Every morning I wake up to her. Sometimes she lies with me, quietly, and helps me ease into the day. Most times she is impatient, insistent. She won’t accept anything less than the complete enforcement of her presence upon me. She will not dictate my actions, but her presence alone spurs me forward, outward, into motion, away from her, but yet always within her embrace.
We didn’t meet by accident, or by design. One morning – our first – I awoke to her touch, and although unfamiliar, it wasn’t foreign, or frightening, and I found myself retracing the previous night’s adventures in an attempt remember the details of our little indiscretion.
She visited me often, never giving any indication she would stay, or any idea of when she might return. To say we felt love would be an exaggeration. We were intimate, she knowing far more about me than I her, but we weren’t beholden. I knew she had others, I knew some of them were better men than me, more deserving. I knew they had fought to earn her attention, while I had simply gone about my life, waiting for her to randomly show up, never really knowing what it was to love her, to need her, or to lose her.
As the years went by, my life got quiet, I settled down, I got comfortable. Fewer wild nights led to fewer nights together, until I rarely saw her at all. The few times she did show up, my resentment was so much that I rejected her, and soon she simply never returned. I began to erase all memory of her, and life became easy, comfortable even.
I never understood what her touch meant to me until years had passed, and I looked into the mirror to see an old, tired man staring back. The smile that had come so easily when I was younger now felt forced and awkward. The years of comfort had softened all my lines, and I no longer felt invincible. I was ashamed of this face that I wore, it had grown soft to hide the scars, and the eyes simply stared back. There was no fire, no spark. I had become a drone.
I knew full well that she had been the catalyst. She was the sum total of my failures, my weakness, and my humility. I had embraced her, accepted her, and made her mine, and in return she molded me into the man I wanted to become.
Age is a funny thing. At some point you realize and accept your mortality, the fearlessness that youthful ignorance infuses you with is finally challenged, and you need to make a choice, destiny or self-determination.
If you choose self-determination, you recognize that you are the sole arbiter of your fate, and thus you may take greater steps to protect yourself from an untimely end through unnecessary risks.
Destiny commands that you accept your fate, at whatever time and place it may come, and with that the freedom of mind to engage, with reckless abandon, this playground we’re given.
Instinctively we avoid her, but we forget that her opposite is numbness. She reminds us of our weakness, humbles us by how much our fragile bodies can endure, and forces us to recognize that we aren’t judged by our words, but by our actions.
I awoke every morning thereafter and felt her absence hanging in the room. Although I had gone so long without her, I hungered for her touch. Apathy had smothered me, jealously guarding me from a life filled with failures, skinned knees, and bruised egos. There was nothing left to do, but start moving.
I moved slowly at first, gasping as my lungs protested the cold November air. I pushed hard up the mountain trail, but the heaving and retching of my lungs was too much to continue, and defeated, I crawled home.
Every day I moved, eventually convincing my lungs to process enough oxygen to keep my doughy frame in flight. Each morning I awoke alone, the only witness to my solitude a pair of muddy runners, beckoning a return to their mountain playground.
Days passed, snow turned to rain, the mountain streams gave up their icicles for green mossy rocks, and my lungs filled with spring air, thick and heavy from fresh rain and damp earth. I ran further, my breath no longer holding me back, my legs finding rhythm, my mind finding silence, and the endorphins started trickling slowly through me. For a moment I forgot about the man who had hijacked my reflection, I forgot about being old, and I forgot about being tired.
I awoke the following day to find her, waiting. No words were spoken, no explanations needed. She simply lay with me as she had so often before. Whereas before I had only noted her presence, I now revelled in it, like the essence of life itself was rekindled, sparking and sputtering beneath my skin with her every touch. Tentatively, I turned to the trail-stained shoes to negotiate an off day, that I might lie with her longer, but the instinct was too strong, and in a moment I was in motion again. Her touch lingered with me the entire day like the memory of a lover’s perfume, every thought of it was exhilarating.
She arrived every morning after that, and every day just as the last I thought of breaking my stride to lie with her, exhale through the pillows and let the morning take me slowly into the day. Every day just as the last I awoke with her and went to the mountain.
Today, I know her like she knows me. She is my constant companion, she is my muse. She is the path to my best self, my greatest ambitions, and noblest pursuits. She is my pain, and she is my concubine.