Our Crown Shyness

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Dearest, I have to tell you a secret. I have stifled my emotions for so long but I can no longer silence that which persists in tormenting me. I had not thought to tell you because it can come to nothing. You have your life and I have mine. We are each happy with what we have. Why strike discord, why try to glimpse into an unattainable world, when we each of us knows that the life that we have chosen is the way of wisdom. Of course it must seem insipid compared to a frenzy of passion, but we have lived enough to know that nothing can be built on a volcano.

But perhaps I am deluding myself and imagining that you have thoughts which, in reality, only exist in my dreams. My words perhaps surprise you, my emotion shocks you; where I see reciprocated love, you see only friendship. If this is the case, please don’t be harsh on me, don’t shun me! See it merely as misguided thoughts! I only hope that, with your understanding, you will forgive me for this outpouring of emotion.

Dearest, I have to tell you a secret. From the moment I saw you, I knew that I could never be indifferent to you. What mystery lies behind that instant realization? A manner of being which triggers long-lost childhood memories? The incessant search for a feminine ideal, be it a mother figure or the memory of a first love ? Or a much more mundane impulse such as a scent, or the unconscious knowledge of a perfect genetic compatibility? As soon as I saw you walking, your youthful appearance, the delicacy of your figure, and your unwavering and welcoming gaze, I knew that I would not resist.

Indeed, the process was slow and discreet, but it gradually took hold, nourished by each of those precious little moments in your presence! Months went by, maybe even years, but inevitably one day, our brief encounters transformed into conversations, moments of exchange and revelation, the beginnings of a friendship.

Dearest, I have to tell you a secret. It was that evening when I saw you in the waning sunlight, scarcely perturbed by its setting rays, that I was bewitched. Did you notice my confusion as I tried to hide myself in the concealing shadows of the passing day? I, usually so loquacious, was in a state of turmoil, such that I could no longer converse with you. Did you sense my confusion, or notice the chaotic cadence of my speech? What I write is, of course, a cliché but it was truly what I felt: I was left tongue-tied, awestruck by your presence. The sensation was so strong that your image remained deeply engraved in my memory. Your eyes wide and bright, intensified by discreet touches of make-up. Your tousled hair with its subtle highlights. Your flushed complexion heightened by a scattering of freckles. Your timid, almost enigmatic, even slightly mocking smile. Your shoulders bared in the summer heat. You watched me fixedly, awaiting the moment when I would be released from the spell that had transfixed me. We were disconnected from the world in a bubble from where the conversations of our neighbors were scarcely audible, exchanging intimate and guileless secrets with the trust of erstwhile lovers… Leaving you that still summer evening was an agonizing wrench.

The apogee of that momentous evening was never surpassed. Our exchanges became less intense, fluctuating between trivial and intimate, distant and close. Many times I sought to be alone with you, for I needed to know what you felt in your innermost being, in your head, in your heart, but you always evaded me. And then, just when I would grew tired of so many futile attempts that won no response from you and was ready to abandon my quest, you would suddenly send me an encouraging sign, a dazzling smile, a warm glance, a gesture of the hand.

Dearest, I have to tell you a secret. I know that we understand each other, that we are the stuff of the same dream, that our relationship exists through our words and in our heads, that our inner world is more vast than the dimensions constraining our physical beings, that we are touched by the same beauty, and the same emotions, that we share the same pipe dreams. I know that we can scarcely grasp our mutual sense of belonging, and that our fundamental affinity will endure. I also know that you are wiser than I am, that you have accepted that our love is star-crossed, that it is not destined to be lived in this life and that we can but cherish its effervescence.

Dearest, I have to tell you a secret. We are made from the same fairy wood. We are like kindred trees who stand alongside each other in the forest. We grow together, our roots anchored and nourished in the same soil. We extend our branches and yet never let them touch, a few inches between them allow the sunlight to pass through the delicately meandering fault lines in our foliage. Tree experts know about this strange phenomenon. They don’t understand how it happens, by what obscure communication trees grow their canopies while maintaining the slightest of distances to avoid touching, how they know to respect each other’s space even as they grow. They have given it the poetic name of crown shyness.

Dearest, I accept that between us there must be this reserve. I accept that our communion is a mystery as much for us as for others. I accept that our secret love nestles discreetly inside our heads. I accept that our bodies will never know each other. We will remain so close but never touch, respecting each other, growing together towards the same sun.

Dearest, I must ask one small favor of you.

That our tenderness may flow across these fault lines of timidity.

Translated by Virginia Sherman