Let’s face it, attraction can be very attractive. And disastrous. Right now I’m going to focus on the attractive. My friend, Callie, came over the other day to cut down a tree in my yard. She would correct me here and use the word “fell,” fell a tree. Well, we felled it alright. She did. My job, because I don’t use a chainsaw, was to pull on the rope people pull on in order to get the tree to fall in the perfect spot. So I was the linesman and she was the sawyer, and together we felled that tree that wasn’t really a tree but a sucker from the old apple twenty feet away that looked deathly this spring. I guessed the sucker belonged to it and, like an incorrigible child, was stealing its energy. I’m happy to report that the old apple is leafing out more enthusiastically than before.
When we were done, it was time to sit on the grass and enjoy our accomplishment. It was also time to speak frankly about our lives and listen to what came out of our mouths when we weren’t thinking. I heard myself say: “I’ve lost my ability to be attracted to people.”
“Really?” said Callie. “That doesn’t seem right.”
“I try, but it feels impossible. I miss that energy.”
Maybe it will come back, we decided. Maybe that source of energy isn’t needed right now. After all, there are countless sources. But each has its own set of colors and shapes, and the attraction energy is a color and shape now missing from the spectrum.
When thinking about it later, after we jumped Callie’s truck, or tried to, and she went off to buy a new battery, then went on her way, I realized I’d spent most of my life occupied with attraction, and for some years now I was actually quite happy to be free of it. I didn’t really think about its absence until I articulated it as a loss. We don’t notice until we do, and often that turning point comes at the moment we feel an emotion about something. We attach an emotion to an event, in this case sadness to lack of attraction, then we’re programmed to think we’ve just located an emotion that was always there. Sometimes that leads to a heightening of the emotion, which is like throwing a welcome home party for a shy person who’d really rather hide in the closet. It was strange, this sudden sadness, this acknowledgement of loss. If a certain energy had gone missing, where was it now?
Swimming has always carried the energy of attraction for me. It’s sensual, slippery and visually beautiful, especially that chlorine-blue view from underwater in the pool. Its movements are alternately predictable and wild. People engage in swimming with practically nothing on, but surprisingly, that makes for less attraction rather than more. People under wraps leave us guessing, leave us to dream. Very rarely does a modern bathing suit leave me to dream. I stroke across the pool, feeling at home in my body, wrapped in a kind of aura of attraction. It’s not personal, but pleasant. It doesn’t demand a doing, but reflects a being. As beauty itself is calming, so is the ability to feel attraction. We think the opposite, but remove the urgency (of youth) and underneath, there’s a quiet lake waiting.
Writing is a source of that energy of attraction, too. Is it the ability to feel at home in my mind? Is it the groundless feeling of being lifted into language, into the telling of someone else’s story? Is it the respite from self, the floating, the flying outside of time? It’s a sound medium, full of aural pleasure and play. On its best days, the work and act of writing soothes my longing to be heard. It’s a profound way to offer myself, intimacy without the stickiness of reality.
But attraction to people? Maybe that’s not what I need anymore. And yet, a few days after Callie came and felled the sucker, I saw a photograph of someone I’d once known, name withheld, and recognized that little buzz of breathlessness, that little sting of longing. I looked up and said to myself, “I’ll be darned. That’s attraction.” Is it back? Is it here to visit? I must admit I kept my enthusiasm in check, for fear of frightening it away.