Love.

 

No one teaches you how to do it or how to receive it, we just all assume (and I think wrongly) that because it is so fundamental then you are just expected to know how to do it. It’s just such a fundamental skill or ability that it should just come automatically, like manna from heaven or some other tortured metaphor of your choice.

 

Love, like the act of thinking might just happen (seemingly) naturally; but someone needs to actually teach you either explicitly, by omission, or by example to do it. Like the act of thinking, if we leave you to love intuitively then you may just not do it.

 

Who doesn’t know a person who doesn’t think things through and (or?) is a disaster in or with love.

 

The same-sex-partner of my choosing told me yesterday that I am overthinking absolutely everything in my life while I am here. He’s on to something, but ultimately all you have here is time to think. You watch your feet plod on, crunch, crunch, crunch, and you see the sky that seems endless and the horizon far ahead that will never near and all you have is time to think.

 

Not just think about what’s for lunch (tortilla de patata or a bocadillo de jamon Serrano, siempre) but about things that matter. I think if you’ve never done this Camino or something similar then it’s very difficult to explain it. Which sounds like a cop out really, I understand that, but the camino is a bit like meditation combined with hard labour for eight hours a day for a whole month or more.  That’s the best way I can describe it and on reflection, it’s the best way to describe it. Maybe even the only way.

 

I’ve been thinking about what it means to be me, who I am and who I think I am, which it turns out are two incredibly different things. I’ve been thinking about my life as lived and how I’d like it to be lived. I’ve been thinking about my lovers past and certainly present. Lover present, I should say, I don’t have the will or stamina for anything but a singular present lover. I’ve been thinking about loving them all and having been loved by them. I’ve been thinking about love itself and when I have felt truly loved or at the very least, protected.

 

I’m very lucky to have felt loved a lot during my life. While great parts of my life can be characterised as having been filled with heartache and violence, it was and still is interspersed with moments of pure love and kindness. In fact, if anything can be said about who I am is that I am the product of a million acts of kindnesses. I truly believe that.

 

However, there’s one early moment that really stands out in my memory. As you may or may not know, when we first came to Australia as refugees we were placed in a detention centre. Just to be clear, we were not in detention ourselves but the Enterprise Migrant Hostel in Springvale was a detention centre for some. I liken it to being like hotel California. We could check out any time we liked but we could never leave, where were We going to go to?

 

The place was pretty openin terms of its geography or its norms but it had some rules. One of them was that meals were had only in the cafeteria and food could not be taken to your rooms. Needless to say that everyone broke this rule, my mum used to even make cottage cheese in our dorm. Because white people food, which is all they served in the cafeteria was actually, truly, awful. It was good completely foreign to us even though it was just simply de rigeur for our hosts. Lamb and gravy? Yuck.

 

Anyway, meal times were set because there were a lot of us there. So there had to be some order or chaos, more chaos, would ensue.

 

Somewhere and somehow I had become quite sick, I would have been barely six and in a new country suffering my first Melbourne winter. I was so sick that I had slept past or didn’t want to go to eat at the set eating time.

  

When I did eventually wake, I was hungry and ready to eat, except the cafeteria was closed or in the process of closing. My parents both marched me to the cafeteria insisting that if I was going to get better I needed to eat, set eating times be damned.

 

Anyway, we sat down as the cafeteria ladies were cleaning tables and setting them for the breakfast the day after. They were mopping and really just wanting us to get the fuck out of there. My parents both begged or pleaded for food, which I got so I managed to just sit there and eat.

 

The hostel (detention centre) staff were either gently coercing us to leave so they could do the same or were outright demanding we left so they could do the same. My father told them, in Spanish that they had to wait because I was not done. The staff’s demands grew louder and more impatient to the point of becoming gentle threats. 

 

My father, not wanting me to be rushed as I was still with a fever grabbed a plate that was laden with dessert and threw it on the floor and it shattered into pieces and spread that smooth custard you can only get from packets or in institutions, all over the cafeteria floor.

 

With that action he demanded that I be given time to eat so that I could recover and that I would not be rushed in my illness. It also gave the cafeteria staff more to clean up and also gave us more time to sit there so I could eat.

 

I have very seldom felt protected by my father, in fact, that’s the only time I remember feeling protected and loved by him.

 

So I sat there and ate and then went to bed to recover. 

 

Not all my memories of him are bad, not all of my memories of him are painful. The thing with the power he held over me is that it was based on fear. Once what you fear isn’t scary anymore then it has no power over you.

 

I remember feeling very protected and safe at that particular time and I hope that I can pass that feeling (and many more) onto others.  

 

***

 

In other news, this is the national flower of El Salvador and I casually stumbled upon it here in northern Spain. It’s a sign, I’m sure of it.  

 

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*** 

The Camino, all you have is time to think. It’s exactly like meditating while doing hard labour as punishment for all of your crimes.   

Even though I’m not really selling it, you should try it some time. It is very life changing, cliched as it sounds.

 

Another time where I have felt truly loved by another human being was more recently. A lot more recently. Despite appearances I am terribly shy and absolutely and completely scared of people, what they think about me and their rejection. 

 

I am very rarely the first to act on anything, whether it be a romantic relationship or - well, anything.  

 

If you’ve ever met my Piedmontese you know that he’s probably got the opposite affliction, it took me a long time to make the first move, let alone kiss him. I remember when and where too, and it was so lovely.  I didn’t make the first move at all, he had to (and was waiting for me to) I just couldn’t set out to kiss such a stunning human being lest he just reject the fuck out of me. I still hold that I leaned in for the kiss first, even though he probably did it.

 

That wasnt the time I’m thinking of though, it’s when he held my hand in public. It takes a whole lot of nerve for a man to hold another man’s hand in public anywhere. It’s not only an act of love but also one of pride, subversion and defiance all at once.  

 

He held my hand, he does everywhere. It melts my heart all the time. There is no greater honour in life than having someone that wants nothing more than your company. Someone that wants to hold your hand knowing that people will stare and snicker and smirk and smile and encourage you and be glad and not care at all and despite or in spite of all of that he still wants to hold your hand. That’s love. He even holds my hand as he’s going to sleep, every single night. 

 

Imagine having someone who just just wants to hold your hand, despite what you think of yourself. 

 

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