This is the first short story I actually tried to write in my own voice. It’s not based on real facts, just real feelings. Let me tell you, I feel as raw and exposed now as Stephen King said one would feel after talking about the place where their “secret heart is buried.”
I don’t have a genre in mind when I write my stories. I just let my mind go wherever it wants to, and I follow it with my pen. That’s what happened with this story too. If I had to choose, I would say it’s a love story, of course. It’s not an adrenaline packed tale. Most guys would find it boring. The first guy I read the story to surely did.
I like it though, so here it is.
One hundred ways to kneel
By Ada Ireland
I can’t always say what’s on my mind when I’m with Jake. Not because I’m not allowed to. Nor is it because I censor myself. The reason is more embarrassing than that: I don’t know the right words.
You’d think that, since I write for a living, I’d have a pretty good way with words. I’m an award winning novelist, after all. I should know all kinds of ways to talk about nothing and everything. For the most part, I do. But when it comes to Jake, I’m tongue-tied. I know what I want to say. I just don’t know how to do it. What I feel for him is too much for my literary tools and for my everyday vocabulary. So I turn for help to other people’s wisdom. I go read or listen to music. I learn how to express my feelings using borrowed words.
Jake doesn’t mind. He’s one of the few people who can handle my intense moods. He says that’s one of the things he loves best about me. He likes that all my feelings are real. He doesn’t care where my words come from.
He usually laughs when he sees me speechless. Sometimes he teases me about it. He calls me his little writer who can’t find her words. I love the way his eyes light up when he says that. As if he’s secretly proud of the effect he has on me. He enjoys his power to render me speechless. So I smile back. Or get embarrassed. Or frustrated. There are times though when I go through my favorite books and come back with a triumphant look on my face. Like today.
He’s sitting on the couch in our living room, completely engrossed in working on his laptop. His eyebrows are not drawn together into deep thought. His forehead is not marred by wrinkles of concentration. It’s in his eyes that I can see all his focus and intensity.
I’m just a few feet away, in a big leather recliner, reading a book of poems. That’s where I find it: another perfect combination of words that make me think of Jake and what he means to me. My discovery is exhilarating. It’s an explosion of feelings. Think of the person who’s about to take their first skydive. Yes, I feel that kind of adrenaline rush. Or the person who comes back from the brink of death. I feel that kind of gratitude. Or the blind person who gets healed and sees his first sunrise. I feel that kind of awe. How could one contain all those emotions? I can’t.
I hesitate a second. I don’t want to interrupt him. Before I can change my mind and leave him to his work, he looks up. He knows. He puts his laptop away and motions me with his head to come over. I don’t want to ask, “Are you sure?” or, “Are you done with your work?” I don’t really want to wait before sharing what I had just discovered, so I walk over and settle myself on his lap.
“So what made you send waves of joy towards me again?” he asks as he nuzzles my neck and inhales deeply.
It’s an inside joke of ours. He told me a while ago that he could actually feel my happiness. That it comes over him like a warm wave of joy and makes him happy too. Truly happy. I laughed when he first told me that. “It’s a normal reaction,” I told him. “You can’t help it. You see me smiling, then you smile too. The same way you’d smile if you saw the picture of a very cute dog. Or a happy baby. It’s just a normal human reaction,” I repeated.
He laughed out loud at my explanation. “You affect me more than a cute dog or a happy baby ever could, Laura. It’s not just a smile you put on my face. When you’re happy like this, it spreads. Your energy ripples through space and reaches me. I can feel it even if I can’t see you … or the smile on your face.”
I wanted to call him out on his sweet flattering words. But then I thought better about it. I didn’t want to question his own experience of our relationship. I didn’t want to diminish it. And, I did want to believe that my happiness somehow physically reached him they way he said it did. That’s how the “wave of joy” joke was born. Or half joke, all truth, if you asked Jake. Never mind that the Math didn’t make sense. There’s no reason to feeling, he would tell me.
Now I am on his lap, getting ready to pour more of my happiness out to him. I open my book and start reading the poem I have just discovered. He just closes his eyes and rests his head on my shoulder.
“Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
And frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
And begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
A whole minute passes before either of us says anything. I can barely keep back my tears.
“You want to learn how to play a musical instrument?” Jake finally asks.
I know he is joking. I laugh and try to say something but my throat feels too tight. “It’s not about making music,” I manage to say. “It’s about kneeling and kissing the ground. That’s what you are to me: a way to do that.”
This time his eyebrows do draw together. He looks unsure of what I mean. He waits for me to continue.
“Well, it’s not about the kneeling itself either,” I start. “It’s about the feeling that you can’t help but kneel and worship. It comes when you experience a miracle.
“Think of a passage in your favorite book that moves you to tears. Or a song that gives you no choice but to cry. Or the sound of a child’s laughter of pure joy. Those are miracles to me. They are the times when I feel so much inside, that I don’t have any physical energy left to keep my body up right. I just … kneel. And it feels amazing.”
“So I bring you to your knees then?” he whispers in my hair.
His warm breath starts a chain reaction in my own body. Like a pebble thrown in a quiet pond, it sends ripples of pleasure through me. It’s getting really hard to focus. “Yes. You have that power over me. You did something to my heart and it has no more blocks around you. Even the slightest gesture or touch from you is strong enough to bring me to my knees. You master my mind and my body in ways no one else ever could.”
I look up at him. “And I need that. I crave it the way …” I can’t find my words again. I don’t know how to tell him that he is a miracle to me. “It’s like an addiction. An absolute need. It’s as if you made me touch eternity and now I’m constantly looking for ways to get that feeling back.” I pause. “You are my gateway to the sacred. My path to pure, raw sensation. You freed me and showed me how it feels to lose myself into perfect worship. You are my favorite way to kneel and kiss the ground.”
Am I making any sense? Does he know what I mean? I can’t tell and I want to cry at my inability to express myself. Am I making him think that I am going mad?
I have never seen Jake cry. I doubt that I ever will. The way his eyes shimmer though, it almost looks like he is about to. I can tell that my words did make sense to him. “You are my miracle also,” he says. I feel that he’d like to add more to that. But this time, it’s him who can’t find the right words. It’s his turn to be speechless. Instead, he puts his arms around me and draws me into a hug that makes me feel that I’m just melting into him, that we’re becoming one. “I love you”, is the last thing he says before he starts kissing me. And then I do lose all focus. I am all feeling and no reason again.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Some people never find a single one. I think it’s because they’re not even looking. They don’t need to, nor do they want to lose themselves in that kind of worship.
Me? I’ve been searching for ways to return to that home beyond our mortal lives ever since I’ve known myself. Before I even knew what I was really looking for. I’ve been lucky enough to find a few ways to do that, but loving Jake is my favorite one. Jake is my worshiping grounds. He’s my perfect way to kneel and kiss the ground.
P.S. I first published this story about eight hours ago and it was loaded with typos and mismatched verbs and tenses. What the heck happened? I have no clue. I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out.
*takes a quick look at the empty red wine bottle laying on the floor near her desk*
*rubs her eyes, “Wait! There are TWO of them?!?”
*shakes her head in disbelief, “Well, that explains everything now, doesn’t it?”