I don’t really remember the movie. But I do remember this scene.
At the end of Reuben, Reuben, (Tom Conti and Kelly McGillis, 1983) the two lovers are outside in a park and they angrily part ways. It’s over.
But as the woman leaves she turns and looks back tentatively to the man. He’s looking down and misses her vulnerable, longing glance. She turns away. Just as she turns away, the man looks up hopefully but sees only the woman’s back, walking resolutely away from him. And so the relationship irrevocably breaks, lives are forever changed, for want of split second of timing.
I can hardly bear it. So much conveyed in a glance. But the glances were missed. What would have could have happened?
I desperately do not want to miss glances. Nor do I want to misconstrue notes or emails or texts. And those looks and notes and calls keep coming at me, they come at all of us, so thick and so fast! I try to keep up—I can’t really keep up. I delay, I phumpher, I make mistakes. I know that I do. Worse, even if I am looking up am I reading that glance or that text the right way? What am I missing? What might I misinterpret? And selfishly, how fearful might misunderstanding make me? Worse still, if I err, how alone?
Interpreting glances, bold attempts to understand the clumsy, truncated haiku of a tweet, text, or an email is an art form, one made of split second timing and the kind of bravery that cliff jumpers possess.
I know it’s a kind of bravery worth cultivating. Bravery worth having.
Even though I’ve placed so much emphasis on the meaning of a fleeting glance, on possibly misinterpreting the off-hand wording of a message, there is something even more important to consider.
If you’ve ever said, “I love you”, you know. Because if one is brave enough to say those words, to feel them, to mean them, one has to be brave enough to fight through the inevitable insecurity and fear—all the missed glances, all half-written thoughts—that will follow.
A relationship is far more than a series of glances—missed or otherwise — haphazardly laid atop one another. Instead I think of relationships as wonderfully tangled quilts —those sewn together steadily, slowly, over time– which we can pull from our bags and wrap ourselves in whenever, however we need to. These are the words and the stories and met glances that knit together to tell the deeper stories of our connection, of our lives and to remind us, as we all need to be reminded sometimes, of our love.
We want our connections to be like a firm, unbroken chains when too often they’re twisted like those little metal conundrum puzzles. The kind that take patience to work through and give such pleasure when they’re completed.
Remember the puzzles. Reach for the quilt when you need it. Much love.