Two years before my 30th birthday, I dreamt about my spiritual guides. It happened during a group meditation in Maui. On the way to the meditation location, I walked along the side of the road (there was no sidewalk), checking my GPS multiple times since every direction looked the same. The moon left room for a few stars to illuminate the sky, but overall it was dark. When I arrived at the house, the other guests were already there, ready to begin. Lights were dim and the ocean felt close. I sat with the group, hopeful, expecting a beautiful moment because after staying in Hawaii for nearly a week, I knew there was something special about the island. Hawaii felt like a mother, rich in wisdom and discernment. When I slept, the air cradled me. So when I closed my eyes and prepared for meditating, I expected answers. A sort of direction. When the guides appeared, I wasn’t shocked to see them. I was relieved.
My spiritual guides were brown-skinned with waist-length hair. They surfed along on a giant anchor on the Pacific Ocean. It moved fast, grinding and splitting the water in two as it moved, like a motorboat. I wondered how it balanced on the water, how it didn’t sink. It looked a little off balance and leaned a bit to the right.
The guides knew my thoughts. They were telepathic. They must have spent eternities listening.
The anchor is as rooted as your emotions are, they said but never really said. While seated on the tip of the anchor, on the side above the ocean’s surface, one guide tossed a note into my hands.
Love is here.
The words erupted in me, like a wind tunnel in a back alley, lifting dead leaves.
Love was exactly what I was looking for. Of what kind? I wasn’t sure but I knew it’s characteristics. It was something full of light, paternal, and wholly romantic. It dwelled in my parents’ memories. It ushered me into the world and made me hopeful. My parents often told me that as an infant, I spent 90% of every waking day crying. I wish they were exaggerating, but there are videotapes to prove this. I’d be fast asleep for a while. Then, I would open my eyes, look to the right, then the left. There’d be a spark, some realization that dawned on me. Then, my tiny face would scrunch up, ready to burst. They say I might have had a lingering pain from when the umbilical cord was separated from my belly button. My navel was always a little large, as though the severance left a swelling that never fully healed. Maybe I was in pain and maybe I was also grieving.
Love is here
Long after the guides closed my eyes and the meditation ended, the words, though affirming, felt empty. I had more questions than answers. The biggest question being:
Where is here?
At the airport, hours before boarding my return flight home, I swiped right on every man between the ages of 25-42 within a 20-mile radius. If love was here, I had to find it fast.
Seven months before my 35th birthday, I received a text from a boy I kissed but didn’t really want to kiss. We made out in his condo in Irvine. It was near a canyon, tucked away in a suburb with very little light. Even though I’d spent time in Irvine and lived there for several years, I didn’t recognize the area. My GPS went haywire trying to find his place. He told me it was normal to get lost there. He had to come find me and guide me to guest parking. He reached me via pin and rode out on a bicycle. He wore an oversized yellow hoodie, the same shade as a traffic signal, and basketball shorts. He kept waving at me as I followed him in my car, as though I would lose sight of his oversized yellow hoodie and shorts. I remembered his dating profile said he was 6’5. I thought, surely he couldn’t be that tall. But he was. And yet, he looked like a child.
We sat on his sofa drinking wine that had a black and white picture of Snoop Dogg on the label. He had two cats. I don’t remember their names. I don’t remember if he drank. On my second or third glass of wine, he told me he was planning to become a school principal, but he didn’t want to be a principal. He wanted to breed turtles. But he was already breeding turtles. There’s even an article all about his turtles. He raised them at the school where he taught. He bred turtles. He learned how to because his father bred turtles.
Days after making out with him in his condo, I sent him a text, suggesting we take things slow. I didn’t tell him I didn’t want to kiss him in the first place because I knew that would end things. The goal was to not end things. I learned that full honesty led to a dead end. The previous boys I kissed but didn’t really want to kiss taught me that. A kiss didn’t ensure they’d stay, but honesty guaranteed their departure as the air they left behind would suffocate me long after they were gone.
I gave the boy I didn’t want to kiss partial honesty. A compromise. He replied, ‘we should be friends.”
Wanna meet up later? Was his Easter Sunday message, weeks after not speaking. I replied yes.
I wanted a love story, especially on Easter. I grew accustomed to beautiful Easter Sundays so a love story on a beautiful Easter Sunday seemed more than appropriate. One year, I went to a sunrise church service in the mountains. I was exhausted that morning but went anyway because I had a dream hours before of someone getting proposed to. Not wanting to miss a possible proposal (whether mine or someone else’s), I hiked up the mountain and waited for the sunrise, waited for the sermon, waited for a love story to unfold.
The pastor told a story about Jesus, the resurrection, and the cross. He said the cross is a proposal. That was the title of his sermon. I felt a little betrayed. On a different Easter Sunday, I witnessed the last wave of painted lady butterflies migrating to Mexico. It was a month after the most concentrated flux. I wondered if the ones remaining got lost, what kept them from making their way sooner. Compasses are built into their bodies, but they were somehow separated from the rest.
I phoned a friend while I waited. He had no Easter plans either so we cobbled plans to go out for a bit and get some air. We walked around downtown Riverside, commenting on how beautiful the weather was, but my attention was divided. I sent a follow up message, but heard no reply.
My friend and I bought coffee, enjoying the reprieve from social isolation. I had lived alone during first year of the pandemic. My friend was adjusting to life in the U.S after moving here for our master’s program. As we walked, I tried to remember an Easter Sunday that wasn’t beautiful, one where the weather was cold. If there had been, I couldn’t remember any.
Hours passed and the boy I kissed told me he was too tired to do the drive. Could you come down to Irvine instead? The day was threatening to leave without my beautiful moment or love story. I told him sure, I’ll drive down. He asked me when.
My friend and I got an early dinner at a quirky taco place. There were intricate upcycled sculptures everywhere, made of scrap metal. Moving from the order station to the outdoor patio was like walking through a labyrinth. When we made it out to the patio, we were met with more metal sculptures, flowers and decor. We found a large sofa to lounge on while we ate tacos. While on the sofa, exhaustion swept over me. I gave myself little room to realize I was tired. Maybe I shouldn’t go to Irvine, I told my friend.
My friend and I discussed literature and authors we were getting into. I told him about a short story from Ben Okri’s Prayers for the Living. I asked if I could read him one of the short stories and he said yes.
The story has a rhythm to it, much like a call and response. A push and pull centered around a man and his longing, offering love and not receiving it. A part that particularly resonates for me is the rejecter’s response: “She smiled for the first time. But the smile was somehow sadder than her sadness.”
The sun started setting and the lights surrounding the restaurant lit up, like a love story unfolding. and while it all looked quite romantic, it was another kind of love entirely with a bit of sadness wedged between. A realization dawned on me, one that was there all along, one that the rejectee understood all along but I hadn’t. That love and loss are intertwined. As I read the story aloud, my friend sat comfortably and leaned a little to the right to hear me better. Or maybe he heard the guides.
I learned more about love’s nature, that so much of it was felt by listening while facing a truth about myself. With all the time I spent searching for here, I wasn’t listening. I noted my friend’s stillness and comfort in listening, comfort in loving. I wondered how much love I had lost, what I drowned out with my siren’s cry.
Still, I think the guides are rejoicing, watching me become the lighthouse I always was, anchoring love where it was, has, and always will be. Here.
HEADER IMAGE CREDITS:
Photography + Art Direction: @meleysie
Model(s): @reine_ayakouassi & @mydesirdanhos