The Truth About Love – A Novel About Finding Your (More Than) One.
By Liam Scheff
I started to write this as a self-help book; an investigative syncretic amalgam of love, sex, peak oil and tribalism 2.0, about reversing the spell of church and fake monogamy, this ten thousand years of cultural brainwashing that made us all servants to whatever we think we’re praying to and paying taxes for. But every time I got somewhere, every time I got close, even nailing it all down in a good draft, all the chapters named, the format decided, the questions asked and the answers sketched in charcoal on the canvas…
I just couldn’t quite pull the bowstring hard enough to make the arrow fly. Something was in the way. Something in me; something that needed to be set free. In researching tribes, sex, culture and life worldwide as it was and is lived, I’d rocked my memory open.
The Maasai’s hypocritical, patriarchal, herding-culture mores brought to mind what I’d seen growing up in landlocked Pennsylvania, among the suburban descendants of Protestantism. The love-trading of the Inuits reminded me of what I felt and experienced when I’d grown close to couples in my own life. The free-wheeling Trobrianders showed me what I thought and felt, at summer camp, above all, when the grown-up world yielded to late adolescent delight; and what, in my 30s, some of us achieved, just by being ourselves.
I realized that I had come to this place, this understanding, not through reading, not through academic texts or university lectures, but through my own experience. The lesson was something I’d always known but had been reluctant to admit (without academic prodding): We’re hardly monogamous.
Despite the marriage vows, wedding planners, broken hearts, and the endless sappy movies that end, after twenty near disasters, at the altar; monogamous is not what we really are, deep down. It is just our inherited Victorian game of “playing house.” And we rebel against it at every turn. We’re clever and inventive in our playful interpretations of the vows of “fidelity,” and we all teach ourselves to skirt the rules in our own way.
Some people bury their non-monogamy in hobbies, others in explosive neurotic displays around the house – for decades on end – even for lifetimes.
After social hours, men plunge their unmet needs into drinking and talking about sports, computers, markets and sales, or closer to the need, into paying to watch pussy and tits shimmer and shake.
Women bury their unsatisfied libidos in gossip rags and soft-porn novels, in “Sex and the City,” “50 Shades of Grey,” and whatever is on the “O” book club list this month. And there’s always the art form known as bitching (for women) and griping (for men – but it’s the same thing). We’re always devolving into gossip clutches and shared misery, sublimated into video games, movies, television serials, and fake political partisan bullshit.
In fact, this sublimation of our sexual unhappiness into useless wheel spinning seems to define the borders of our lives. It, and not ‘truth, justice and liberty,” is the actual American way.
But it is nonsense, and we know it; the endless suppression of lust and love, of desire and curiosity into social media, gossip, fad diets and dubious social causes keeps us on the hamster wheel of perpetual misery. It bores us and taxes us. And we yearn. We yearn through the television; but we feel it in our chests, our throats, our hips and genitals.
We are, just underneath the veneer of iPhone-land, an ancient species. A tribal species, a wild, playful, loving thing. But for five or six decades, since the great victory of petroleum we call “World War 2,” we’ve pressed this happy-go-lucky spirit animal that we are into plasterboard and linoleum cages, in sealed air-conditioned, fluorescent rooms; night skies blotted out by fluorescent noise, dinners ruined on electric stoves that slowly make us lose our taste for food.
We sleep in strange isolation from the world; we fear weather, we’re perplexed by being outdoors for too long. We don’t know how or where to find food, let alone how to grow it. We’ve been in our boxes for far too long. And we’ve grown deeply neurotic; we’ve become in-grown, like toes pressed against leather for too long.
But the yearning drives us to the windows. We reach out and take a chance to open one, just a little. We want to reconnect with the blood of life, wet and warm; to touch the memory of it all. We remember it somewhere inside. The freedom of the final bell of the school day; the joy that made your chest leap and hurled your body into motion towards the door, towards the outside, where the very smell of fields of grass was heaven and earth; the surge of confusion and sticky revelation of the first tongue that ever touched yours, the two of you pressed together against winter, breath commingling and saliva threatening to freeze if you resisted meshing your heat – so why resist?
With dew in her eyes, with only the flutter of her eyelashes, she told you a story of eternity. The sky cracked open, and all the limits you thought were important exploded as a new way of being surged through you and blew your head up to the stars, and you were everywhere, you two…forever, and ever it would be. Till the day it was no more. Till the next kiss that made you feel superhuman.
These moments; they tell us what we are.
We used to stare at the sky; we used to eat plants that made us hear the stars sing their perfect million-toned harmonies. If you understand what the world really is: this experience of light and dark, hot and wet sex magic, then you know that nothing anywhere is what we think it is. That we’re not the species we imagine we are. That everything we’ve done is a built-up illusion, and there’s nothing for it to do but to come crashing down.
But as it does, as it all goes away, what is better than to stand on rooftops, stand close to friends and hear their words make the air vibrate with electricity; to feel the magic of the world, in which we only get a moment, to really be. To love. To inhabit this body and this space.
What’s left but to do all the things you really want to do, and regret a few of them. But to do them. Twice. At least.
And that’s what this book is about. Standing on rooftops, loving sincerely but not according to the rules (that aren’t really rules as much as control mechanisms), loving and living, and caring, and feeling the tribal creature just barely hidden under the cultural make-up of the 20th Century.
Oh, the serious book? The academic arguments, the how-to questions and answers; the arguments to and fro? We’ll see. If there’s time. If it’s wanted and needed.
But for now, for the sake of love and freedom, I just need to tell you the truth. And the only way to do it is to pretend that it’s fiction.
February 2015, in the year of the Fukushima Dragon.