There are certain things in a relationship that are extraordinarily important to me. Or I believe they are, or something like that. We often believe things are important and then discover they don’t carry quite so much weight as they might have but for some reason this silly thing (note the word silly, that’s my word and I have this feeling I’ve been carrying that word for a while which is something to note. I think I’m silly). So yeah. One time early in the relationship David asked me, yeah, I’m not going to call him Nomans anymore, it’s starting to sound disrespectful and where it was once a term of endearment it became slanderous and I’m well past that now, there’s no need to be disrespectful and David is a very common name. Anyway, early in the relationship when we were trying to figure out what we needed, you know, base level things, he was asking me and I guess they were things that feed the relationship although I didn’t or we didn’t have that sort of vocabulary yet and he was asking me because I’d already left two husbands and he was scared and I was scared and we were trying to figure out why, together, things had fallen apart like it was my fault for not communicating what was broken or what core things I needed.
Gosh, I’ve just made that sound horrid and I sure didn’t mean it. I meant it to sound hopeful and lovely. I wish I’d thought to ask him though, now that I’m thinking of it. There really isn’t any excuse other than not trusting myself and that’s no excuse but that’s not what I’m meaning to tell you about. That’s just a wistful regret and I don’t mean to say I didn’t ask later. I just wish I’d asked then.
So it boiled down to four things and they were small things. If I thought about it I think I could come up with the four things but there’s just this one thing comes to mind because it’s what this story is about. I wrote this list on a piece of paper and the last thing I wrote was
#4 dance with me under the moonlight.
My heart caught in my throat just now. It’s this sort of connection thing and I’ve recently been asked to explain just what the hell I mean by connection and I hear in my head (from the Princess Bride but a different word: connection, you use that word a lot, I don’t think it means what you think it means). I experience shame. Anyway. My stuff. Truly. MY. STUFF.
Back on item #4. I really hadn’t learned to dance with a partner yet. It wasn’t for lack of trying. It took me a long time to learn to follow, just about a year and it was with SM that I really had some significant breakthroughs and discovered what it was like to have an actual partner I could dance with, trust, fuck up with and anticipate. It was freaking awesome. And we weren’t romantically involved so there wasn’t any of that, we were just dance partners, good dance partners and I’d never had that before. So I guess where I’m going with this was that I *had* learned to do it. I also had a lot of very patient teachers. I didn’t realize that until later. Those guys at the smaller dances, man, talk about patient and tolerant. I guess you do what you gotta do to keep the dance alive. You teach whatever comes in the door for however long it takes.
Back on item #4. Dance with me under the moonlight. Soft, warm, intimate, the way I’m not ever going to be with anyone else under any circumstances. I watch other couples be that way and I want it. I watch other couples not be that way and I know that this just isn’t the way they are and it doesn’t make their relationship any less. See, I know this.
My second husband didn’t dance. Does not dance. I mean really, the guy does not dance. I remember taking lessons once. It was so damn painful for him. I won’t even get into it. I was just getting good at it and it was causing him so much pain watching me we stopped cold. No way was I going to do that to him and I promptly forgot it had ever happened. No big deal.
Husband number one. I think if we hadn’t been in the middle of such a struggle to survive we might have found our way there but we just didn’t; not in time.
So here we are, husband number three and I and I’m writing down my list of four things and I realize this and I write it down as number four because for some reason I experience shame and I think this has to do with the actual asking for something that matters. This goes way back and it’s too long a story to go into but it is something David and I shared from our childhood. We were aware of it. It goes something like this:
If you want it, do not ask for it. You’re pretty much guaranteed not to get it. Just be really good and quiet and hopeful and you might get it. There’s a good possibility.
That does not mean be obtuse about what you want, that just means that as a child, you don’t have the right to make a direct request. The primary difference between David and me was that as an adult I learned to be direct in a good many places in my life (except where there is shame and even then I will be but I find it’s hard to do it more than once because I’m mortified during the speaking) and he did not (maybe because there is shame everywhere for him; I don’t know).
So I put #4 last because it was most important.
There is something about dancing. You, I, we can all see it in Elizabeth, well guys, it comes from somewhere.
I remember telling Elizabeth’s teacher on the way to the train station after class one evening when we were just getting to know each other that it physically hurts me not to dance these days. Not that my body complained but that my heart hurt and I felt it in my body. It hurts inside me not to dance. The photograph at the top. I am inside myself for just a moment and I think no one but me likes or understands that one particular photograph but when I saw that I thought, yes, that’s it! That’s the part that captures what it’s like for me when it’s only me. Which it isn’t very often, by the way. But that part is very, very important. That up there, that’s bliss.
There are very, very few photographs of NM and me dancing and not many I can post and I guess that’s OK because I’m getting to #4. I think someone was taking pictures and we’ll never see them because we were tourists and they were locals and we were doing something that just wasn’t done there and they were all just watching us.
NM and I have trouble dancing. Not always but sometimes. In the beginning it was very hard. No, wait, let me go back. The very first time. That very first dance was not hard at all. That very first dance was magic. That very first dance was before any sort of fear or expectation.
And *then* NM and I had some trouble dancing. Couples have trouble doing partner things sometimes especially when they are both strong willed although this, I think might have been a communication issue although I’m still not sure and I don’t know that it really matters. We come from different places and his dance is not a small dance and I was used to being handled very differently and I just didn’t understand and when he saw fear on my face, well, I suppose you can imagine how that made him feel. Not so good. We struggled. We also have different beliefs about what dancing means in a relationship and that’s also perfectly OK. These are things that couples negotiate through one way or another.
Part of the reason I write honestly in this blog is that people are dishonest about their relationships. Dishonest with themselves, with each other and with the world at large. When David left, I remember a neighbor in shock saying to me, but I thought you two were so happy! And I said, I thought we were too.
So in my writing I am daring myself, daring you, I am daring the world, daring any reader to look honestly. That’s my point.
Back to #4.
We were, I’m pretty sure in West Mabou. West Mabou is in Cape Breton which is in Canada and you might as well just assume it’s at the end of the world and we went there for the music where some of the best fiddle playing in the world can be seen and heard and felt and that’s all I’m going to say about that and we went to a square dance which can be found from 10 – 1 AM almost every night except there’s nothing square dance like about it (it bears some relation to contra) but it’s very helpful if you’ve got some Irish Step under your belt (we learned to fake it VERY fast) and the music is extraordinary. There is no caller and the same three dances repeat over and over again all night. We watched until we understood and then we jumped in. People were by and large very patient with us and we had a very good night and for the most part, for the first time ever I felt like NM and I were on equal footing in terms of being not so great at something. It was refreshing. I didn’t feel like I sucked totally or I didn’t feel alone. Or something like that. I felt like I had a friend. Again, this is MY stuff.
I think it might have been the end of the night. I don’t know if I asked him to or we discussed it but I know he did it because I NEVER, ever, ever would have had the guts but he asked the band if they would play us a waltz and I don’t know if we had much hope for it but in the end they did and I know very well nobody in that great big hall knew what to do with it because that hall just cleared to the walls and we had just about the entire floor which we never have before and in great sweeping turning circles around and around we went and that right there may be one of the most beautiful moments I’ve had with the man.
And you know, people aren’t always going to have the same experience of an event. For NM it may just have been a nice dance. I remember him saying it was something we did very well in comparison and it was nice to look like we knew what we were doing (and oh, yes it certainly was after all that stumbling about) but for me, well, for me it was #4.
I can’t hold NM to #4, it wouldn’t be fair. I think I tried to explain something about how important that sort of thing was to me a little while ago and I’m not sure I did such a great job but I’ve never said a word about #4 because, well, that’s a hell of a thing to lay on somebody.
I’m just saying there was this really beautiful moment and I’m telling you about this really beautiful moment. I’m telling him too in case he reads this post (clearly he does come out here now and then) and I have said it before but that’s my point.
There are moments that are so damn beautiful and they should not be missed.
(and clearly, this is not us (because there aren’t any of us that I can use), but do you have any idea how hard it is to find a photograph of two people waltzing that isn’t like some over the top couple that look like a pair of flamingos? I mean, seriously)