretion. He never thought to engage fully with anyone, only looking for casual sex and some fun. After all, his primary responsibility was to his family and his work. But a man must live while taking care of business.

He always thought he had the best and worst of all worlds, and being the optimist, always looked at how much worse it could be. Sure, he yearned for intimacy at home, to live with someone to lie with and embrace each morning in the warmth of the blankets after a good night’s sleep or awaken in the middle of the night and reach over to find comfort in the presence of another warm body–a touch of romance. But they had stopped sleeping together long ago. Still, stability stemmed from the solidity of his friendship and cooperative care for their children, which went a long way in his mind.

She, on the other hand, was addicted to highs and lows. Her most memorable relationships were those with huge passion and jealousy, wild nights and raging fights. Longing to be possessed and desired beyond comprehension, she daydreamed of consumption, her lover’s devour. For the cold in her fingertips could only be warmed by the heat of romance and hungry sex. It had always been this way. The picture of longing, a gaping hole to fill, she was addicted to beginnings, the newness of things, like relationships and shopping sprees, the smell of a new car. How to prolong the thrill was the quest, string it out into the longest possible moment of days and weeks. Some sizzlers did last some months. But all the while, she kept feeding the fire with sparks from other heat.

And he knew that he was attracted to her heat, her fascination with fire and its sparks: the liveliness of her darting, wide-open eyes and the broad toothy smile that beamed joy. The curves dressed up in conscious care to cry out to him worked notice. Taken by colors she radiated and the music she invoked, he knew the draw. It was the antidote to boredom, the missing passion. He felt the trap and wanted to surrender nevertheless. If he could maintain the consciousness that this was fun, he thought, to keep his heart open and protected at the same time, he could extract what he needed from her, fuel the engine. He wanted more than sex. He wanted time and connection, but just enough.

He wasn’t a fool and treated himself well for the most part. Yes, life was a series of compromises. Life is such. But he had a healthy amount of gratitude and a talent for compartmentalization. His philosophy: everything in its time and place. No one gets everything from one person, he often told others. Instead, he takes what he needs where he finds it, and the rest is all him. He knew that his fulfillment was his own work, making himself happy–with himself.

And in all, he was indeed a contented man, treated himself well enough and was unafraid of risking temporarily his equanimity, or even his happiness, seeking connection from others when necessary. Recovery would be assured: he meditated, exercised, slept well, and ate wisely though not unrelentingly healthy, splurging on a chocolate eclair or a decadent meal with an outstanding bottle of wine from time to time. Good to himself, he was good to others. Life was all about balance.

They were both searching but approached the search from opposite ends of the spectrum of comportment. Their common ground: need, pleasure, sharing, excitement, connection, and release. Both were looking for validation, confirmation that they existed for someone else beyond utility and the facticity (or delusion) of moving meat sacks. They sought to change the imagery they were caught up in, alter the lighting to project a more enticing angle.

They needed their egos fed as well as their libidos, lost in the sigh-ful faces of pleasure’s remove on the screen of each other’s fantasies. Touch, with its healing electricity, could bring them back to their humanity, their presence before another being with breath and pulse, warmth and light. Recognition of commonality, acknowledgement of existence, loss of time, surrender to another, all in momentary amnesia of who, where, how and why they were is what each sought. This was all they had in common, and yet, it wasn’t enough.

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