A Direct Route to Love: On Ghosting | Back of Book Scripts #14

A Direct Route to Love: On Ghosting | Back of Book Scripts #14

A List of Scripts, of the Inspiring Sort.

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AudioEssay

A Direct Route to Love: On Ghosting

by Nzingha Hazelton

Dust the closets and wipe the doors. Make room and open your heart. To find a capacious thing as love might we suspend our everyday life in favor of the unexpected?  As I approach my first wedding anniversary, I see that the spirit of love laid, leaped, lurked around when I had made space for it. In order to have capacity to and for love, might we need to make capacity to and for love?

To find love, I gather, we must leave ourselves behind, and all of our accouterments, so that we can make way in the world, in our spaces, and circles, on lighter feet, surer footing. I see the pursuit of love as a byproduct of making space to step outside of and away from our normal routines. If we ghost ourselves, for example, even temporarily, empty our minds and put down our quotidian needs, we might play host to the ghost. We might invite love to ooze its way in. 

Six years ago, after meeting at the Whole Foods market near Columbus Circle, my now-husband and I decided to walk a bit in the nearby park, Central Park. On a breezy, cool day, we were relatively bundled up and walked a few paces to a statue honoring members of the Seventh Regiment who lost their lives in the Civil War. We posed for a photo marking this landmark on our first walk together and then continued on, veering towards the left, towards the Park's interior. 

I began to notice, as we got further along on a winding path, that the park began to quieten; the leaves, branches and trees became ever more radiant, more visible and present. Where were we going? I noted to myself that I had never been this far into the park on my own. Not wanting previously to get lost, to lose time, to have to find my way back. Yet here with John I did not mind getting lost, losing time, having to find my way back.  Getting lost, no longer visible was the path back, on this, our first date, in the city of our birth, on this first meeting in the flesh. 

On this day, a cool day in April, I felt comfortable enough to walk unguided through Central Park. Indeed it was we that guided each other as the sun began to fall, and the air began to chill. We guided each other through a winding path, near the Bow Bridge, around the lake and out to 79th Street and Central Park West. 

We paused for a moment on our way off the winding path in front of the lake bordering the park. I knew I wanted to capture the moment, on what became our first date. Even though honestly, I could not have known that John and I would become so very anchored to each other. I took the picture because it gleamed with beauty. The flickering lights from the New York Historical Society and neighboring buildings flashing through the trees reflecting a lavender light on the lake.

In a way, we had momentarily ghosted ourselves. Left the day behind and entered the night unweighted by any various concerns. Lost in our thoughts, in ourselves, in each other, it was then I had a feeling that my blooming friendship with John would be rather uncharted.

What set the stage for this finder's tale? Why did the hint of love pervade the park that April day? Looking back, I see that I had made space for love. Or, someone had for me. I had gotten ghosted. With that relationship slowly making itself invisible and the person as well, I turned to one of my closest friends to see how the old OKC game was going for her, that is, the dating app known as okCupid. I was getting tired of the late night activity, reading and, quite frankly, laughing through profiles, similarly waiting for Cupid’s arrow to strike.

Somehow though, this close friend convinced me to stay on the app for a little while longer. I decided to do a revamp, however, of my profile page. I chopped into my self-summary and my skills as well. Finally, I decided to attack the photographs. No more shots of me loosely clad in clothing. I swapped in most of my photos with images of my favorite books, of which included The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker, and By the Light of My Father’s Smile by the same author. At some point, weeks into March 2018, I got a like on one of the only photos showing my  face, and so began the dance, the chat I mean.  A thin brown guy on a black and white Razor bike standing on the George Washington bridge had liked one of my photos.  I dove in with a question, and John actually responded with a query as well.

But, actually,  I skipped over a few steps. During the last weeks of March 2018, I had been participating in a writing workshop, specifically Daughtering in the Face of Death, led by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Ph.D. And at some point in the workshop I jotted down this question: What is your spiritual ideal? I jotted a few answers down on a slip of magenta colored post-it. A deep love for black femininity. Commitment to political engagement. Demonstrated sense of wonder and creativity. Seeping in love for this life, this body, this earth.  You really asked for it? I did.  I think in asking for these many and needed things, I knew that some part of myself was clearing closet, making space for a love like this.

In a matter of words, these desires spoke to my search for love,  for someone with whom I could spiritually connect. I wrote those words on the 31st of March, 2018. It was the very next day, after a few days of chatting, that John and I met each other in person. Words expressed to the page will sometimes exclaim themselves to life. 

Now, if you recognize this phrase, Gimme, gimme, gimme,  I need, I need, I need,   you will have remembered the lines of the main character in a movie that brought considerable joy and laughter to my siblings and me growing up. It baffles me slightly that the 1991 film , What about Bob?, directed by Frank Oz, following a white man with many issues as he seeks out his therapist, who is on vacation, so thoroughly amused a group of young black adolescents growing up in the ‘90s.

Nevertheless, this film still stands as one of my favorites. Before leaving for his own vacation, the therapist, a best-selling author, offers Bob a phrase from his book to use when life gets overwhelming: baby steps. Despite practicing the baby steps maxim, Bob is at a loss and corners the therapist on a storefront porch near Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. After pleading with the therapist, the therapist offers a written prescription to Bob:

 Take a vacation

“A vacation?” Bob asks? ​"​Y​es,” responds the therapist. “A vacation from your problems.

What​, I ask today​, is​ vacation​? The Latin root of the word, vacātus, suggests being empty, having space. Or, the exact definition of vacate is the  act of giving up the occupancy of a post, or job. And so, vacation is similarly the opportunity to give up the holding of a post or job that you traditionally hold every day. In Bob's case, he had to vacate the many neuroses he developed to experience life anew and afresh, to find love. To vacate is to temporarily give up one’s routine. 

I agree with the therapist’s recommendation when one is inundated: take a vacation​. ​Honestly, just get lost from yourself, from the pile-up of responsibilities, chores and the like if we can. Now, is it possible to get lost in something everyday? To take​, as some suggest, a daily vacation?

To ghost oneself, every day. What would it feel like to clean leave, comb the crevices of life, pack yourself up, cut the ties that keep you connected, each day, for a few moments, minutes, hours. Once you have taken your leave, rest assure you have made space for all types of things to occur. 

Did you take a vacation today? How did it make you feel? Did it inspire you in some way? Where did you go? What did you do? How did you move? Thinking about it, I ask myself what activity absorbs my attention​. Where is my daily vacation? Is it making creams? Is it writing? I certainly get lost in my thoughts fairly often and after these moments I come out on the other side with a memory or a recollection. But I do not make creams every day​;​ I do not get lost in the making and stirring of oils. And even doing that is like a recipe, an exact science that I would be wise to treat as such. So, no, not crème-making. 

If anything was my vacation or my hobby, surely it would be writing. This seems the most appropriate source of joy for a writer. Seeking to express myself in word, express my body in movement, this is what I aspire to do. And thus I thought if I'd find joy, it would be putting down words to the page. I am not quite sure I fully leave myself when writing. Is that a goal that I haven't achieved? I get closest to my generative self when silence is about. I can feel it melting into the room I am in, winding its way forward and taking a moment to settle. This moment is when I hear most clearly. When it is sufficiently, almost absolutely, silent. Then my heart speaks back, speaks up.

Walking might be my daily vacation. While walking, my thoughts unfurl, taking the moment to stretch themselves out, make themselves known, bringing me to resolve this or that thing. John, on the other hand, vacates by repairing model trains and placing tracks in available corners of our living room. This is in part what makes him happy. Years ago, as a child, John's late father played in trains as well. And I, as a child, I did get lost while reading, deeply entangled and immersed in books.

I noticed as well that, as I get older, sometimes I have a strange desire to unmake a book, to tear its pages from the bind, and read the book, page by bloody page. I want an even more tactile experience of this reading thing, and I want to feel even more comfortable dashing and slashing marks upon the page with my notes. 

In our first few hours together, we, John and I, had temporarily ghosted our everyday selves; vacated our various posts as sons and daughters, as workers, sisters and brothers. In doing so, I, for one, had done something that I had never done before. This is what I see as the opportunity in vacating the self: to extend and grow our capacity of experience, our very desire for love’s healing. There we were, mucking about in the interior of Central Park, mind you, not very far in, but much further on an unscripted path than I had ever been. We set forth to the open space where love resides, perchance to love, perchance to live.

Cue: Never Gonna Let You Go by Blackstreet


More soon,

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