Monday, August 19, 2013

Unarmed Conflict

I feel conflicted. To say the least.

Marcos and I have been dating for almost 2 months. In that short period it's become routine for us to spend time with his sister, Jessica, and two nieces, Alissa, age 3, and Arianna, age 2. Saturday afternoon we trucked our way to Southwest Bakersfield for another such occassion. Alissa and Arianna were thrilled, as always, to see their Uncle Marc. Immediately, Alissa grabbed me by the hand and pulled me down the hall to show me the makeshift house that had been built out of blankets in her room. I "ooo"ed and "aah"ed before moving to the kitchen to join the grown-ups at the table.

Alissa scaled the length of my leg and the pub-style chair to place herself in my lap. She's an active child and already I've learned that still moments with her are rare and so I enjoyed the brevity during which she leaned her head against my shoulder before she resumed her squirming and squealing. Arianna, a more introverted sort, watched quietly from Marcos' lap but was quick to join in Alissa's proposal for a game of hide and seek. I was instructed to close my eyes and count. I accepted the instruction graciously and obediently counted to ten before wandering down the hall, loudly acknowledging that I was on my way, ready or not. Both of the girls were curled up conspicuously in the open and shrieked with amusement when I "discovered" them. I was then informed that Alissa would count next, and I should hide.

"There." Alissa pointed to her same hiding space. "Hide right there, okay?"

My forehead wrinkled. I didn't really see how I could win the game if I hid exactly where she told me to. "If I hide there, you'll know where to find me." Alissa regarded me skeptically. At three years old, Alissa's face is well-defined, and so are her facial expressions. She never hesitates to show me that she thinks I'm full of nonsense. "Okay, okay," I concede. "You count. I'll hide." She disappeared in a scurry down the hall and I moved swiftly to wedge myself behind her bedroom door. Arianna followed me behind the door. I looked down at her, and she peered up at me with striking blue eyes, and I ignored the constriction of my heart from the longing for my own son as I tried instead to enjoy this moment with a child who is almost exactly the same age Gabriel would be. I pressed my index finger to my lips in a signal to stay quiet, and Arianna tucked her neck into her shoulders with a shy giggle. I could hear Alissa return to find that we were not where she expected us to be. She finally found us when Arianna, limited to the patience of a two year old, wandered out from behind the door. There was more squealing and more laughter as we returned to the kitchen.

The night before, Marcos and I had taken Jessica out to celebrate her birthday. Her opportunities to go out have been severely limited since she's been home caring for her two children and working on a second Master's degree. She was clearly paying the price for a night of fun with a post-fun headache. I thought to myself about all of the nights that I have been out since Gabriel passed. I thought briefly of the ways that my life would be different today if he had lived. I wondered if I am selfless enough to give up the fun and the friends and the bars for another attempt at motherhood.

That evening I made my Shakespearean trek to Tehachapi to visit Marcos. I was thoughtful as my car climbed its escape from Bakersfield to the small mountain town. I miss my son. I want another chance to share my maternal love with another baby of my own, but I'm afraid. What if it happens ten more times? What if there are ten more miscarriages, or ten more fatal defects? Can I survive?

Can I even survive what might be necessary to get myself to the possibility of another family? I want love, I want to be in love, and I want to be loved, perhaps even more than I want more children. I want someone to grow with. I want romance. I want companionship. I want a partner for the rest of my life. Yet I find myself resisting my chances. I'm scared. I've been abandoned by way of suicide and by divorce, and I don't know what's left out there that can hurt me anymore but I can't help but fear what comes next. The scars I've obtained from the years of faithful trust in the idea of true love have begun to thicken and I find myself guarded. When I think of cold dead eyes and a cold dead body and the pieces of my warm and beating heart that they each stripped from me I, a woman who has never been afraid to feel with abandon, now become closed off.

As I laid with my legs and feet stretched across Marcos' lap while we watched a movie I caught my eyes wandering towards him.  I admonished myself not to mess this up, not to let this man get away. My heart wants to leap, and take any chance to find what I feel I've been searching for my entire life. But my head shakes furiously in warning, scolding me not to put us through all of that again. My body is at war with its conflicting, visceral needs to be both loved and protected. I know that there's a cost of doing battle and a price to being victorious. I know that I will inherently lose if I don't fight for what I desire - and I've always been willing to fight for all of this before, and fearless when it came to laying all I had on the line armed only with an exposed and vulnerable heart. I guess I'm just not sure anymore how much more my weathered heart can afford.