I was young; I was anxious; I was bound to an archaic concept of me.
She smoothed my mind and body with her sunny day thoughts and yoga softened hands.
I agreed to her assumptions and her understated demands.
That first summer we gloried in the eagerness of our interconnected loins. Each morning we smothered each other in kisses that lingered after the passion had moved in the way it must. As our climaxes led us into stillness and soft murmurings we settled down with our pre-breakfast habit of Figs and Rooibos tea. We sipped the tea from hand-painted china cups. We chose the figs from the hand-blown glass bowl that always stood on the bedside table. We lay propped on a dozen bountiful cushions on our big round mahogany bed. We sighed in contentment as yearnings became satiated and bodies became still.
We marvelled as rays of fresh sunlight entered our bedroom window from over the bay. That light reflected from our crystals and dream catchers and from our eyes as we gazed lovingly into each others’ souls. We knew ourselves as privileged in our balconied and engardened beachside cottage.
And yet we took that privilege for granted, as our due, through our affirmative mind-states, and we congratulated each other unceasingly on the manifestations of abundance we continued to achieve from our lithe and positive young minds.
In the middle of those hot summer days, after she had gone to her job as a personal assistant in the city, as I sat alone at my desk in the blind-shaded front room, and tended to my freelance architectural design work, I often was visited by the long familiar pain and the longing in my heart for something I could not quite discern. I sometimes told her of these negative emotional events in the evenings as we ate our tempura and organic green salad, and we both agreed that with will power and intent I could turn those feelings around to the light. She also seemed to have her black times when her moodiness and silences darkened the cottage and I treaded softly so as not to disturb.
Together we denied the possibility that life could go in any other direction than how we planned. We spoke softly sometimes of the babies that would come to us at the right time. We did not take active steps to bring this about. We allowed our bodies to merge and we both deeply believed the souls who had already decided to come to us for caring in their preparation for a new lifetime of spiritual education on the material plane, would arrive at the moment of their own choosing. We felt snug with the investments that our families had set up for us on our marriage. We knew we would need to work in our professions for some time yet but that whatever happened some monthly income would accrue to us for the rest of our natural lives. We agreed it good to tithe a small sum regularly to the local charities as a mark of our humble duty and in recognition of compassion to the less fortunate.
We kicked sand along the beach as we walked in the cool evenings and sometimes we would laugh and proclaim “The world is our Oyster and a damn yummy one it be!” It was our little personal coupledom mantra, our mission statement for the life being created for us by our deeper intent as we moved resonantly into our love.
My anxiety and depression seemed to have faded from the constant presence it used to be. The regular brief visits of that darkness as I sat alone at my work desk just confirmed to me that I needed more people in my life. From the time I had met Aleena the year before my emotional state had improved and there was no need to assume this was caused by anything than the finding of the love and companionship of my soul mate. Surely the remnants of lonely darkness would loosen away also as I began to socialise with the small circle of friends we were cultivating. We determined to attend a dinner party at least once every weekend and in between to have a few friends over for a nice cosy evening of Games and White Wine. I began applying for full time positions in architecture companies even though for the income there was really no need. People around me would perk up my slightly gloomy days, I believed. This perhaps was an ancient concept of me.
The beginnings of Intimacy:
Before the day Aleena had first invited me to her bed in her little apartment I had very little positive experience of sex and intimacy. Those arts had eluded me for the decade or so since I left school. A small number of young women had succumbed to my charms but a few weeks would go by and somehow they stopped returning my messages and my shyness prevented me following things up. I always assumed there was something wrong with me as in my eyes they were perfect. I asked my male friends about this over a beer and inevitably they would advise me to man up and be more assertive about my needs and wants. I could not argue against that. I felt usually a murky presence in my mind that prevented me conveying much at all to my dates other than the pleasantries I knew were expected of me. The girls seemed confused too, claiming that yes they liked me, but then after a few times in the hay, just disappearing as if they had never existed.
Once I saw pretty Maria walking hand in hand across campus with one of the handsome and desired postgraduate high achievers and I made sure to change my pathway to avoid them seeing me alone. Just a couple of months before Maria had demanded I "keep going; keep going” for what seemed an eternity and I had summonsed up all my grit and determination to give her what she wanted, maintaining my thrusting in what I assumed was the constant firm rhythm she had explained she required, and after she let out a cry of passionate release that embarrassed me she went very quiet and lay inert in my arms before suddenly announcing her parents were expecting her for tea. I could not help but imagine if the burly muscled man walking with her was giving her something I could not achieve. And yet had I not lasted the distance? Women confused me.
I never told Aleena much about Maria or the other ones. She never asked and all I had said was I’d had some very disappointing short relationships before meeting her. She also did not offer details of her intimate life before me and really I just did not want to know. We silently agreed to imagine the past had never existed. In a sense that was so, because all I had imagined and experienced as intimacy turned itself inside out when I began laying with Aleena in the months before she became my wife.
The enigma of privilege:
When we married I had been out of university 3 years and had done my internship with the pre-eminent architecture firm to which my uncle had introduced me. It was a forgone conclusion that my uncle’s recommendation to his old school mates on the board would lead to my taking up the junior position on a fast track to a permanent job as an Architectural Design Engineer. Very little was demanded of me in the internship and I often spent my days drawing sketches of Eastern Pagodas or Rooftop Helicopter Pads that really had no hope of realisation in the briefs of the businesslike clientele who I met in the conference rooms at times. Somehow my drawings were incorporated into the First Consult Outcome Documentation that the clients paid immensely for, usually in an appendix with a heading like “Other possibilities”, or “Lateral Thinking Background”. By the Main Design Proposal my drawings had always disappeared, but I was always congratulated for the “Creative Input”. My uncle and I would have dinner monthly and always he would suggest that the managers were very happy with my progress. At that point he would usually remind me that if my father were still alive he would be very proud of me. I never knew how to reply to that as a knot in my stomach would appear from nowhere and I would cough into my ironed handkerchief and quickly pour myself a glass of Perrier from the magnum and as I recovered my composure I would ask politely if he would like some more water too.
I remember the days well, at the beginning of the second year in the company, and talk was that in the coming months the paperwork for the permanent position would need to be undertaken. I listened to my manager as he reminded me that the company had an obligation to its shareholders to advertise the position and interview only the top candidates. I was asked if I had read the position requirement statements thoroughly and could I think about how I would respond to questions like “What motivates me to deliver my best?” and “Please give an example of a project you delivered on that you are particularly proud of”. I always mumbled something as close to a yes as I could summons up and averted my eyes so the panic inside me could not be seen.
I cannot explain why these panic attacks came upon me so frequently at that time. I was really being given an easy ride into the company. The thought of needing to present myself well even to an audience who had previously decided that I would be given the role, overcame me with what I can only describe as apocalyptic terror. The facts just did not stand up. I could not explain myself even to myself and had not even endeavoured to discuss the attacks with any others aside from the counsellor I had found. I went to her only 5 times and was reluctant even with her to convey the extent of the panic. I described my condition as anxiety and she had stepped me through some thought patterns and breathing exercises and recommended I do some evenings of group therapy work that she led. I said I would think about that and had just not gone back. It had been 3 months since my last visit to her. The anxiety was the same and the attacks of panic arose as if from nowhere, periodically, giving me the feeling that I must be on the edge of normal sanity. I could not imagine committing myself to a professional routine and to keep up the front of composure that I seemed to have managed reasonably well thus far. I was considering just disappearing. Perhaps getting a plane ticket to Columbia and starting a new life.
In the evenings after the company disgorged its middle level workers at 5.10pm I walked a lot, aimlessly pacing the streets around the office, eating some Chinese noodles in a cheap cafe, wandering though the department stores inspecting new shirts and raincoats that I knew I did not need, before taking a late train back to my suburb. I could not throw away the conviction that I was being watched in all this. The people at the intersections waiting for the lights to change would always avert their heads slightly as I glanced at them as if to indicate ‘No, we are not looking at you.’ I would pretend not to notice. I practiced the steady slow breathing the counsellor had taught me. The anxiety was ever present and no amount of correct breathing could alter that, however the embarrassing edges where panic made me suddenly articulate - quite audibly - a fear like “I don’t want that!” abated and I could present myself as what I considered fairly normal. Some of the people in the streets were onto me though, I knew that.
I began composing an email to Cliff, the personnel manager responsible for my relationship with the company. I drafted and re-drafted it over a period of a week. It took up the majority of my time in that week, but nobody noticed, as there was no call for creative input into new client consultations. At one point the email was 17 paragraphs long with sub-headings, an executive summary and a conclusion. On the Friday morning before the week when interviews would be scheduled I summonsed up my courage and sent the latest draft. It was quite short by now:
I have considered my options and feel my future is not best served in the company. I will not be following through with my application for the permanent position. I understand that officially my internship is out of date already and I thus give notice of one week before I depart. Do let me know if the company requires me to remain longer than that.