The Sixth Form

“The sixth form of love is the love among soldiers who have seen each other through war…or the love among friends, consciously chosen, who have seen each other through great adversity…or through journeys across vast distances or incredible stretches of time.  It is the love of families intentionally re-united, the love of long-lost friends.  It is the love of the B-girl crew, of the rock band, of the urban tribe.  It is the love of teenage sleepovers.  This form of love, though sought-after, and dreamed of, is rare, and hard-fought, and attained through will, and grit, and steadfastness, and humor, and care.  It is the love of dinner tables, and brunches, and gatherings of friends.  It is the love of laughter, and celebrations.

“It is the love of the future.

“Its inverse is drama, and dysfunction, and manipulation, and fakeness, and false images, and sentimentality.”


The Fifth Form of Love

“The fifth form of love is a child at spontaneous play, in the out-of-doors, with another child.

Its inverse is pettiness, and violence.”

Sailor sighed.


The Fourth Form of Love

“The fourth form of love is touch: holding a newborn baby, or cradling an old woman in death.

“And yet, the awful reverse of this may come true…that we must cradle a newborn in death.  Thus, this fourth form is the form of love through which we can begin, perhaps, to take the pain that is unfathomable, through which we can come to accept the deepest form of all suffering.

“The highest reach of touch is erotic surrender.  It is the tenderest, most flowing, most embodied form of love.  It can exist in the flesh, or in the imagination.  Through dreams, and visions, it can become a form of contact, even communication, across great distances in time and space.

“Touch can also encompass other forms.  Touch can be prayer, heartbreak, or play.

“Its inverse is fear, and lust.  When knit together, hallucination, and terror.”

The Third Form

“The third form of love is music.  Whether it’s the sound of a boys’ choir in Oxford, like a shaft of silver light shooting into the stratosphere, or the gritty sub bass of an underground club in some hidden corner of Berlin, rippling the mud and oil in the gutter, there are vibrations that subtly alter the body…and that bodily transformation is love.

The inverse of this subtle form of pleasure, and the transformation it brings, is judgement, and austerity.”

By now we were nested in the dried grasses of the hollow.  The wooden door still stood open, revealing the underground corridor marked by the lights glowing from their cage-like sconces.  We sat facing each other.  Sailor payed attention to me as the words simply flowed forth, as if from someplace outside of my body.



The Second Form of Love

“The second form occurs through the body of a small child experiencing true thirst.  Eyes wide, she reaches out her slender, naked arm for a drink of water.  But in the moment she begins to grasp it, it is snatched away from her, so that her fingers close on air.  It is not the experience of the child, but of the witness, that matters here. That experience is heartbreak…which is the second form of love.

Its inverse is jealousy, and contempt.”

The First Form

“Wait,” Sailor said, putting her hand to my wrist.  “What about the seven forms of love? I want to know them before we…”

But Epson was gone: notes, cricket, and all.

Inexplicably, it was then that I spoke the seven forms of love.  I only knew them as I said them…as if by saying them I was learning them for the first time myself, as if I had become some sort of conduit.  I could just as well have been speaking in tongues.  My speech was simultaneously mysterious and crystal clear, the way the words flowed forth, as if from the ether…

“This first one’s simple,” I said matter-of-factly, “You just pray.”

“I’m not talking about that churchy shit.  I’m talkin’ about a feeling.  Sometimes it just hits you, a need to fall forward onto your knees.  It’s not a habit, not something someone told you to do.  It’s not training, or indoctrination, or culture.  It’s the feeling of awe for the fact that you are even fucking alive, that you are overwhelmed by the hugeness of that gift.  It’s the feeling of lying on the floor in the dark, with you arms open; it’s the feeling that you are so wide…and so fragile…that when all the weight of the world presses you down like beautiful, leaden blanket…you cannot do anything but cry, with tears running down the sides of your cheeks, down into the carpet.

“It’s the feeling of walking down a city street at the dawn of some accidental escapade, when light breaks onto the raindrenched asphalt and you know for an instant you’re the richest person on earth.

“That’s prayer, in fact.  That moment, that wave of sensation is a prayer.

“Some say it’s self love, which is, in its highest form, love of the universe, which again is prayer.

“Its inverse, its closest relative, is addiction, and oblivion, and the absorption of one’s self into experiences, emotional rides, waves of sensation.  Its inverse is suicide.”


(Inspired by the writings of Sean Lynch.)

…into oblivion

“I was right,” Sailor said slowly, softly, “He did follow us out.  And he knew what was happening with Harlin, and he got jealous.”  She turned to Epson, who was busy jamming some notepapers deeper into his trouser pocket.

“Where’s Upi now?”

“He went on with his life….desolate as it was.  Went home to his garret in the U-district, made himself rice, smoked a cigarette, said his prayers, and went to bed.  He got up a couple of hours later and showered, cleaned his apartment, drove down to the water.  He tossed his rifle into the choppy black waters of Lake Union and went to work.  They’ll never catch him.  The police don’t know who either of these men are; no one’s looking for them.  Besides…Upi has no criminal record; he’s fastidious.  It will be as if it never happened.”

Sailor and I held each other.

“He could have taken a pistol and been gone…click-click…crack!  And he meditated on suicide with the hard muzzle of a Glock to his temple.  He imagined it vividly, over three hours of exquisite stillness, leaning his naked, hulking mass forward onto the plastic lip of his tub, his elbows resting there, one hand to his head, the other hand with a gun.  He internalized it, reflected on every minute detail…from the blood spray and Ajax on the shower wall to the distant, unemployed cousin whose reading of household circulars would be momentarily interrupted when he learned, by phone call, of Upi’s death.  But he never pulled the trigger.

“He will do nothing, now, but work, pray, meditate….and live in humble simplicity.  He will become no one.  He may move to an industrial city, and work in a coffee shop there…without pretense, without romance.  And, ultimately, he will vanish.  He will vanish into oblivion.”

Sailor moved even closer, so that our bodies were touching.  We knew that perhaps our lives had been saved by an act of murder.  There was an emotion that came with this piece of knowledge; it was small, and hard, and bitter, like a cold smooth stone lodged somewhere in the body.

Sailor spoke.  “So he’s stopped looking for us, Upi..?”

“Yes,” said Epson brightly, matter-of-factly. “He satisfied himself.”  Then he turned his head, crawled to the far end of the hollow, and opened the small wooden door there. Light spilling out from the hollow revealed a tunnel marked by cage-like sconces containing darkened bulbs.  The distant sound of a roaring crowd poured softly forth from the dark hole of the tunnel.

“Come along now!” said Epson, “They’re waiting for you.”  He clicked on the lights by way of a switch obscured by shadows, and scuttled into the hole.