I go to the nail salon every few weeks to see my favorite friend and technician, Quynh. We first exchange niceties about our families and dogs, but this is only small talk to stave off a direct inquiry into the status of our love lives. It’s as if through our note-comparison we hope one of us has found a seed. At times we trade off wearing a rosy glow, brief happiness that is visible from the vitality of new romance. But most of the time the look on Quynh’s face reads like the worry of someone in the world alone, someone who does not want to be. She is the most popular technician, always booked up at least a week out. She talks her customers’ ears off, makes fun of their crooked toes loud enough for everyone to hear, calls them on their bad habits, and then has something to fix it right up. She is as warm and comforting as easing into an old cracked leather seat. If you are lucky enough to sit in her chair, she will transfer a little bit of that warmth onto you.
The basic condition of the egoic self is one of a deep-seeded sense of lack, of not [being] complete, and it strives to fill [it] almost continuously, except for a brief moment when something [fills it up] and the lack is not felt. It looks to fill [a] hole that is always there [that says] I am not myself. I am not complete. I am not home. One of the main areas where it looks to fulfill that lack is in the area of relationship. The entire focus of the self becomes focused on one other person who is perceived unconsciously as the one who is going to complete me, make me whole. Almost an obsessive attachment forms to the image of that person. And that is called falling in love. Eckhart Tolle
Love is perpetually on the brain. Perhaps this is my lesson, a rather protracted, epic one. When I was twenty-eight my mother sent me to a reputable psychic in town. He was actually voted “Best Psychic” by readers of the local rag. Joe told me when he met me that I had a harpoon through my heart. I wasn’t surprised. The lack of subtlety to his vision wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but I wasn’t surprised. That was the last worst one, the kind that is a tumult on the radar screen of your life. Joe told me I needed to hurry up, that if I didn’t take things seriously I would end up alone at thirty-five. He got that one right, too.
I find the act of pairing up with someone incredibly pothole-ridden. On the inside where it’s just me, however, I feel perfectly ripe for pairing. Innately I know how it’s done. Someone told it to me in a breath when I entered this world. And now I keep reaching for the negative space, the thing that isn’t there.
Glimpses of love come along as slight as an evening conversation. I recognize it and somehow know it won’t be staying long. I am like Quynh, alone yet I do not want to be. And what would Tolle tell me? I think it takes time and a willingness to let things come and go. I’m not looking for the false fulfillment, but rather the sustainable one, reliant upon the self as much as the pairing.