Sometimes you are standing right by the tracks when the train comes and the sound of the whistle is a scary blast, much too loud, that makes you cover your ears. The sound means danger, get out of the way, something big is coming fast. But from your house, a half mile back, the sound is different. It's sad, but also sweet, especially at night. People are going somewhere, away from you. They are distant, in their lighted box; in their own world, as you are in yours; separate.
When your lover leaves you it's scary. When he says, "I don't love you," the sound is too loud. It blasts in your ear. When he says, "I think I'm going to have to move back in with my wife and try to patch things up with her," it means danger, get out of the way, something huge and deadly is coming at you. Heard from a greater distance it's different. It is the sound of another human being going somewhere; separate, distant; in his own world, as you are in yours.
My lover leaves me, comes back, then leaves again. The whistle blows, is silent, then blows again. Have I chosen this? When he is gone, I look frantically for a way out. I cry. I talk and talk about the details. I look for another man. I go back and forth inside, as my lover does. Screw him, I say. I deserve better. I'm going to dump him and find someone who appreciates me. Or I say, if only I were more sweet, more seductive, more pliable, he would love me. I try to win his love, as I have tried to win attention from my distant father. But it is an impossible task. I am already good enough.
I have consulted a wise one inside myself. He always says the same thing. "Your lover is changing, transforming, growing up like a green shaft, splitting apart. Do not put out your hand to touch. Only stay by his side. Stay near him until it is over." That's easy, so long as he lets me near him. But when I am shut out, what then?
Many times I have said that I love him. But what is love if I feel it only when I am with him? The wise one says to me, "Love is sacrifice." What does that mean? To me it means this: I will keep loving him, no matter what happens, even if I do not see him with my eyes but only with my heart. Even if he leaves me again. That is the sacrifice. That is the flower that I hold out to him on the palm of my hand-that I will stay by his side, at peace with myself, until he is at peace. Otherwise, when I say, "I love you," I am lying. It is hard business. The horn blasts again and again and again. The fear of losing my lover tears at me, but to protect myself I will not abandon him.
This is not a common road. The fixers and advice-givers may say I love too much. But I am listening to the wise ones. My love for him and for myself are intertwined. Last night I dreamed of a darkskinned woman-mature, serious, somber. I said to her, "I think I'm going to have to let him go." "Don't do it," she said. "That would be a mistake."
The train blows its whistle and I wake up.