‘You right slut. Have fun.’
An email from my publisher. Her audacious brevity is a reply to my previous email: ‘Cannot get on Skype now. Have date. Not with that one, different guy. Don’t wait up, will send my article tonight.’
As un-professional as my email to her was, my publisher is a constant supporter of my emotional – and, thus, physical – polyandry.
I could join a circus, with these adept juggling skills of mine. After all, I have always wanted to get a job that requires me to travel. Juggling rubber balls and human hearts are different, though – with one, you drop it and it bursts; and it’s a proper vermillion mess. Rubber balls bounce back and cost four dollars by the dozen at the local shop.
My dinner date. The amuse bouche is just being served at our table. He looks delicious, he held his breath and the door for me, he gives me butterflies. They all do, for a while. I think perhaps all I’m doing is chasing butterflies.
I’ve done many a psychoanalysis of myself in the search of intellectual solace from my gnawing guilt. I have since then realised that the Bernfield Factor is not a factor, neither is the excuse of broken-hearted melancholy so often promoted in sweet surrender by Sade. It is what it is; there is no complex explanation behind my flighty-in-love tendencies. It’s just those damn butterflies.
From my mother: ‘You are one lost soul, but you’ll find it one day, you silly woman. Just you wait.’
My father: ‘My darling girl, I pray to God I had nothing to do with this development of your emotional blueprint.’
From lover number one: ‘Please share your life with me, please meet my family, please open your heart and let me in, please hold my hand, please say after all this, it’ll only be me in the end. Please. Please. Please me.’
From lover number two: ‘You’re so convenient. Wanna grab a burger?’
From lover number three: ‘I don’t believe in love. This works perfectly, [overly intellectual conversation on socio-politics, current global affairs, and / or art history ensues].’
From lover number four (long-standing; platonic): ‘They could make a movie based on our relationship, but I think Sofia Coppola already did. You do have Scarlett Johansson’s lips. Also, like her character in the film, you are a condescending human being. You intellectually condemn people for not knowing who Robert Mugabe is. That’s pretty inhumane. But I suppose that’s why you’re so lonely; you’re supremely picky of who deserves to be graced with your presence. I think you’re inhumane to yourself, mostly. But you’d look good in a pink wig.’
From lover number five (short-lived, experimental): ‘My ex-boyfriend was such an asshole. I’m off the dick forever.’
From an ex-partner: ‘You broke my heart.’
From my publisher: ‘You right slut. Have fun.’
Like all misunderstood, frowned-upon, socially unaccepted forms of behaviour – commonly conducted by boutique serial killers, politicians, high-end prostitutes, religious polygamists, cult leaders, drug dealers, etc – there is a code of conduct, which I’ve formulated for myself:
1. No expectations, only intentions.
2. No philandering with philanderers. I’m not down wit’ OPP, yo.
3. Choose well with whom to get involved and the roles they play in the grand scheme of things. Possess the observation and meticulous heed of an art curator and the astute logical reasoning of Sherlock Holmes. Proceed to woo sensibly and tread carefully.
4. Stay detached.
5. And the most fundamental one: always be honest about the situation, to everyone involved, including myself.
But I am not cold-hearted and devoid of emotions, not at all! I am not structured and / or methodical in jumping off the ledge into a sea of love; I do not calculate the angle of projection, the approximate duration of being airborne in free-fall, the distance from point of convergence, the width / length ratio of the eventual splash that awaits beneath. I just dive in. I wear my heart on my sleeve and that sleeve is worn and torn but also always being reborn and re-sewn with ease and speed as if I had a hidden sweatshop of Grimm’s elves on constant standby in one of my drawers. This is why I dive in, this is my scuba diving gear: the knowledge that my heart can regenerate so easily, which, according to lover number four, is mainly because said organ was never really touched in the first place. Now, that statement touched me.
My dinner date. The third course is being served – spiced black pudding with corn and pork belly rillet and quail eggs in a puddle of sweet Massaman sauce and kaffir lime bubbles, easily the best culinary experience I have ever had in my entire life, and here I am sharing it with lover number indefinite whom so far proves to be an appropriate side dish to my buffet of self-scrutiny.
My blasé outlook on love has been mistaken for feminism before and it makes me cringe. I thought Germaine Greer was a foolish pseudo-feminist when I first read The Female Eunuch at the age of 15. This was because reading her book did not result in me feeling more empowered as a woman, it merely made me feel more powerful than a man, which, I later philosophised, defeats the whole objective of female liberation, since the benchmark of power still sits on a man’s lap. I didn’t want to be more powerful than a man; I just wanted to feel empowered.
The book’s ideology frustrated me so much that I then created a series of illustrations depicting full-frontal angles of masturbating women and titled the series “Eunuch” – wiser years later, I realised that my naïve and impulsive course of artistic reaction was more a form of applause rather than aspersion towards the book, and that made me feel sheepish and silly, as silly as Germaine Greer.
In truth, I crave for the idyllic. I dream of white picket fences and a garden of lilies, cooking dinner for the kids, waxing lyrical about the state of the world with my significant other while Chopin or Joni Mitchell plays in the background, debating colour swatches for the nursery. I picture cradling my teen-aged daughter after her very first heartbreak as she melts into her pool of tears and into my arms. I imagine whispering good night into the same ears every night and waking up to the same face every morning. I visualise us slow dancing to The Beatles’ “Long, Long, Long” in the living room after the children have all grown up and moved out.
I have my mouth full. I tell lover number indefinite of this vision of perfection that I have and he raises his wine glass in a toast of agreement.
Lover number indefinite: ‘I am falling in love with you, and I can say this light-heartedly and fearlessly because I have a shield of impermeable armour protecting me from love, and that armour is you.’
Touchée. He studied psychology. I study his face.
Me: ‘Picasso said, “Art is a lie that makes us realise the truth”…very much like love.’
Lover number indefinite: ‘Love is not a lie; it’s a dialogue…very much like art.’
Me: ‘I make art but all my art is hanging in other people’s homes. I have had many houses but I’m looking for a home. I want to unpack the art I’ve created for myself. I want a place to finally hang them.’
Lover number indefinite: ‘Picasso was an artist, not a lover. You are a lover who happens to be an artist. Love is a dialogue; you perform two-way monologues. Until you participate in this exchange of emotional narrative with another human being, it isn’t really love. So with that, I say freely, I love you. Or not really. It’s up to you.’
Hello, stimulus! And in I dive.
In this day and age, where everything is instant and upgradeable, where knowledge and information reign supreme, where gender roles are no longer tightly monitored nor clearly defined, my perception of such a sacred emotion has become quite jaded and over-simplified, perhaps. But how much simpler can love be, really? You feel a stir in your gut, your spine tingles, your brain releases chemicals, you smile, you savour, you love, you dive in, you drown, you cry, you die, you resuscitate yourself; you survive.
Love is a verb. One cannot be in love by proxy. The actions that precipitate love have nothing to do with love. I’m sorry, Mr. Neil Young, but it is not love that breaks your heart, it’s logistics. Love in its purest, elemental, intangible form is just plain lovely.
Poor little love, having the weight of the world and the weight of the word burdened on its innocent four-lettered limbs to carry, when all it is really is but a small seedling that perpetuates the unknown.
Okay. It’s not as simple as I make it out to be. But focusing on the butterflies simplifies it, for now.
There is only the Here and the Now and the butterflies in my belly, and no net. For now.
‘I love you, too, lover number indefinite.’
Enough. For now.