Admitting my faults to a friend makes me feel a peace I didn’t know before. We are no longer skimming the bright warm surface of the water. We are diving from moment of treading water in a hotspot in the quarry to the bitterly cold beneath it, brushing against each other’s legs or waists or arms with our eyes closed and learning something about being near one another, yet less awkward.
This remains true whether we are silent together or earnestly confiding to one another about being authentic in a world rather interested in us becoming less so. It is easier to sell the goods to the consumer that way: pancake chitchat is preferable when you are paying at a window or a Wal-Mart than, say, questioning someone closely about their thoughts on the roots of crime. Yet you have always tried to be authentic.
You hate that people perceive you as beautiful, partly because you don’t agree, but even more because you hate to be seen as that and nothing else: lovely-clever, lovely-complicated, lovely-verbal, lovely-late. You can’t undo the hyphen. I try to accept you as you, which is easier for me since I turned 39 and stopped competing with you or anyone. I compete with myself, and this too has a rhythm to it I equate with peace.
I know I will push myself a little more each day, as I did studying for That Damned Test, memorizing the songs on the radio on the late ride home from the study nook I used at the law school, so that later I could return to that time, sweating in the July heat, scribbling elements of crimes on the whiteboard, memorizing what I scrawled as slowly as my henpeck typing in class. When I applied diligence to the task, it became acceptable that I knew it slower than the others seemed to. “Take a blue collar approach” I was told: work at it, build what you know brick by brick, stay a little later every day, and it will be yours. And it was. When I got the results, I was happy and peaceful at once: an uncommon night. Usually, my peace is steeped in a melancholy tea.
This time, it was as bright and articulate a peace as the lightening outside. I knew, for example, that it matched what I already knew. I knew I had passed the bar exam. Like you, I am driven to that which matches, inside and out. Integrity is like a perfect Tetris game: all the pieces interlock, and fall away, and ring with the right sound. Peace can be heady, and loud, and daring: it is more important that it be sure of itself in me than it be as still as a crow listening or calm like this weather will be, tomorrow, after the wind dies down.
The root of peace is that my god is not a fiction I’ve been practicing at, either by looking for signs or by praying from my voice box. Peace is when god is a trumpet not a fish. I can’t deny it: didju see that quicksilver shining in the water, was it–? No, it is ringing in my eardrums, delighting me the way it does when you hear one outdoors, playing the national anthem, echoing across the halftime field.
Peace is when I tell you, “I just want people to listen to me” and you smile a little, not mocking, but waiting for the rest of what I’ll say. But I don’t say anything else, and you consider the enormity of what I’ve copped to, and finish the oatmeal you’ve prepared. Gradually, the quality of our silence changes from mute, piercing listening to a percolating calm we drink when the pot grows still and full.