The Lovers


The Lovers
by Amy Bobeda

You pull the Lovers. In your deck, they are a medieval prince and princess.  Her dress is pink or blue. She wears a heninn like Maid Marion in Disney’s Robin Hood, my favorite movie.   In my deck they are naked, holding the apple. Their roundness cannot be ignored. 

On nights I am not there, I imagine your body radiates orange, as your true body, a blue cloud of dust and smoke hovers above the linen bedspread. 

I dreamt that we were soldiers in the mediterranean sand, not long after I met you.  Centuries ago, brothers in trenches.  You died first.  I watched the blood leave your body as the air stopped breathing you.  It was unclear whether I could not forgive myself or you.  A week later, you said the same thing to my friend. Actually, you said, she was my friend first, she shit in front of me in the mediterranean. It’s not weird; we were both men. 

 It is August, and I am visiting for the first time, and I don’t know why I am nervous. When was the last time I was in a man’s apartment? March, I suppose, back in your temporary place, where we met, in Berkeley.  Where you made pizza in a frying pan and I wished to eat and impress you but found myself catatonic on the cheap Ikea couch when you said I was not living fully. 

I am confounded by the inextricable strangeness of living. 

In the Creative Tarot, Jessa Crispin opens with, I have a secret for you. The Lovers is kind of a terrible card

We both read the cards with interiority.  To us, the Lovers would never mean a budding romance.  I am often sorry for the wounding our bodies have suffered in pursuit of love, that makes the romantic inextricably hard. 

Ancient Persian has eight words for love.  I consider this sitting on your favorite possession, the blue Persian under the iron legs of your coffee table.  Images of Turkey cycle through the tv screen.  We are both here and not here in your studio apartment. 

Sanskirt has 98 words for love.  Translator, Andrew Schelling, jokes they are all sexual positions.  That each word in Sanskrit has at least one meaning that is a sexual position.

I have not allowed my body to trust another, in quite some time.  I am aware you haven’t either.  It takes a week to let you touch me, sit next to me without a pillow or blanket between us.  It is August in Brooklyn and I cover myself in the sweats and sweatshirt you bought when my luggage did not make it from Paris. 

I cried, naked in the airport hotel bed the night my things went missing on the carousel.  The night my flight was rerouted.  I pulled the Wheel of Fate that morning, and was grateful it was upright.  I boarded the defective plane and sat for an hour before waiting the rest of the day in the airport.  The man next to me was bound for Denver, my future home.  The fiction writer from the workshop said hello for the first time, and told me about his new job offer that had nothing to do with writing.  He was alarmingly excited and had the roundness of a cartoon character.  I was upset I did not buy you macaroons that night my things went missing, and you asked “what kind of underwear do you wear?” in a text message.  

I did not answer you out of shame, afraid to overstep the muddy boundaries of our friendship.  I  washed my underwear in the sink for three days.  Now we joke about the natural grocery store near the cat cafe where we bought my organic undies. 

I read there are four types of intimacy. Emotional, spiritual, metal, and physical. From the Latin intimare, to impress, make familiar. My old self remembers wanting to impress you in order to become familiar.  My current self wonders how familiar we will become.  From the Latin intimus, inmost, I wonder how far into myself I will let you burrow, but pretend my concern is the other way around. 

English has a single word for love.  Robert Johnson says our vocabulary is poverty-stricken for feeling.  I can relate to the countless times you’ve asked me how I feel, as if a small explosive has deadened inside my body.  There is nothing left in the vocabulary of absence. 

I do a love meditation to rewire my brain.  Asked to return to an image or sensation of love, I search the periphery of my memory bank.  My body is cold.  Nothing happens.  I place my thumb and index finger together as instructed.  To return to this place at any time. 

Before you leave Berkeley, we bake cookies three nights in a row at two am.  We have a night off, and I drive you to Whole Foods because we’re out of gluten free flour.  I say we because our bodies have fused without touching, like granules of sugar melt into the brown butter you ask me to stir on the stove.  It bubbles.  Little films of matte coating line my stomach’s insatiable hunger. 

You kiss me repeatedly on the forehead the last few nights before I go.  Outside, standing next to my car.  The same white van parked in front of it.  The license plate starts with an O.  

I dream our faces are pressed together.  The next morning, I remember you are gone.  I live in Berkeley three more months, some days it feels like a part of you lives there too. 

On the day you pull the Lovers, I don’t remember what we do.  Maybe a trip to a museum, or a walk through Central Park.  Another stop for coffee and chocolate, or an hour at the cat cafe.  Another gluten free waffle for dinner.  The last episode of Stranger Things plays.  I hide under the faux fur blanket.  In the scary moments we hold hands. 

I do not like the clammy feeling of someone else’s skin when it is inescapable.  This is what I should have told Kevin Williams in ninth grade when he asked to hold my hand at lunch.  He was my imaginary boyfriend for two weeks, until my fear of being touched came between us. 

Crispin goes on to say, the Lovers is about passion, about allowing yourself to be overwhelmed, about allowing a love to be ferrel without needing to domesticate it. 

At two am, pictures of Turkey glow on the screen.  Slowly, our faces press together, gently like my cat nuzzling the carpet in the afternoon sunlight to get my attention or experience her softness against itself.  I am surprised, apprehensive and thirsty. We separate, unglue our bodies, hoping for clearer headS in the morning to consider what we’ve done. 

I don’t know how much you sleep that night. I lie awake staring at the electric candles reflecting off the wall, waiting. 

Crispin finishes: the Lovers is something we have to live up to; it does not arrive neatly wrapped up in an understandable package. That would be easy.  And the Lovers is always hard.


Amy Bobeda is a writer living in Colorado pursuing her MFA at Naropa University. She is the founder of Wisdom Body Collective and the Ekphrasis Salon. Her work can be seen in Ursa Minor, Humble Pie, We’ll Never Have Paris, and Nabalo Magazine.

Image source: Jen Thompson/Unsplash

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