I didn’t know him, the man with the scars but he seemed to know me. I felt uncomfortable under his piercing gaze; he smiled like he knew something I didn’t. He wasn’t mocking or condescending. He wasn’t proud or aggressive but there was something sure and calm in his demeanour that made me stop and look. There was no awkwardness in the way he held my eyes, no break in his steady sure smile though I shifted my eyes and feet, no longer sure of myself. I felt exposed – like in those dreams where you’re naked in public or you’ve been caught in a lie – but I also felt oddly relieved. My arms were aching with the sweet relief of having laid down some heavy weight and my shoulders felt light. There was a strange twisting ache inside my chest. Something about this familiar stranger’s smile made me long for what he invited, like longing for a mother’s soft embrace or the sweetness of a child’s cheek next to yours.
All at once I wanted to run away with – and yet away from – this uncomfortably comfortable stranger. I’d had men undress me with their eyes before, exposing things I had invited in exchange for promises that were left unfulfilled. Yet this man was not like them; though he undressed me with his eyes, it was my spirit not my flesh that he laid bare. Instead of taking by force those adulterated places, he caressed the shattered brokenness of my soul and left me soothed not soiled.
I squirmed uncomfortably. His caressing gaze, so different and so pure, made me feel like an abandoned child now unexpectedly caught up in love’s embrace. I did not know how to accept it, though I longed for it so. Something told me if I stayed I would get used to his gentle touch, that this was true love come at last. I had been ruined and wasted so long ago, given myself to so many cruel lovers that now I could only blink confused in the light. How could my blind eyes trust that what I saw was real? The longer his gaze held mine, the more I wondered if I had sensed his presence before, somewhere in the shadows and memories of my life. I felt that he had been there all along though I had not seen him. My eyes darted away then back again expecting to see him looking away, to see him distracted by another, one more lovely than I yet he didn’t look at anyone but me.
Suddenly I knew why he looked at me so. I belonged to him. I felt his immense power. He could take me and I would have no choice, he could do with me what he willed. Yet he would not. He wanted me – I could see that now – wanted me more than anything else this side of heaven but he waited, demonstrating his power in stillness. His bridled passion invited release. I could say yes. He wanted me to choose him. He wanted me to come to him, to see him like he saw me, naked, our true selves and me as I was meant to be.
He had always been and always would be whole and wholly good. Others had filled me with lies and their own desperate longings, taking what was left of my hope and leaving me empty and used.
I knew that his love wouldn’t use me up but fill me up.
I wanted to run and give myself to him. But there was a stipulation that made me hesitate. I could not ignore it. If I came to him, I must be his and his alone. I knew I could not give myself anymore to past lovers though their siren calls still beckoned from now distant shores. The memory of these unions lingered, crouching at the door, their haunting melody still stirring twisted desires for their familiar pain. Yet there was no comparison, even blinded my eyes could see the truth in the light of his shadow. I could see the insane irony of looking for love where only death lives. But choosing him meant choosing new life. It meant I needed to be born again and being born again meant choosing each day the joy and pain of living, the pain of being raised from death to life. Each day I needed to choose him, to live the new life and love he offers because the old life and loves can still be resurrected. I can see from his scars that my lover knows how to do more than talk me through it. He will walk me through it because it is the path he has already taken.
He held back, my gentle tender lover, so unlike any other I have ever known. He let me choose him. And when I came to him, trembling and unsure, the softness of his embrace wrapped me in the fierce assurance of who he is and what he offers. In him there is no hesitation; he is steady and sure.
He seemed to know me and his knowing gave me hope that I could know myself for the very first time.