Sunday, October 26, 2008

Whew! Glad I got all that off my chest. Today, a fit of nostalgia instead of guilt. I somehow got to thinking about a long-past obsession I had over a Portuguese guy on my co-ed soccer team in Rhode Island about five years ago. Part of the obsession was my first husband's fault. He wouldn't sleep with me for 33 months because I once said he smoked too many cigarettes which made me not want to have children with him. I figured he would be likely to die before they were able to drive. It was not a particularly sensitive thing to say, but the intention was good: I wanted him to quit smoking. Addicts are astoundingly skilled at protecting their habits; he immediately transformed my words into "You are not good enough to be the father of my children, you dirtbag." This imagined insult had such a hurtful effect on him that he never again had sex with me. Really. No matter how many times I told him that my words were directed at a behavior, not at his essential being, he insisted on misunderstanding what I said. It was absurd. So, around the age of 30, at my sexual prime, I was married to someone who, for the next almost-3 years, refused to sleep with me. We never had sex after that point. To keep this short, despite my growing resentment (and increasing libido) I did not violate the agreement that was our marriage until after I filed for divorce. Then, I went after this guy on my soccer team. I didn't and don't even know that much about him. What I did know indicated that it would be difficult to find anyone less likely to be an appropriate love interest for me. Still, the barbed-wire tattoo on his arm and the stories he told about Portugal gave me goosebumps. And when it all came down, I was so overwhelmed by this intersection of my day-to-day life and what had become a painfully constant fantasy world in my head, I really think I lost all sense of reality. This was probably the closest I have ever been to psychotic. The guy was barely literate. He had finished 8th grade. He was nice, but probably not very. Maybe it was chemical. I read in an alumni magazine last year an article about research on the influence our sense of smell has on our emotions. The research reported that a head cold that lasts for two weeks can prevent women and men from processing smells unique to their partners that keep them emotionally primed for intimacy. These are specific smells that attract some and repel others; the scientists have even developed a natural selection process based on smell. Why am I writing about smells? Anyway, I was blown AWAY by this guy--or my ideas about this guy (or his smell?). I don't know how I got anything done that year. All I thought about was being with him--not necessarily sleeping together, although that was a significant part of it--but also the satisfaction of being wanted after being concertedly not wanted for several years. Anyway, today, I was remembering that period and how I had once found a passage in Othello that captured exactly what I was feeling. I looked it up in an online concordance. And the weird thing is that when I read the lines I could feel my heart clinching up and my ears going cold--an inexplicable ache, a yearning in the bottom of my throat.

[ . . . ] If it were now to die,
'Twere now to be most happy; for, I fear,
My soul hath her content so absolute
That not another comfort like to this
Succeeds in unknown fate. (Othello 2.1.974-978)

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