To say the least

I can’t tell you why it was so hard, to say the least, or unimaginable if we’re going to say the most, but I think I’ll sit in between the two, not quite reaching either. It was hard, and perhaps always has been, to even summon a look. A reaching out, that’s difficult, and a word, even more so. Wordless encounters, a look in the dark, is all that is necessary to convey the depths of longing that can’t be summed up in all the words that could fumble out from our mouths, or even the ones that we have planned, dreaming up elaborate sequences of syntax before saying them, as if we’d only thought of them right there and then. A look is more often than not all that’s needed, even preferable, in a communication that needs not ambling words to reach that place where everything said would surely make a withering old flower out of something that should instead blossom in gold and blue, out of the shadows and into the shuddering light. A look can, and often does, spark consummated longing in basement bars or beneath fragrant bushes, far better than words. We get there, to that place, this silent action blooms into sensation between the two lookers, on crisp sheets or bare floor or darkened thicket or doorway, but we get there in the end, sometimes.

To say the least though, it’s hard, or can be, if we haven’t the ability to make that look. Just a look is all, it shouldn’t be anything to even hesitate over, since that would leave a thousand possibilities to wilt, missed opportunities that we can never return to. Perhaps for some they don’t even think about it, it’s just part of the ebb and flow of an evening that inevitably leads to that shadowed corner or touch under a blanket, and the final end before a long walk home. I’ve had less walks through the dark and more shifting on mattresses that weren’t my own, amidst the arms of someone I’d not want to be enwrapped by, but staying all the same. What I want to say, though, is that it is difficult, for some, including me, to make that glance, to hold it for those fractions of time that are long enough for it to communicate all that is intended, and seconds drag on when the looker is unsure. And I’m often unsure. This type of glance must be held just that moment too long for it to become something, but it’s before that moment when I often look away, and I’m sure you have too.

I remember one time when, unusually for me, I managed it— I summoned a look when speaking was impossible, and which would have failed to communicate all that I would have wanted to say, and if said would make you feel queasy from it, the embarrassingly ardent want that makes me look away all too soon. Too soon. But somehow after meeting across a kitchen, then opposite her again on a checkered dance floor with the dark sky of Glasgow pressing down outside the windows, I was able to look, like all those before, since a look is not confined to that one night in that city, or in just my recollection of it. It seems to traverse across landscapes, metropolises, time, ripples of desire spanning countless vortices, which then evaporate. They either create a wordless something, that communicates the will of the two simultaneously (and how exactly is still unknown to me), or it leaves behind absolutely nothing in its place. My gaze, intentional and held, came with the expectation that it would do the latter, to disappear and leave nothing but a confused face of her who I was looking at. Many times before and since I wouldn’t even try to look, or starting would falter. Perhaps it helped that we had met in that kitchen and both conveyed our queerness through subtle yet clear indications— a mutual nod of understanding which surely many yearn to find. I always do. In the bar I somehow mustered up a glance, even though it is often too hard to even think of, because thinking of it admits desire, my own desire which I wince at from time to time. But when I looked, on a shivering night as it was, cigarette smoke pressing on the windows outside, she returned the look, eventually.

I had intentionally gazed at her, which in any other place, time, room, would surely have seemed bizarre, but somehow context dictates strangeness and proves it to be vacillating constantly. This specific way of gazing has surely always existed, since a look like that in a bar or park, in barracks or taverns, in bustling alleyways around Piccadilly or greens of heaths, before terms like queer or gay were openly uttered, could be deemed strange by some. But those who understood found it a crackling spark in the dark, alighting that which language could not, or so I imagine it. To speak, or to reach out, should surely be easier, or simpler in conveying exactly what it is we mean. What we desire. Yet a look, a glance, is often what we resort back to. And it’s what we, or at least I, often cling to. To say the least.