Eileen Myles on the Excruciating Pain of Waiting for Love

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Photo: General Photographic Agency

This week, the Cut brings you True Romance: five days of stories about love as it’s actually lived.

I met this really beautiful woman at an artist colony and we had a terrific affair and if you don’t know it colonies are good for work or no work and this was a no work summer. She lived with someone back in the city so the understanding was that after our time at the colony we wouldn’t be lovers anymore but you know I do kind of believe happy people don’t have affairs. I left the colony first then she did. It was October and we had still never spoken. That was the plan and I was okay with it. I’d take long walks with my dog and I told everyone I could about the wonderful beautiful affair I had had that summer and it excited me the telling but the thing was totally done. I went to the dog run one day and I saw a woman from out of town that I knew and I told her as I would tell anyone that fall all about my love. This woman was a martial artist so of course in her body and her mind she had wonderful powers. Her powers had something to do with geomancy and the earth and balance. She was kind of a warrior witch — and a writer too. She looked at me after I had told her my story and she said and you haven’t called her. She looked deep into my eyes. No I said. She tipped her head just slightly as if her whole musculature was a question mark that dug deep into my spinal column or something. It was everything I could do to stay still and not return that powerful curl. It was doglike and she was the master and we parted in silence soon after that moment. Perhaps that isn’t true. I walked up the steps of my apartment building where I still live and I called the colony lover at work. She was stunned and our conversation was filled with deep pregnant pauses and of course we made a date.

And soon we were at it again, that hot incredible love was on in full force and soon she left her girlfriend in Brooklyn and moved into an apartment close to me and we continued our incredible love. There was a path, just a paved trail between those tall apartment buildings on First Ave connecting my major block (First) with hers which was A and we called it the path because it was an eerie non urban feeling connection between my dwelling and hers, it was part of the fairy tale of our love and we would cross it at all times of day and night sometimes carrying food, sometimes just carrying us and even my dog who was deeply loved by everyone at this time. Rosie basked in our love. But wait none of this has actually happened yet.

First she got the new apartment and then a very good friend of hers who I want to describe as really really controlling suggested that before the lover began seeing me on the heels of her breakup with the other woman she maybe really ought to take some space. She should draw a boundary between one life and another. And that boundary would be marked by candles that they would light and they had a ceremony also it was marked by time. She should take at least two weeks before she saw me. You might wonder what business was it of this friend and what was her investment in keeping two such passionate lovers apart. Did she have a crush on her friend? Who knows. Sometimes people just love their petty power. The whole boundary thing which is all over the culture now at the time seemed pretty new and also pretty lesbian. We are always at the vanguard of relational concepts. You must know that politically correct is ours, uttered by lesbians long before anybody else and it meant people against say perfume in public spaces and boundaries were also like that. We got there first. Probably because of the intensity of woman on woman love we probably need such boundaries the most. Or the idea of them. I think most boundaries never really exist.

But she moved in. They did the ritual involving many candles and I couldn’t come over. Not for a while. The interval I think was two weeks. What did I do. I ran. This is my entire story really. And I bought her a pie. I got one of those really good farmers market union square special strawberry rhubarb pies for like twenty five dollars, a very healthy scrumptious bourgeois pie and gave it to one of the young male movers outside her building on that day and told him that a friend of mine was moving in and I wondered if he wouldn’t mind giving her this pie. That’s a really good-looking pie he said and I agreed and then I went home. And I didn’t hear a word from her.

What could I do. I ran. I lived two small blocks and one large city block away from her so I began a daily run of going north three blocks from my apartment and then heading about two big city blocks east of her down to avenue C and then I guess up to Houston and then turning around and doing it again. I did it until I achieved the three miles I craved (she loved my legs, she had told me once) creating kind of a heat pattern like my love I imagined a red sun burning the whole area and scorching on it a shape that was me circling her building, wild without her, craving her love and having no other powers than to become this allegory, a shape in the neighborhood that she could almost hear, a burning rumbling sound like my heart thumping at hers for ever more.

I don’t know if I did this many times or once. And when I got to the corner of Sixth and C and this was still the good old Lower East Side junkie days when heroin was freely sold in bombed out buildings and people stood on corners wildly stoned there was such a pair a man and a woman standing there and my foot hit the slight depression in the cement on the corner as I spotted them and my ankle badly twisted. My ankle had twisted many times. Six years earlier I was living in Santa Fe for a summer and I twisted my ankle more than once in the arroyo. But I would never stop running. I was always so depressed. It was my natural state and only running once I became a person who neither drank nor smoked cigarettes nor took drugs, this person had only running and sex to make her life calm its fur down and make her capable of writing talking and thinking. My natural state was so out of control that it had to be medicated almost to death and since I didn’t want to die I had nothing but this, running and sex. I would twist my ankle again and again. I would stop and feel terrible, start running again as soon as it healed but this was the big one, the San Andreas fault, a pain that went to the absolute nerve center in my bones and my very existence. I have never felt pain like this before and I hopped on one foot howling like a dog and the junkies kept staring into my eyes unknowing what this phenomenon was. Pain? What could that be. Everything I was they weren’t. Desire, lust, frustration, energy, animal pounding and satisfaction, the end. Not a bit of this was in their vocabulary. In their black eyes was the pool of satiation of the totally stoned. I suppose in its way it was one of the most elegant moments in my life yet. An hour-glass of want flipping to one extreme and then the other. And all because of a curve in the cement. New York City! I called the cops without a cell phone somehow. Perhaps I had a quarter and I was taken to the hospital and they said yeah that’s a bad one. Stay off it for at least a month and they gave me crutches and sent me home.

Surely I thought now that I am on crutches she will see me. I called her up and told her and she said I’m sorry. That sounds awful. Just that. But she wouldn’t see me. I was devastated. I felt like I had already lost and could have dropped it there. But I didn’t. I remember hobbling to the jitney and visiting my friends in East Hampton and regaling them with my problems and they usually enjoyed hearing about my messed up love life. And what really ruins it now I proclaimed is that I have my big reading at DIA in about a week and I thought that’s when she will see me. She said she would come to my reading but I don’t want to be hobbling up to the mike. I was 18 years older than this woman so any infirmity on my part only underlined our difference. My age when seen like that couldn’t be hot. I can help you said Sally.

She was one of my Hamptons friends. Next day she produced this orthotic device, it was aqua and white, it looked like a polio brace only in plastic. What’s that. I shivered. It’s an air cast. I once went to the special collections and saw James Joyce’s cane and have often thought my air cast should be in there with my notebooks and stuff. Explain it I said practically to Sally.

If you don’t want to wear your crutches to DIA you just put this on and get support. How can that possibly be true. I’m healing now. I need time. You just adjust it to your foot. Ha? I said and I did it.

I also wore kind of high heeled black motorcycle Frye boots doubling the instability of my ankle and then I put the air cast on really tight digging into my already insanely high arch which is probably why I have such ankle problems. But that’s not the point.

The woman walked across town toward me that night and she was very beautiful and she had already travelled from lover to lover in her life and now she is married and she often impishly described her walk that night from the East Village to DIA which is way west in Chelsea as just how long she was ever single in her life. Just the length of that walk. And it was sexy because it suggested that when she was drawing a boundary she was already with me I think or that waiting time in the storytelling sex time of our lives didn’t even exist. She was a beautiful free woman in her life for the length of that walk toward me which is what made it all worthwhile. And at the reading I didn’t hobble. I met her in the street somewhere later on that night and we stayed together for about four years. And in those four years my leg got thin, being sabotaged by my vanity and my unwillingness to wait for love or step off when I knew exactly where that bus was going. Nowhere good. If she could wait like that then the love just wasn’t good. My leg never healed. Frankly it still hurts. It hurts when I drive.

But she was amazing. Driving cross country once we stopped at the Grand Canyon because neither of us had ever seen it. We made it at dusk when it was perfect. Though it was pretty crowded. The light was shimmering on it and her beautiful face and she turned to me with such ecstasy in her eyes and said excitedly if we leave right now we can beat the traffic. She was right. And so we did.