Arena of Love

I recently let someone into the neighborhood of my heart.

I don’t mean the suburbs, the outlying areas of sprawl, billboards and rapid growth. I don’t mean the high-traffic areas that surround the city center. I don’t mean the familiar streets of my part of town. I don’t even mean the bend in the road that says almost there.

I mean the intimate, sacred space at the core of my heart—home.

I never thought I could do it again, for real. I never thought I could grant VIP access to anyone, it felt so impossible. Just the thought of someone even finding the address where my heart resides, let alone crossing my carefully constructed moat over the pit of alligators, electric eels and piranhas, surviving the sentries with automatic weaponry, the natives with the poisoned darts, the land mines, the rolling boulder, the passwords, secret handshakes, blood draw and retina scan. I’m not even sure Indiana Jones in his prime could have rolled under that heavy, closing stone wall in the nick of time. Even with the whip.

What I’m saying is, I had created quite a fortress. I said I wanted real, yet I fled at the first sign of passing new. I could come up with any reason to avoid going there. I placed Detour and Road Closed signs on random corners, just to confuse the matter even further. So the very notion of finding someone at the door of my heart seems mystifying to me, even now. The problem with letting someone in is that you are rendered totally exposed, more emotionally butt naked than the Emperor himself. You are shield-less and have dropped all weapons. You wave your white flag and surrender to something profoundly and achingly beautiful—hopefulness.

In the arena of love, and it is an arena, hoping can be the most courageous thing you could ever do, especially if you are doing it again. Love has the potential to bring the highest form of joy and also the deepest depth of pain. Real love requires valor. I love that word.

I do not regret getting in the arena. I don’t. Even though I may leave weary, scratched, tearstained and possibly irrevocably disappointed, I am still victorious. I don’t know how the end will play out, but the fact that I got back in there again makes me smile as I sniffle and smear the dust. Whether this man is the coming attraction or the feature film, time will tell. But the best news of all is that I know I really loved, regardless. I didn’t flee, hide, pretend or wimp out. It is possible for this creaking heart to melt and beat and join with another without fear. I know he felt it too, whether he has valor or not.

Meanwhile it’s tempting to consider replacing the moat and asking the new owners for my alligators back, but I won’t do it. I can’t; I know too much now. I have tasted possibility, and a diet without it is bland. I’m keeping the neighborhood of my heart open, without Detour signs. Love knows where I live.


Illustration by Joy Gallagher

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