You know, I guess there is a story that resides in all men’s heart, a story most men know but few will tell, a story of past lovers and how they haunt the heart. I guess the story begins in adolescence, when a boy carries with him a fantasy of the perfect lover, she is shrouded in mystery and beauty, not at all a real woman with hopes and fears and the daily cares of life.
In fact, she contains few details at all. She is a dream, a perfume that haunts his spirit. This woman of mystery lives somewhere deep in his fantasy until one day he believes he has found her, the woman of his dreams. She is everything he ever wanted. He pursues her, she responds, and he is alive like never before. Every waking moment is spent dreaming of her. Every moment away from her is agony. When he is with her he looks into her eyes and wants to cry with joy at the incredible good fortune that has bought this beauty into his life. He wants to touch her. Eventually he does. His body aches for her. He wants to give himself to her, to take her, to know her, to love her. They struggle with the decision spending long nights of agonized discussion and desperate gropings in back lots.
Finally they make love or what they think is love. They lose themselves for hours, days. they are adrift on a sea of pure heedless passion. Slowly this passion cools. They begin to spend their ordinary hours together. She becomes more of a person and less of a dream. She has needs. She gets angry and has habits. He irritates her, she irritates him, their sexual hunger falls out of balance. He finds his mind drifting or he feels her turning inward even as her body pretends to be one with his.. Out of the corner of his eye he begins to notice other women, they seem more attractive, attentive, their laugh has more song in it. They are closer to the dream.. The woman he once thought would fill his life seems empty and ordinary. Soon there is nothing left but the lovemaking. Their passion is hollow. They are together in body but absent in spirit. There are tears and fights and long goodbyes. There are promises that “maybe someday” and gentle claims that “if it is meant to be..it will be”. Eventually they part. Their hearts are wounded and their emotions rage. Sadness smothers the one who was left. Guilt, relief, anger and self-hatred swirl around the one who did the leaving.
Time passes, the wounds are less. Another woman comes along. The dance begins again. Soon they are in each other’s arms. It is both harder and easier this time. He looks into her eyes. She is beautiful, but far down, where only the heart can see is another image. It is the woman he first loved, the woman who came before. He loses himself in passion, they become one in that magical way that is the gift of lovemaking but the image is not gone. It haunts like an echo. She is there the ghost of a past lover. The dance continues. Woman after woman after woman..each one different..each one a new springtime. He finds parts of himself he never knew existed. He feels love in ways his heart and body never imagined.
But every times he hears echos. No matter how he gives himself, no matter how strong his love, his bed is filled with ghosts of former lovers. And with each woman, there are more ghosts. He cannot say it..even to himself..but his heart is less than it was. The wounds have turned to scars and the joys of past passions have taken root in the hidden corners of his memory. His love, no matter how pure, is filled with echoes.
He begins to understand a truth, at once terrible and beautiful . He begins to see that the woman he has loved are not memories, they are presences. Making love to them has made them alive in his heart, forever. He begins to realize that all of those lovers, the one night stands, the deep yearning passions-were like little marriages, eternal unions, each establishing a claim that cannot be denied. He knows that there has been a price for the love, purported love he has given, his love is no longer pure. The memory of every lovers shares his bed and will forever more.
And so, be careful with your love. Do not give it casually. Take the risks you must to find the love you must. But remember that each love is a marriage and each will be a part of you forever. Each decreases, by the smallest amount, your capacity to give yourself totally to another, because each one fills a small space in your heart that can never be occupied by another. Chose carefully, thoughtfully and tenderly. Touch in its own strange way has a memory of its own.