How Soon is Now?
on desire and waiting
"Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring."
― St. Catherine of Siena
In his 1977 exposition A Lover's Discourse, Roland Barthes contends that waiting is a constitute of love:
"Am I in love? - Yes, since I'm waiting." The other never waits. Sometimes I want to play the part of the one who doesn't wait; I try to busy myself elsewhere, to arrive late, but I always lose at this game: whatever I do, I find myself there, with nothing to do, punctual, even ahead of time. The lover's fatal identity is precise: I am the one who waits."
Barthes constitutes, with earnest, that love is central to the transmutation of desire into distinguished vacancy - of emptiness into deficiency: Love is waiting, and waiting is love. For St. Catherine, imaginably starved, the absence was God's. For a past self, who was delectably paralyzed with grief, it was a phantom. To the lover, the beloved's absence is always acute. Distance is not a redistribution of presence; but instead an evasion, almost a phantom limb.
To love, to be genuinely seen - is to be jolted out of the self by the mystery and wildness of another person, and the beloved entrances precisely because of their unutterable difference—the most basic and overwhelming vacancy. A lover can be absent even when they might be present because they are situated outside of myself. Desire can be its own Schrödinger's box, where the beloved is both present and absent from me simultaneously.
Barthes reminds us of this truth with the two concepts in Greek for desire: the missing someone who's left, and the more curious sensation of missing someone beside me - someone who is with me but who remains less than fully accessible to me: Pothos, desire for the absent being, and Himéros, the more burning passion for the present being.
Waiting is consuming. At times it is terrible, a wound that cannot be mitigated but must instead be merely survived. There are days when showering and making it to dinner is a feat. Sometimes, waiting is an insult, an indignity, as pointlessly pathetic as refusing to burn old love letters or wipe your camera roll.
There is no true not-waiting, especially in a pandemic, anyway. What seems like fullness is just intimation filling, a prologue to complete dissolution. What I want—to not wait, to converge with you—is impossible. I want everything, all at once, every part of myself touching every part of you. An intimacy as absolute as this would only be violent, a rupture. It would consider your body as no more than a barrier. It would do more than ache; it would hurt. I have wanted to admit you into my privacy: I have craved feasts of deviance, trespass, and violation. And at times, I have wanted you to wrench me apart and enter into you until the only life I remember is your life, and the only word I remember is your name.
But this isn't possible, and I don't really want it, anyway. If I were an embedded part of you, I would not be apart from you, and there would be no me in opposition to you, no ineffable you to elude me. So instead, I choose to endure and unfold with the joy I find in surrender, in flinging myself at everything I encounter with the brutality of adoration and devotion. I want to be in love with both the mystery and discovery of the world around me. It sure beats being in love with a revenant who can only be reanimated through rituals of perpetual loss.
For years, I used to walk around touching things that Melissa gave me because they, in turn, could possess me. Grief was a haunting. No-one can compete with a ghost—especially one that's stitched together from disillusionment and denial. I had burned an effigy of her words on my heart: I love you beyond the end of everything. And as long as she remained the fragmented standard by which I measured - anyone who came near me blistered. I believed I could endure my way into vindication; and there’s a tragic reality to realizing that I likely would be still attempting that if she were alive today.
The whole purpose of adoring God to the point of such delicious abjection is that he is by nature unattainable. An unattainable love never truly arrives. They never show up at your doorstep with takeout and dance with you in your kitchen. They don't disappear early in the morning to return with gas-station coffee. They don't leave you on your doorstep while you're pleading internally for them to stay and spend one more night. And by never truly arriving, they never really abandon us either.
To that - I'd prefer to board one more plane and be left again the way you can leave another country. I have found that "inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give."