this is no small love
Last night, I was thinking about choices. Sometimes, we are presented with an opportunity, a possibility all perfect and shiny. Enticing, even if only for its existence. The choice can be big or small (make a phone call or do not; love or do not); it is always something emotional. The proverbial question: do you dare to eat a peach? (TS Eliot ftw.)
The odd thing about me is that I am often loyal to a fault, to an extreme. In such instances, my choices are not so much about what’s being offered. They are about how that offer makes me feel. The idea may be enticing, but it is just that: an idea. If I am already loyal to something or someone, nothing will ever sway that. If I say yes, if I give my heart, if I commit – that’s it. I am all in, no matter what. I do not give up. I do not walk away. I am not swayed by shiny, shiny things.
In all things, I suppose, I am loyal to myself. I wonder if enough people are, though. Last night, I watched Scandal on ABC, and saw Fitz and Olivia (the president and a political fixer – who is also his ex-girlfriend – respectively) deny feelings and spare with each other. I watched two people in love, held apart, be inferior versions of themselves because of that missing hole, that absence. Because, let’s face it: love, being in love and being loved, is a transformative experience. Good love, honest love, isn’t always pretty. It can be messy, and it SHOULD be. But it also makes us a better version of ourselves. It doesn’t change us. It enhances who we are. It lifts us up. It encourages. It supports.
Not only is Fitz that president, but he’s married with a pregnant wife (which, to sum up: marriage isn’t happy. His wife has political aspirations and the pregnancy was a strategic move on her part. Mellie is brilliant, heart-stricken one moment and freezing cold the next. Her fury is a thing to be reckoned with. Mad love for Bellamy Young.) Olivia stopped taking his calls, and Fitz is a shadow of himself, a man with a painted on smile. Pretending so hard, because he cannot see a way out of his situation. Presidents do not get divorced. Mellie has his balls over a very hot flame. So, he is lying to himself. He is playing the part of the happy husband, all the while a drink is in his hand. All the while, there is something missing from him, because Olivia is keeping her distance. He is, as his Chief of Staff (Cyrus) points out, a ticking time bomb. That speech, I think, is so relatable for anyone who has had to pretend, who has had to shove feelings aside just to get by, to get through a moment or a night. Anyone who is without.
You’re ticking, sir. You’re ticking. You know how I know you’re ticking? Up until you saw this picture, you’ve been happy, lately you’ve been happy, don’t get me wrong – I’ve enjoyed it. Not because of the happiness, because it’s been weird, like seeing a grandma in a bikini or a democrat with a bible. You’re happy. But we both know that happy people are rarely actually happy, unless they’re morons. You are a brilliant man, a Rhode scholar and a PhD, which means you’re acting happy, because she won’t take your calls. And you won’t admit that it bothers you, and god knows what else. Because on with the Shakespearean drama that is the women in your life, you’re ticking sir. You’re a bomb stuffed in a teddy bear waiting to explode. Tick, tick, tick, tick. How do I diffuse the bomb, sir?
Everyone, at some point, has been just that: an emotionally wrecked, starved time bomb. Going without, trying to keep on, all the while being less. It is a wretched way to exist; it sure as hell isn’t living. And for her part, Olivia Pope is the same. In fact, she since she’s stopping talking the president’s call – arguably, the love of her life, whose affections and love is so fierce it is almost physically visible – she has started screwing up at work. She is distracted. She is, dare I say, bereft. She is visibly keeping it together, while she is half out of her mind with wanting/needing. Olivia is also ticking.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.
A series of events happens, and Fitz and Olivia meet up in the woods. He is angry. He changes her shoes, which is an ordinary gesture, and they are close to each other. He is filled with rage, and grief, and want, and fear – a thousand emotions, laced up. There is nothing gentle about his anger or his pain. Olivia, here, is soft. Her eyes are all pain and love. There is nothing guarded about the way they are looking at each other.
It is here that Fitz explodes. His anger, his passion bubbles out of his like a loosened steam value. They argue, and she accuses him of being jealous – that their fight isn’t about the case she is working on, that it’s about them and their relationship. They yell at each other. His jealousy is brilliant green and screaming. He brings up her ex-boyfriend, a senator, which means he has kept an eye on her personal life. Then Fitz throws a barb that is meant to wound. And it hurts her so profoundly that she can’t actually speak. In this moment, they are just two people in a shitty situation, hurt and needing each other. For a moment, they stare at each other, faces full of ignited feelings.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.
Fitz explodes. He strides across the clearing and kisses Olivia. This is not a tiny kiss. This is not a gentle kiss. This is passion and pressure, fingers and bodies. This is a kiss you remember, down to your last nerve ending. This is the moment that they are both loyal to their own hearts, instead of what they are supposed to do. This is the moment where are not the president and the political fixer, but two people very much in love kept apart by circumstance. Two people with impossible feelings, beautifully and tragically undone by each other.
Olivia, more rational than I can even fathom, pushes him away. “I don’t show up places because you want me. I am not yours.”
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.
Olivia did the opposite of explode: she withheld. Look at where she is, heart bleeding in her hands. The situation she is in, the position in which she finds herself? It’s torture. It’s being in someone’s life, being important in it, but being secret. (An open secret, because it seems like a lot of people wonder about their relationship. Hell, Mellie knows, and she even encouraged it for a while, when it suited what she wanted. Charming, yes?)
Fitz and Olivia belong to each other, without actually belonging to each other. Apart, they are less. Apart, they are a sadder version of themselves, pretending to get by. For very tangible reasons, they dance around and around each other, separating only to meet in the woods. Avoiding each other, only to break down and make a phone call. Love like that? It doesn’t go away. It doesn’t dissipate with distance. No, love like that turns you into a time bomb. Emotional C4, one detonation away from freedom or disaster. Maybe both. Because living in that kind of precarious wasteland of feelings? It’s not really living. As the tagline says, dirty little secrets always come out. But so does love. Try as you might to hold it in, it seeks an opening. It makes one, if necessary. Like Anne Sexton once wrote, “As it has been said: / Love and a cough / cannot be concealed. / Even a small cough. / Even a small love.” And this? This is no small love.
To deny our own hearts is a choice. I do not think it is the right one, even if that’s the way it looks on paper. Watching these two people, you cannot help but root for them, despite the circumstances, despite the obviously reasons why not. People in love are more than should and shouldn’t. People in love aren’t perfect, but they are always a truer version of themselves.
Me? I do not want shiny, perfect things. I want mess and honesty. I want everything, because that is what I offer, without even spelling it out. I want the things unspoken, the words unsaid. Relationships are more than the words we say or the questions we ask. Relationships are built on actions. Patience. Loyalty. The awkward conversations and ridiculous moments. Relationships are not meant to be built on facades or shifting foundations. Those things do not last.
Love sticks around. Desire doesn’t always. Desire is easy. When the two go hand-in-hand, that’s an entirely different story. One alone cannot sustain you. One tears down, while the other builds you up. As in all things, it is a matter of balance.
We are, all of us, in some way — time bombs. We are withholding things from ourselves. We are holding back. We are holding in. And, eventually, what we’ve swallowed must come out.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
“And, at the end of the day, I think that love is more important than some mistake somebody made.” ~Scandal