(continued from: The Next Best Time -NOLA Escapes)
So. We could’ve fallen in love, Santiago and I. Easily. After our time together in his native New Orleans I was sure a relationship with him could be beautiful. He gave me a perfect glimpse. Painted a perfect picture:
Saturday mornings lounging for a while and then breakfast in bed. Early afternoons visiting art exhibits in the warehouse district followed by antique shops in The Bywater. Lunch at new (and especially old) eateries, and then late afternoon walks through Crescent Park just before sunset. Back to his place only to freshen up, get fancy, and head Downtown to enjoy The Jazz Orchestra at The Jazz Market. And the beignets. The beignets would be saved for late night cravings and strolls through The French Quarter hand in hand.
Sundays would be for plays at the Contemporary Arts Center. Santiago loved to read to me. So Sunday evenings would be reserved for that.
We would inhale and exhale art between us. It would be the thing that sustained us, like air. We would fail to exist without it. Our story would read like the love letters of poets of old. His descriptions of me poetic and full of romance. We could change the whole story of love.
With Santiago I was taken by dreams, as was he. Two artists imagining a finished masterpiece; not really concerned with the process of creating it. Only longing to be lost in its beauty.
But it was too soon for me to fall in love. It was early winter, and my last relationship had ended at the close of spring. It just wasn’t the right season for me. Of all the things I’ve learned in my whole life, the one thing that always proves true is that everything comes down to timing. Every single thing.
It was time to start living out that knowledge. I needed to be gentle with myself and give my heart a fair opportunity to heal, despite the opportunity to be loved by Santiago.
It wasn’t the season to cover my pain with Santiago’s poetic lines or sweet adoration towards me. In between the words he spoke, I could hear his desires. He wanted an out of this universe kind of love experience. And I’ll admit the idea was enticing. Our desire was similar.
It wasn’t on our side. Simple, yet complex.
Santiago was dreamlike. Everything was very real until my internal alarm went off signaling it was time to wake.
He was an unforgettable dream, which is why I’m remembering him now.
Remembering NOLA. Remembering something incredible.
Because that’s what you do with the good dreams. The good memories. You take them with you. You carry them in your pocket. You draw from ‘em when you need a little dose of happy. When you need to fly. Like Peter, you know? Peter Pan. Remember? Come on, go there with me. You’re supposed to keep the good stuff. We learned that as children, but somewhere along the way we forgot to keep our happy thoughts.
Maybe it’s because all the other thoughts consumed us as we grew older, which left little room for the good stuff. Or maybe it’s simply because we couldn’t grasp the idea of time as kids. We couldn’t comprehend its significance. We didn’t know the good stuff wouldn’t last forever. Our parents told us not to grow up so fast, and we didn’t listen.
Now we understand that time is of the essence. Time itself has taught us this truth. Time, the teacher. Experience, the aide.
And experience is how I knew that despite Santiago being a wonderful dream, it was not meant to last forever. At least not this forever. Maybe in the forever of another lifetime.
And that was okay for me. I was okay with trusting the process, because I’d been practicing the art. And it’d been working out very well, you know? When you trust the process you can see past short-lived disappointment. You can see into the promise of your future. You can look at things for what they are and take them at face value. You can appreciate the good things even as they come to an end.
In other words, I’m not sad that timing wasn’t on Santiago’s and my side. Rather I’m happy for the experience. Period. It was an amazing one.
Early Monday morning I hugged Santiago for a long time in the street where my car was parked. Ah!
I just remembered the huge, old trees that lined almost every street in NOLA. And the Magnolias that I specifically looked for (because of a favorite book). My car was parked underneath one.
We embraced again, and then it was time to let go…
I drove back to Texas singing the whole way. I was on a natural high, but it wasn't because I was falling in love with Santiago. Instead, I was falling more in love with myself! With how free I was. Free enough to lose myself in a short romance and then come right back to myself!
Talk about growth! Ah!
I could literally feel myself evolving.
SN: Santiago used to say that him loving me didn't require my participation. He would send me poetry often, and we'd dissect the meaning. He loved Henry Rollins, especially this piece:
"Some people will never know true love and I feel bad for them. They make the mistake of loving someone and telling them all about it. Whenever you bring in another person the whole thing is ruined. All you can do is screw it up from there on. I fall in love with the faces of women who pass me on the street. I imagine how it could be... until the next one passes and I'm in love again. No one gets hurt, no promises are broken. And what of the love? It is fleeting and intense like it should be. I don't need the physical act to make it real. That's like keeping the stuffed animal you won at the carnival. When you get it home, it has no place. I love the sound that comes out of John Coltrane's horn. The sound will never leave me. There will be no messy divorce papers. NO screaming matches and acrimony, just endless love." -Henry Rollins
Santiago, you will never leave me. XO
photo by: Santiago (Fall 2015)