I live for the moments in which a stoic tension breaks; that flickering wariness before our desire to be seen decides that the risk is worth taking. I live for the moments in which a person realises that yes, it is safe to cock their head and reveal the soft hollow between curved jawline and the elastic thrum of the carotid artery.
I fall in love flippantly. Sometimes it's the old Israeli man behind the milk bar counter with a blotchy stick-and-poke tattoo on his forearms, which he explains were inked onto him by some near-forgotten friend - one whose name makes his eyes mist from some sepia-toned memory. Sometimes it's the woman in the gym who grunts from the depths of her lungs as she hoists an impossible weight over her head with hypnotic artlessness. Sometimes it's the dark-eyed twenty-something with the lazy grin and cocksure attitude, who knows enough of the world to bite their tongue whilst someone with half the wisdom speaks with twice as much confidence.
Is it fair to calling it 'falling in love' if I don't actually want to become a part of these peoples' stories?
The women in my family have known grief. Generation after generation, they have birthed their sons into caskets, clutching the minutes, months, and years of life with a lovestruck anguish. When the first clod of dirt strikes varnished pine, they farewell all that was of their boy, and everything he'd one day become.
And yet, they keep bearing sons.
There have been times that I've wondered if my heart has become hard from loss; whether the weight of coffin after coffin has sunk it southwards, nestling against the walls of my womb that have been licked barren by crematorium flames.
"I love children," I tell people as I gush and coo over their sticky-fingered toddlers.
Then I remember that I am not - have never been - a source of life, but merely the dumb ghost who holds vigil over graves. That my lifeblood is anchored to the restless tap of fingers on keyboard in time with that one, endlessly looped Elliott Smith song, and not in the delicate practice of life-giving.
The last time I buried somebody I loved, the eulogy that fluttered in my throat struck a peculiar dissonance with the slow calcification of my insides. Despite the plaintiveness of my words, I'd long since turned to stone. For the half year afterwards in which this deadening persisted, I wondered, with indifference, if the full spectrum of human emotion would ever return to me. At the time, it was but a mere thought experiment: I couldn't muster enough feeling to worry.
"Other peoples', I mean."
And yet, I keep falling into scatterbrained love.
Because there's life in human error: all of our petty, our uncertain, or slipshod stumbling through shifting sands to the future we won't know if we want until we arrive. And I love you - I mean, I probably do - for the exact reasons you can't quite stomach yourself today.
There's pure joy to be found in that brief moment of hesitation before a person attempts to pronounce a new word for the first time. If our tongues are paper wings, then the Icarusean audacity of stammering something we want to express, but don't yet know how, must be the way it feels to fly.
At every funeral I've ever attended, the mourners shoulder the collective weight of an oppressive, stifling cloud of misery. But humans are not made to stay static in suffering, and eventually - whether the sound flees from traitorous lips or is offered with a considered reluctance - somebody will be the first to laugh. Every single time, that light slices up and down the room, scandalising us all for a heartbeat, before we realise that we are still standing, we still feel something, and that joy might not be lost to us forever.
Hours pass at these affairs, and conversation gradually gains momentum as we try to coax the anxious knots in our stomachs with the aid of wine, or canapés, or smalltalk about one another's hobbies. Laughter begins to punctuate the tension, and as it increases in frequency and volume, the plaintive weight slowly deflates like a tired balloon. We leave with dark-circled eyes from lost sleep and suffering, but also with the first creeping inkling of maybe that we are still too overwhelmed to slip beneath the magnifying glass to inspect. We know we are walking wounded, but we still remember - if only mechanically - how to laugh.
To the first person who laughs at a funeral: your journey is your own, and there is no need to manufacture the intersection of what belongs to you, with what belongs to me. But in that brief moment where you forget yourself, there is a stranger savouring an opulent, anonymous moment in which she can love you.
Scarlett Hawkins writes novels... But in her spare time, she writes rants.