Pathos, Eros, and Aramis
The weather is California cliche: the sun is bright, the sky is a cloudless blue. The scent of California bay and eucalyptus waft by on a sea breeze. Children splash in the pool. Laughter bounces around the courtyard.
From my chair on the balcony I try to extend my senses, to feel something -- anything -- but what I’m feeling now.
I am doing my best to be present with my body, to understand how this pathos feels, not just emotionally, but physically.
Right now, it feels under-oxygenated. My breath is shorter, faster. It no longer fills my center. My muscles are tight. Twitchy. Restless. My shoulders ride higher, up near my ears. I feel it in my gut, too, the tightness. An ache has settled in my chest, my eyes. It is a long list.
This is what anxiety and anguish feels like in the flesh.
In my head, it feels like being small and afraid in the face of uncertainty. Trapped. Cut-off. Cornered. I feel like I must act, must do something, anything. But what?
And so I remind myself to breathe.
Life is uncertain, and no amount of resistance to that fact is going to change Reality. Reality is mutable, transient, turbulent. Unpredictable. And yet, it is what it is.
Accept, my mind says. But my body betrays emotional resistance.
I figured that my sisters and I would grow old together, the three of us. The Three Musketeers. I thought we’d be hard-of-hearing old ladies sitting on the back porch swing, laughing until we had to pee, talking about the good old days with Grandmother, the rides down the hill in our little red wagon, and riding horses on the mesa in Colorado. I thought we’d go on vacations, bicycle rides for three, and scold grandchildren. Then one sister died in 2008 after a long illness, and I revised that dream to just the two of us. But today, the likelihood of my baby sister surviving to my age is slim, never mind to old age. And I feel. A lot of things.
I know we all die. And I know it isn’t anything to be afraid of. I got that, really got it, when I was holding my grandfather’s hand as he exhaled the last bits of himself two years ago. I understand the beauty of the life-cycle, the transitory nature of it, the glory of a life well-lived. You could say that I am at peace with Death.
But to die young, ah. To lose someone in the prime of life. To watch them hunch in on themselves with pain. The pain of living. Of breathing. Of being. I can handle it. Watching someone die from cancer isn’t a new experience for me. But I’m not enjoying it. It is very stressful on everyone. Especially my sister.
Underneath it all, I’m sad for me. And for her kids. And for our parents — who will have to deal with out-living another of their children.
Life is. And quite often these days, life is Pathos.
Eros and Aramis.
Citrus, cinnamon, and sandalwood: the scent of his Aramis cologne envelops me as Gabriel’s arms do. I rest my forehead against his shoulder and breathe him into me. He always seems to know when I’m in that place, that overwhelmed, anxious and impatient place. He hugs me hard, his arms forming a tight band that pops my back. A welcome release.
“You’re cold,” he murmurs against my ear. “How can you be cold? It’s over 80 degrees out here.”
“I’ve forgotten warmth,” I mutter back, dispirited and exhausted. And cold. I’ve been sleeping with the electric blanket on. In Summer.
He steps backward, holding me at arm's length. He starts to say something, but his eyes are riveted on my breasts. My nipples. Bra-less and cold, my nipples were already hard, but his nearness, the scent of him, have added additional length.
His hand reaches toward my right breast, thumb grazing the nipple. His touch sparks through me, little electric arrows racing along my nerve-endings, dissipating the fog of despair wrapped around me like a comforter. I feel!
Another brush of his thumb and I gasp and sway, my eyes closing. So good. So sweet. Pleasure is so life-affirming.
He steps nearer, his hand never leaving my breast. I can feel the warmth radiating from him. I tilt my face up to his, eyes closed, like a flower following the sun. My mouth trembles with a sad smile and tears well up under my eyelids.
“Make love to me,” I ask him, implore him. “Make me feel alive.”
He steps around me. Pulls the hair away from my neck and brushes my skin with his shadow. A sharp, hissing intake of my breath. I feel that! Mmmmm… yes!
His arms encircle me, one around my shoulders, the other, my midriff. He draws me backwards, off the balcony, and guides me down onto the persian carpet. With feather-light kisses and touches he opens my blouse, exposing my breasts.
More tears at his gentleness. I need this.
When his mouth closes over my erect nipple, my entire body vibrates with erotic energy. My pathos subsides beneath a tide of Aramis-scented eros as I surrender to a new feeling: I’m alive!
So gloriously fucking alive!