“I miss being in love with someone else. I have a partner, a spouse, whom I love and adore — my ride or die. We’re in an open relationship, and I’m currently seeing a couple of other people; one is incredibly fun and intensely sexual, the other smoldering but long distance, the third is, well, it’s really just a friendship at this point even though we’ve had sex many times.
I miss being in love. The other partner I had that I could say I truly loved has gone monogamous on me, which I support because she needs and deserves a single, stable partner to build her life with, and of course I can’t claim to love someone if I don’t want what’s best for them — whatever it means for me. But I miss it. The romance, the warm tenderness, and how that translated into passion beneath the sheets. I miss being in love with someone else. That’s really all there is to it.”
Jon looked up from his diary, reading and rereading the words that flowed from his heart onto the page. It was a revelation to him, an inner need he couldn’t place until he’d put the pen to paper. Yes, a pen and paper. He was a hopeless romantic. He knew it was silly, almost foolish, in this culture and this day to view things through the rose-colored veil of romance. The heart wants what it wants, though, and he wasn’t one to deny his desires, not anymore. He spent decades doing that in the cult he was born and raised in. He would dismiss his feelings no more.
And now, having let the words flow from his heart onto the page, he knew what he was missing. He craved the romance, the anticipation, the raging passion for a Second that he was truly, madly in love with.
So often he’d been asked by friends and coworkers how it is that he could be in love with more than one woman at a time. He understood their perplexity, of course. Having been raised in the bullshit puritanical Western Judeo-Christian world of “sex means love” and “you can only truly love one person romantically”, he realized how difficult it can be to see just how big of a lie that is.
It was such a lie. He’d tried to explain it to people. He’d ask them if they’d ever been in love, to which most would answer, Yes. While in love, did they ever notice an attractive person and had thoughts of sex or passion with them – even if they didn’t act on it or show any outward signs of it? Of course they had. We all have. That truth demonstrates that few – if any – of us are biologically monogamous. If you were, you wouldn’t have those feelings while in love with another. But we’re not, and so we do.
If Jon knew they had kids, he would ask them if they had more than one, to which they would answer, Yes. “Why?” he’d ask. “Did you not really love the first one?” That made the point. If they didn’t have kids, he’d ask the same question about their friends. “Do you have more than one?” Of course they would say Yes. “Was the first one not good enough?” Then they would get it.
Most understood after that explanation, but they still didn’t agree. Not because they had any rational arguments against what he was saying, but just because they were more comfortable sticking to their own feelings; feelings borne from the insecurity of losing something they’ve come to identify with: their partner.
Therein laid another problem. To identify with another person in your life was to be incomplete and not whole within yourself. That kind of scarcity mentality could never lead to true peace or happiness. If you don’t think you’re enough, then you’ll lean on the other people in your life, identifying with their presence. But what if they leave, or worse, what if they die in some tragic accident? Who are you now that they’re gone if you identified as “so-and-so’s spouse” or “so-and-so’s best friend”? Other people identify with their occupation, but what happens if they get laid off or fired? Who are you now?
“That’s the insecurity of the Western mentality,” he thought. “You’re never really whole or sound.”
Jon had been the same for most of his life. Having been raised in a cult conservative Christian religion, he was taught to believe that he was sinful, imperfect, “fallen”. That he needed someone else, someone greater than himself, to be made whole. He needed a savior. That belief was fed to him by men who would control his actions through the manipulation of a dusty ancient text written by a tribal people who knew little of Enlightenment or science. A people whose God was an angry, vengeful child that struck out at them anytime they crossed his fickle temperament.
Now Jon chuckled at the foolish naivety of his younger self, and yet were it not for his past, he wouldn’t recognize the tribal cultish behavior of so many groups in the world today. “I am who I am because I’ve been through what I’ve been through,” he often said to himself. And Jon liked who he was now. No, he loved who he was. For the first time in his life, he truly loved and accepted himself. That was a gift worth far more than any occupation or relationship could ever give him.
He set the pen down on the weatherworn diary. He’d purchased it at an antique store years ago. It was a few hundred lined pages sandwiched between a leather cover with the words “Cogito Ergo Sum” embossed on the outside. “I think therefore I am”, the famous words of the French philosopher Rene Decartes. Jon had lived by those words after first exiting the cult. All he could know for sure was that he was consciously aware of whatever this is he was experiencing. Beyond that, nothing was certain, and that left no room for dogmatic religion or even absolute trust in science and “facts”. If everything was an illusion, what were facts but just an expression of the illusory?
As time passed, however, he came to realize that Decartes had it backwards. It’s not “I think therefore I am”, it’s actually “I am therefore I think.” The “I am”, the inner observer, is really what makes thought possible. For without the observer, there would be no one to see the thoughts as they arise. The observer is key. It’s first. It’s the only true reality. Everything else is a hallucination of the mind. Beautiful, visceral, engaging, painful, terrible, wonderful and dull – but still an illusion.
He got up from the desk, glancing briefly out the window at the neighborhood in the morning sunlight. It was a cool December day, the grass having browned and the trees having shed most of their leaves in anticipation of the scarcity of winter. It held an austere kind of beauty in Jon’s mind. That was one of the lessons from the Bible he still agreed with. ‘It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting.’ It was good to reflect on the cold days, for without them it was impossible to appreciate the warmth of summer.
He chuckled inwardly. “You’re such a philosophical romantic,” he thought. But Jon was more than okay with that. It was who he was and he wouldn’t deny his nature. Negative self-talk wasn’t something he ever did anymore. What was the purpose of talking down to yourself? What positive outcome would that ever create? He didn’t see the point in it, and so he didn’t do it. Repentance was no longer in his wheelhouse. If he made a mistake, he apologized. If amends were needed, he did his best to make things right. But self-hate? Jon had no time for such foolishness. It accomplished nothing but holding you back from doing better in the future. If you hate yourself, if you think you’re unworthy, why would you ever accomplish anything good? You can’t. You simply can’t. Christianity would have him believe he was a hopeless sinner, but Jon abandoned that nonsense long ago. If there was a God, then He made Jon this way, and that means Jon was perfect – whatever that means – and he would not look down on himself because he made mistakes.
As he stood up and went into the kitchen, Jon’s right shoulder reminded him of the stress moving furniture from his old house to the new one caused. It would have been better by now but for the two hour romp he had with the redhead beauty that he’d been seeing for the past few months – the intensely sexual relationship. She would be so easy to fall in love with, but it wasn’t what she was after, and he wasn’t about to go down the path of unrequited love. Jon was 46 years old, and although his spirit was young and his mind was open, his body reminded him that age comeith whether he liked it or not.
He walked into the kitchen, the dim light of the microwave casting a warm glow over the small space. The bottles in the door of the refrigerator clanked as he yanked it open. He didn’t know why it was so hard to open this fridge, but it was what it was. “Oh good,” he thought as he scanned the contents of the door. “I still have a triple shot latte left.” He grabbed it, closed the door and cracked open the canister, taking a sip as he made his way into the living room and onto the couch. He had a few minutes before leaving for work, which was plenty of time to text all of the women he was seeing so they knew he was thinking about them – as he often was.
One by one, Jon sent a heartfelt text to the ladies in his life. Always a “good morning”, followed by some personalized, sincere thought. Most of them also had multiple partners. He preferred it that way. Only non-monogamous women could really understand his worldview and how he felt about them. He cared for them more than most of them knew.
One woman especially occupied his thoughts this morning. Sarah. A former Marine, who’d admitted that she only joined the service because her friends were and she knew they’d pay for her schooling when she was out. A gorgeous, voluptuous woman with ocean blue eyes, a graceful, flowing nature and a soft, artsy demeanor that melted his heart every time he was with her.
It had been months since he’d seen her. Her new job, new house far away and her demanding schedule made it almost impossible for her to make the time. Yet she still stayed in touch, reminding him that she thought about him often and hoped to see him “soon”.
Jon thought about Sarah as he drank the latte, sitting on the couch and typing out his morning message to her. She was much younger than him – almost 20 years his junior – yet he never felt that in her presence. She was an old soul, and yet youthful and vibrant, as refreshing as the ocean on your feet as you walk along the beach.
But there was something to be said for the woman he saw that was almost his own age. Betsy, the redheaded beauty that was also a beast in the sack. He reveled in his time with her, and not just because of her sexual intensity. She was brilliant, charming and thoughtful. A wonderful person full of talent and zest. He’d only been seeing her for a few months and yet in that short time she’d become a fixture in his life, a friend and companion whose company he was always grateful for.
Then there was Emily, the most recent woman he’d been “seeing” – though only virtually. She lived far away, in Arkansas, which pained him because of the gravitational pull he felt toward her soul. She was beautiful, soft, sweet and wonderful. They were currently reading a book together, and he loved every moment of the time he could spend with her, even if it was only digitally. Emily was another one Jon knew he could easily fall in love with, if only she were closer – though in time that probably wouldn’t even matter much at all.
Jon drained the last drops of the latte, rubbed his shoulder and put his phone in his pocket. It was time to go to work. He was sure he’d hear from everyone soon. They always responded within an hour or two of his messages. He put on his shoes and went into the bedroom to kiss his spouse and closest friend, Beth, goodbye. She was a gem of a woman, a stunning blonde with a heart of gold and a mind as sharp and hard as a diamond. Jon knew he’d won the lottery with her, and strove never to take her for granted. She embraced him, pushing his face between her bare chest and laughing. “I just wish they were a little bigger,” she said, “so I could motorboat you with them.” Jon had no choice but to laugh in return, the sound muffled between her breasts. They weren’t huge, but they were round and beautiful and proportionate to the size of her upper body, and they were perfectly symmetrical – a fact he’d emphasized the importance of to her many times.
“I love you,” she said. “Have a great day at work.” Jon smiled, returning the sentiments as he held her hand and kissed her knuckles – as was his way.
He got in his car, a brown crossover Infiniti, and pressed the ignition button. The engine growled to life as he set his phone into the holder and turned on the seat warmer. He popped 3 of the gummy vitamins in his mouth from the bottle he kept upside down in the cupholder (so they wouldn’t get stuck on the bottom of the bottle) and backed out of the driveway.
On the way to the car dealership he worked at, Jon walked through all the things he was grateful for in his life. There were so many. His wife, his kids, his girlfriends, his friends, his job, his health, having all of the material things he needed to be comfortable. There was nothing about his life he could complain about. Besides, what would be the point of complaining? It wouldn’t make things different. If he wasn’t happy with something in his life, he worked to change it into something better.
He arrived at the dealership and parked at the bottom lot where all of the employees – except for management – parked. It was a good hike to the building he worked out of, but despite the chill in the air, he enjoyed it. The porters would often drive by and ask if he wanted a ride up to the front, but they knew his answer would be No. He enjoyed the walk. Only if the weather was extreme would he ever take them up on their offer. It was a ritual. He would look at the trees, kiss his hand and hold it to his heart, his right arm and then his left. “Heart, soul, spirit” he said with each touch. Jon had numerous tattoos on his body, and each one – the one over his heart, on his right arm and also his left – were deeply symbolic and meaningful to his life.
The gravel crunched under his feet as he made his way toward the showroom, the gray clouds of winter dominating the sky. He was never the first one to arrive to work – which was probably why he wasn’t the number one salesperson in the dealership – but he didn’t care about that. He wanted to make a decent living, but had no ambitions for wealth anymore. He’d achieved that in the past, and it taught him that the cliché everyone knows (but nobody seems to believe) is actually true: money doesn’t buy happiness. So he did his job well, but wasn’t fixated on money anymore. There were more important things to focus on.
It was a long, almost 12 hour shift, filled with the comradery of friendship with the other salespeople he’d come to know and love over the past six months. They often hung out together outside of work at a little dive bar called The Tap. It was their Cheers, their third place, their home away from home. Maybe he drank too much, but Jon wasn’t concerned about that. He was at peace, for the first time after 4 decades of anxiety and “godly” fear. He would live out the rest of his life the way he saw fit.
Jon was humble enough to admit he very well could be wrong about everything – but it didn’t matter to him anymore. Years ago a friend had asked him, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” It was a good question, one Jon now knew the answer to.
After a long, satisfying day, the end of his shift approached, the winter sky dark and the moon bright early in the evening. Jon stepped out into the cool night, looking up into the sky, watching the fog of his breath escape into the air in front of him. It was a beautiful world, a beautiful life, and he intended not to waste a single moment of it. “Namaste,” he thought as he looked up into the heavens. “Namaste…”