Today I fell.
It’s been a while since I’ve had such a fall and in such a public place, too. Walking up the steps out of the subway station, my toe caught on the very top step and It was a dramatic tumble right onto the concrete ground. I banged my knees and my palms as my hands automatically flew out to break my fall, but the momentum took me completely to the ground, landing so completely I was practically laying on the ground. My bag landed a foot away from me and my head band slipped down onto my face, partly covering my eyes. People exiting the subway or heading down the stairs audibly gasped at the vaudeville act-worthy fall, and one lady who was handing out flyers ran towards me to help me up.
I heard her saying loudly that the step was uneven and I wasn’t the first to fall. I had cleared a good space around me as people tried to avoid stepping over me, sprawled out as I was. I wonder if I banged my head, too, because for a moment my mind was cloudy. Perhaps my fall had shook up my brain so that it was still spinning around before I could gather myself. I sat up slowly, brushing my hair from my face, the lady still energetically explaining to me that the step was at fault. It must have only been a few seconds, but when I think back to that moment I am frozen on the ground, watching feet hurry past me, my hands still braced on the concrete.
If I hadn’t been blocking so many people from getting to the subway, I might have simply remained on the ground for a bit. For just that moment, I felt defeated. I wanted to lay there and just let people look at me and then rush on, feeling sorry for me but not enough to help. I am not a person who remains crushed after a failure or mistake; or a fall. But in this instant, I had been brooding over some discouraging thoughts and it was as though my physical self followed my mental self into blackhole. And so, I found myself in such a low place in front of the subway station.
I slowly picked up my bag, then myself off the ground and brushed off my coat. There’s a dusty, black mark now on the right hip of my white coat; I’ll try to get it out later. My knee hurt a little and without looking around, I continued walking. Embarrassment didn’t come; we fall, we get back up. There’s no shame in failure.
But before I fell, what I had been dwelling on was this curious thing called love.
This stupid, bothersome, inescapable, magical, frustrating, wonderful, bitter, exquisite thing that every human on this planet so desperately wants and is so desperately incapable of doing perfectly.
Some of those adjectives I understand; some I draw out of context from the endless movies, books and songs made about love. Some of those adjectives I wish I felt, some of them I wish I could shake off.
The question I was asking and mentally exploring was ‘why are we looking for love in another person?’ There’s so many contradicting statements made on love that we throw out casually as though we silently believe that if we say them enough it’ll be true for us.
“It’s better to love and lose than to never love at all.”
“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”
“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
Or this personal favorite by Pablo Neruda:
“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride; I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close. “
Why are these things said with such conviction and by so many? Why do people willingly love someone who doesn’t love them back, with full knowledge of the suffering it brings? Why do people who loved so fiercely become indifferent? Why do we look at all the heartbreak love brings and still believe it’s worth loving at all?
I have to conclude that because a life without love is so unutterably bleak. The choice given to us all is either love or don’t; but to not love is not even a choice. You have the choice to breathe air or to just hold your breath indefinitely; but we know even without trying that we will eventually die. So it seems to be with love.
These days I’ve been reading poetry, typically late at night. Even now, it’s nearly two am and I’m typing this out. But what has stuck is this simple line by Atticus.
“Love her but leave her wild.”
I read this over and over again. Maybe there are those out there who are too wild to be loved.
Does that mean it isn’t worth trying to love that person, that wildness, if you know that eventually they won’t be able to stay in your arms?
These were the things I was thinking about as I walked up the subway steps. That’s when I tripped and fell, and my thoughts were knocked right out of my head.