How to Make Love Stay

What is there to say?

Ultimately, no matter how intimate two people are, they can never know each other’s deepest secrets.

They can sit together, hand in hand, while ensconced in two completely separate and distinct worlds.

Perhaps that is what’s to be said: that these same two people, on some profound level, yearn to share all the words with each other.

But it is only a suspicion, a hope.

I can settle my bets, my debts, my longings. I can acknowledge how little I know of the world beyond my world; how sometimes listening is not merely enough; how one must really pay attention if they wish to catch the truth in action.

Sometimes things just seem so hopeless. You pray for something that never comes. You dream of a revelation; it remains hidden.

You try to spill your soul; to tell them how you feel; not for any other reason than to show your hand; to reveal what matters to you. You say something like, “I can’t believe we’re still here. Two years go by, and we’re still here. Feels like I’ve known you forever. Feels like I met you just yesterday.” And there’s no response, nothing. Your heart sinks. You wish they would say something; reveal something of their heart; something more than telling. But there’s nothing; only silence. So you stand there feeling like an idiot, left in the dust; talking to pigeons, expressionless animals; conversations with the wind. That perfectly invisible, perfectly audible force. You allow yourself to grow sad and even a bit angry; you feel jilted, stilted, abandoned.

But we don’t make contracts; no dotted lines. You do not initial here, here, or here. You do not sign or date. There are no file clerks. No witnesses; no binding agreements; no one to notarize the documents. Abandonment only means so much. And one cannot be faulted for living their lives; for rising into themselves.

But still, the sadness lingers. There’s a knock on the door, but no answer. There’s a message on the wall, but no reading. Your clothes are stained with tears; your hair a tangled mess. You spend your days in solitude, writing until your wrists creak and your fingers gnarl. You stay inside. You linger in the woods; run your fingers on the barbed wire they’ve built to separate their world from yours. You look for an opening but there isn’t one.

So you learn to keep your feelings inside. You learn never to be vulnerable.

What a world which is so hard to love in. Nothing hurts worse; nothing feels better.

Who knows how to make love stay?

What say you, Tom? What say you?

Well Zoey, I’d say it’s complicated. But here’s my advice:

“1. Tell love you are going to Junior’s Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if loves stays, it can have half. It will stay.

“2. Tell love you want a memento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a mustache on your face. Find love. Tell it you are someone new. It will stay.

“3. Wake love up in the middle of the night. Tell it the world is on fire. Dash to the bedroom window and pee out of it. Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be all right. Fall asleep. Love will be there in the morning.”¹

But here’s the truth, Zoey:

“When two people meet and fall in love, there’s a sudden rush of magic. Magic is just naturally present then. We tend to feed on that gratuitous magic without striving to make any more. One day we wake up and find that the magic is gone. We hustle to get it back, but by then it’s usually too late, we’ve used it up. What we have to do is work like hell at making additional magic right from the start. It’s hard work, but if we can remember to do it, we greatly improve our chances of making love stay.”²

You’re right, Tom. It is hard work. It’s so hard. More often than not I will tell you this: I’ve not a damn clue what I’m doing.

Somehow I have been gifted with a blessing of blessings. I have been gifted with writing; with an urgent need to write. It is not something I got to choose for myself. It just came with the package; it just came as part of the deal. Like breathing and eating. It is by my writing that I’m able to create any magic at all. It’s my wand, so to speak.

And with a wand comes great responsibility, to mix Harry Potter and Spiderman metaphors. Harryman… no that doesn’t work. Anyways…

Words are powerful, yeah? To stay on topic with this whole love dilemma, I’ll say this. I want to learn how to use my power wisely; how to speak with vulnerability, sincerity, and detachment. But here’s the rub: I am not enlightened. I am the awareness that is aware there is attachment. So when I use my words, I am inherently tainted, am I not? Tainted by the presence of attachment; of desire?


I love you.

That’s it. I will never not love you. I’m sorry if that hurts. I’m sorry if that’s not what you want to hear, but it’s true. I don’t know how to express or suppress it. I don’t understand it. How do you love someone who wants you around but withdraws whenever things get too close? How do I make you feel safe?

Things could be great, you know? We could rise above this. We could make our own magic; each of us. Pee out windows; buy cheesecake from Junior’s Deli on Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn; make mustaches of each other’s hair (although if I’m being honest, Tom. As hilarious as I find that, I think it’s also a little creepy.) We could be balloons, remember? Side by side.

I believed in us. I did. I still do, if I’m being honest. Even if it does take more than listening; even if it does require us to pay a little more attention. Even if it does require hard work; time spent making our own magic, summoning our own sources.

But one must acknowledge the hard, sandy truth. One must swallow it like the Cinnamon Challenge and force it all the way down. One must keep from upchucking the whole thing.

Which is this:

Love may not stay. It may steal out in the middle of the night while you’re sleeping. It may even take one of your favorite t-shirts and that bottle of wine you were saving for a special night. It may call a cab, and ride it all the way to San Francisco. It may board a plane to Barbados. Or Yugoslavia… but preferably Barbados. Love may find new interests. Love may cut its hair, or put it in cornrows. Love may turn into a vegan without telling anybody. Love may start writing poetry every day, but it won’t be about you.

No, love may not stay. It may slip from your sight at the mall while you’re busy purchasing a giant cookie from Mrs. Fields. It may take up drinking, or ballroom dancing. It may fashion itself a necklace made of horse hair and give it to someone else. It may find itself a pet squirrel to take on walks through the woods, without asking you to join. Love may not like Apple Pie or any variation of it. It may one day decide that a Sham is a four-legged being with two heads, two brains, and enough power to win twenty five gold medals at the Timbuktu Olympics. A sham. Love may change its mind. It may come to find you’ve grown as stale as crackers left out overnight. It may come to look at you with a sneer. It may start making up words to describe you, or pass secret notes to homeless people about how much of a doofus you are.

So what is there to say?

Love may not stay. It may not believe you or trust you when you say how you really feel. It may keep you at arm’s length. Love may sneak into your house and read your diary while you’re sleeping. And love may not be there in the morning. And that’s okay. It is. Sometimes it’s just something you’ve got to accept.



¹ Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker
² See Number 1.

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