After picking up her coffee, Meara looked around the crowded café for a seat. Every seat seemed to be filled. After looking further, she noticed a table in the corner where a man about her age sat typing on his laptop, and the seat next to him was vacant. Approaching him, she said, "There are no other available seats; would you mind if I join you?"
"No, you're welcome to join me," responded Sam. "Just let me finish recording my thought, here, and I'll put this away."
"Don't stop on account of me. I just want to rest my feet."
"I like my characters, but I can get back to them at any time. Real people deserve attention when they are present." After typing for another minute, Sam closed his laptop.
"Are you an author," asked Meara.
"I respect authors too much to put that label on myself. I just enjoy writing short stories in my spare time."
"I've always loved escaping into books. They've helped me learn about myself, others and the world around me. I can experience anything I choose, right from the privacy of my own bedroom."
"I guess I do that in reverse," said Sam. "Rather than just read about other people's thoughts and feelings, I enjoy writing down my thoughts and feelings. We can still have strong thoughts and feelings, even if our opportunities to experience them are limited. Sometimes we can fill voids in our lives by living vicariously through our own thoughts and feelings."
"What do you write about?" asked Meara.
"Love," said Sam.
"So you write romance stories?"
"My writing wouldn't fit the style of romance novels. I label my genre as romantica, what I see as a good blend of romance and erotica, but my primary focus is showing how love can exist beyond the confines that limit us."
"Are you saying love is easy to be found? I know I've never found true love, so if it's out there, what's blocking my vision?"
"Love cannot be found. Though we can find compatible potential partners, love is something we choose to create, develop and nurture. Love is a process that takes action. We can't just sit back and expect it to be handed to us."
"But don't you need to find the right person?"
"Let's say you adopt a puppy. Can you tell me you only have the capability to love that particular puppy and could never have loved the puppy in the next cage? You love that puppy because that puppy gives you unconditional love. It is attentive, playful and eager to give you all the kisses you could ever desire, without demanding anything in return."
"Are you saying we could experience love with anyone, just like loving any puppy?"
"Not quite. You are more likely to find puppies eager to give unconditional love than people. People tend to be more self-centered, looking at what they can gain rather than what they can give, but I believe love can grow between any two caring people who feel some degree of mutual attraction, and where red flags of incompatibility aren't present."
"So, I've spent 60 years unwilling to settle, and you're telling me love is all around us, just waiting for us to make it happen?"
"Not quite that simple, but not as overwhelming as people assume. We all want to love and be loved. Primarily, it's about feeling safe enough to let nature take its course. Just as we can love the puppy that happens to be at the shelter, we can love the person who just happens to be sitting next to us."
"OK," Meara said hesitantly. "Maybe it might help if I read your stories and learn about your definition of love. Would you be willing to let me read them?"
"I have no problem sharing them, though let me warn you; many people read a short segment, get turned off by an unconventional pairing and then never take the time to understand the underlying trend flowing through all the stories. Here's a link to my stories, but realize reading them will just give you a deeper understanding of me. They aren't meant to push my agenda onto anyone else."
"Thank you. I look forward to reading them. By the way, my name is Meara. I've enjoyed our conversation, but I have a business meeting to attend so have to leave now."
"I'm Sam. It's a pleasure to meet you, Meara. I usually stop by here every Thursday after work. People watching triggers my creative energy. Maybe I'll see your smile again. I hope your meeting goes smoothly for you."
"Thanks, Sam. I will read your stories. Enjoy your week."
One week later
"Well, if it isn't smiling Meara. My stories didn't chase you away. Have a seat and join me."
"Thank you, Sam. I must admit I was caught off guard when I started reading your stories, thinking you might be drawn to relationships I couldn't see myself in, but the more I read, the more I realized you weren't limiting yourself to one type of pairings. I began to view the pairings, along with the consistency of the concept of love, as a statement that love is only limited by the limitations we place on it. Is it truly that simple to love?"
"Yes, Meara, that's what I believe. I believe our self-imposed limitations, resulting from insecurities and self-doubts, are most likely to be what prevents a loving relationship. We obviously can't make people open to something they don't find attractive, but there is a lot of flexibility in what we find attractive. Some of our requirements may be rigid, but the majority of our preferences would not make or break a relationship. We view the overall package, not the details. As high school students, we assumed everyone would focus on the pimple on our nose, while people generally saw us, not the pimple. When the total package outshines the details, those details become irrelevant. Did you love your puppy any less when his spots weren't symmetrical?"
"Sam, the more I read your stories, and the more I hear the words you share, the more I can relate to your concept of love. Deep down, I realize your concept is what I've always dreamt of experiencing. Unfortunately, after too many disappointing experiences, I'm scared of allowing myself to be vulnerable and hurt again."
"Meara, you've learned from those experiences. Trust your knowledge and judgment. At this point in your life, you know what works and doesn't for you. Just be honest with that, and you'll like the results."
"It's scary, but you are right. I know better today what works or doesn't for me than I did when I was younger. If I don't trust myself, who can I trust? After all, what have I truly got to lose? Sam, I need to share some things about me. I always felt my breasts were too small and inadequate, but my 34Bs are larger than the A-cups you seem to write about. People have always told me I'm too skinny and I need more meat on my bones. You like subtleties, yet this is my natural hair, carrot-topped ringlets and all, making it impossible to hide in a crowd. I'm pretty plain and not what most guys are looking for. At 5'9" and 60-years-old, I'm much taller and older than any of your story characters ... Sam, you can stop me anytime you wish."
"Do I have to?"
"You want me to continue listing my flaws?"
"Those weren't my words."
Meara took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "OK, Sam, help me understand."
Sam said, "Meara, my name is Sam..." and leaned over to whisper the rest of his name in her ear.
"What is your reason to reveal that?"
"The same reason you had to reveal your list. We both know your list was not a list of flaws, and I'm pretty sure you felt stronger and more assured as the list went on. We both did the same thing. We acknowledged the value we see in front of us. By giving each other ammunition that could be used to hurt us, we say, 'I trust you to not use this against me.' We both want to be accepted and appreciated as we are. I revealed myself in the stories I wrote, so you equalized the vulnerability by sharing your list. Vulnerability is what gives depth to a relationship. We reveal everything, including what can be used to hurt us, needing to know the truth won't be an obstacle to what we seek. You said, 'this is who I am. Please accept me and see value in my true self. I promise to hide nothing from you, for this is where I want to belong.' I responded with my full identity, the final key allowing you the ability to destroy my career and livelihood. Thank you, Meara. I'd love to join you on a very special new journey."
Meara tentatively reached out and placed her hand in his. He covered her hand with his other hand, enveloping it with acceptance and warmth. Their faces slowly gravitated toward each other, till their lips met.
Sam and Meara's relationship built slowly, yet steadily. They loved their conversations about love and relationships and enjoyed their closeness. Sam picked up on her caution and didn't apply any pressure. They both were totally satisfied with their hugs, kisses and tender touches. Meara wanted to discuss each of his stories, so she was sure she didn't miss any important aspect. She was surprised how much she was learning about herself as they discussed the stories. Other than her past partners being incompatible, she learned how rushing into those relationships made the experiences more traumatic to her. Something about Sam was different, and she had no desire to gamble on losing him.
"Sam, I know we both enjoy being with each other, yet I realize there are more stages to a relationship. I admit I want to go further, yet something holds me back. I know you say consequences are more a result of our actions than the actions of others, so I want to know what I can do to let go of my barriers."
"Meara, there is a reason behind everything we do. If you put up barriers, there is a reason for those barriers. It could be due to something you pick up from me or something you experienced in your past."
"That's easy; it is definitely from my past. You are the most caring, compassionate person I've ever met. Is it possible to let go of the past?"
"I'll let you answer that question, Meara, by telling me if you are still addicted to that baby bottle you believed you couldn't live without."
"I think I understand, Sam. Though things may be functional at one stage of our development, they may have no purpose at another stage. I just need to figure out what my caution is telling me."
"The more value we place on something, the more caution we put in that area. We don't want to damage or lose what we see as a good thing. I sense we both want the same thing. We want to know we belong and what we bring to the relationship has value and is appreciated by our partner. We don't want our loved one to ever settle, put up with or tolerate anything about us. To reach this goal, we can tell each other what impresses us about the other and how that impacts us. This will take care of things already exposed, but what about those things we fear exposing? As we feel safe and secure together, we'll expose a little at a time, viewing how each item is received. With each new acceptance, we'll feel safer to expose more. If we see positive energy beyond acceptance, it will draw us in faster. You may have a devil-shaped birthmark on your belly and might be fearful of my reaction, but you'll never know till you actually expose it."
Laughing, Meara pulled up her blouse and exposed her belly. "No birthmarks here."
"But there was something there," said Sam.
"Where?" questioned Meara, as she pulled her blouse up and looked.
"Right there," Sam responded, as he pointed to her belly and proceeded to slide his fingers and palm across her belly, eliciting a gasp from Meara. "You have a beautiful flat belly, with this cute, delicate belly button, right where I like it."
"It's just a belly. Everyone has one."
"If it's just a belly, then what's the reason I feel this warmth flowing through my insides when I see and touch it? I can go to the beach and see plenty of bellies, but they don't impact me the way yours does. This one doesn't belong to just anyone, and it isn't on display for the world to see. It belongs to someone I have deep feelings for, and it is being shared just with me. It's personalized, it's special and it's lovely."
"If you respond this way to a simple belly, I don't know if I can handle exposing more," blushed Meara.
"Just sharing your blush with me is intimate enough for me."
"No, Sam, I'm not saying I don't want to expose more. I can't imagine anyone I'd prefer exposing all there is to be exposed. I do want you to see me, and I do want you to like me."
"Then you're too late, as I'm way beyond 'like, ' already."
"I know, Sam. So am I," Meara said as she reached in to hug Sam and then gave him a tender kiss.
"OK," said Sam. "Let me help you feel more secure. Let me tell you what impresses me about you. Meara, your assets that stand out to me are your sweetness, gentleness, kindness, caring, consideration, playfulness, responsibility, tranquility and your amazing touches and kisses. I love your soft, smooth skin, your expressive smile and eyes, your long. lean body, your soft hair, the graceful way you move and your cute little belly button."
Another blush came over Meara. "But what don't you like about me?"
"Let me see. Hmmm. This is a tough one, but I guess it's that you just kissed me but didn't give me opportunity to kiss you back. That's about all I can come up with for now. I'll have to study you a bit further to determine what other alterations I'd like to see."
Blushes seemed to be popular, as they returned with a vengeance. "OK, Sam, kiss me back, as long as you promise your sweet kisses will never stop." Conversation seemed to drop in priority for the rest of that particular encounter.
One evening, lying on her bed after a particularly sensual, loving makeout session, Meara lay draped over Sam's body as she gazed into his eyes and tenderly caressed his cheek. "Sam, never did I believe men could love like you love. Past lovers have left me bruised and sore, while your touch is tender, yet intentional and obviously desirous. I feel your love, desire and consideration for me, and tears of joy well up inside of me. I have never felt closer to or more trusting of a man, in my life. There is nothing about you I fear; yet I still carry past baggage with me. Unfortunately, we let our flaws hold us back from fully experiencing life."
"It looks like you paid attention when you read my stories, so let's look at that. Can you identify flaws that hold you back?"
"Oh, definitely. I have always seen my flaws very clearly."
"Those are things that proceeded your reading of my stories. Meara, flaws don't exist. They are figments of our imagination, the expression of our greatest fears. No one likes to feel he or she doesn't measure up, isn't good enough. A difference is not a flaw. I love your breasts, yet I don't have any of my own. Does that make me flawed?"
"Of course not, Sam. It isn't normal for men to have breasts, so that can't be a flaw."
"Precisely, we determine our flaws by comparing ourselves to what we believe is the norm, but what is the purpose of this norm, other than force people to conform?"
"I guess people are more comfortable with predictability, so gravitate toward what is familiar."
"So true, Meara. Yet, is this truly what's in the best interest of both the individuals and society?"
"If it provides us with comfort, wouldn't that be in everyone's best interest?"
"But the question we need to ask is whether it truly creates comfort or discomfort. Since the majority of people won't fit the ideal mold, aren't we just creating more people who feel insecure and defective? Would those people be insecure and defective without those ideals?"
"So society is actually working against itself?"
"Yes, rather than helping people to see themselves as unique and special, people are led to believe they don't measure up. This limits the contributions those people could bring to society. Let's say you could only speak French. Would that make you flawed?"
"I guess it would be a flaw if I wanted a relationship with someone who didn't speak French."
"Yet, wouldn't that same quality be an asset, if the person you desired only spoke French?"
"So you're saying things aren't flaws when they can be seen as assets in some settings?"
"Exactly. Rather than insist on pushing that square peg through the round hole, find a square hole. There is nothing wrong with that square peg. Differences don't determine the person, but are helpful in choosing where we could feel most appreciated. If you lost an arm in an accident, would you be flawed?"
"Well, yes, as it would limit my ability to do many of the things I enjoy doing."
"And our language encourages that belief. We call these people disabled, unable. Couldn't they just as easily be seen as physically challenged? Remember from my stories, when one sense is limited others become more acute to make up for the change. I could look at someone without an arm and be in awe of how that person adjusted to the challenge. That person has probably developed skills that would be very challenging for me to do. That person may be able to provide insight that couldn't be seen by someone who didn't face that challenge. So is that person flawed, or is that person bringing a unique talent, uncommon among the masses?"
"Meara, you have no flaws. Your uniqueness makes you special to me. What is the purpose of makeup?"
"I always thought it was to cover up flaws, but now you'll tell me there are no flaws to be covered up."
"The purpose of makeup is to draw attention to your assets. If you go to a restaurant and focus on things that impress you, you'll probably enjoy the experience, even though we know there are aspects that may be less than ideal within that experience. By enhancing the assets our attention is drawn there, and we see no need to search for flaws."
"Meara, I love your smile, so would wearing bright red lipstick enhance that smile?"
"Well, that's one way of drawing attention to my lips."
"Actually, it would overshadow your lips. All I would be able to see would be the lipstick, and the lips I love would be hidden."
"Meara, Eskimos have many words for what we just call snow. Having more words allows them to be clearer in their descriptions. I see your smile the same way. You don't have one smile, but many smiles. Your smile not only uses your mouth, but also your eyes. The subtle differences in those two areas create the smile. Each of your smiles are distinct and understandable, such as when you see a cute child, or you're offered your favorite dessert, or I touch your skin, or you're in a playful mood, or you're feeling appreciative, and endless other offerings. In fact I learned about a new smile, today, the smile you have when you feel you'll explode if you don't get what you believe you need at that moment. Some people may identify that as a look of pain, but I see below the surface and understand it's just another of your smiles, a smile of intense desire. You may believe you hid that from me, but I saw it very clearly."
"Sam, you talk about enhancing the positive, yet what if your definition of positive is different from mine? In your deeply emotional stories, you unabashedly declare your love for the erotic sounds of intimacy, while I have always experienced sex in silence. My family was into cruel humiliation. When I discovered my body, I would have horrible nightmares about what they would do upon finding out not only was I touching myself, but finding pleasure in that touch. I couldn't allow myself the chance of getting caught, so I forced myself to be silent. In time, it just became natural for me to be silent, and I haven't questioned that until I read your stories."
"Meara, how could anyone fault you for creating functional patterns? You did what you needed to do, and I respect you for that. The question we ask ourselves is whether patterns created to be functional in one setting are ideal in all settings. I would never expect my partner to change what worked for her. Yes, I might feel a void, but I would find something unique in her to fill that void. Unique qualities surround us. All we have to do is open our eyes and let them enter our awareness. I could still love a partner who was unable to make any sounds, as she might have replaced that ability with something just as beautiful. Maybe she replaced sound with touch and developed an artist's touch. How could I not let that beauty fill my soul? Today, I read your smile of desire, and I felt very special knowing you trusted me with that vulnerability. Our desire for each other is obvious to both of us."
"Oh, Sam, I do trust you, desire you and love you. I sense you've progressed very slowly with me, not wanting to hurt me or scare me away. Though I appreciate that about you, I need to let you know there is no need to hold back. I am ready to freely share my body with you, as I already freely share my love. I want you to fully enjoy all of me, as much as I enjoy your loving touches, kisses and your obvious desire." Meara reached down and lovingly put her hand on Sam's firm erection. "Though my desire may not be as obvious, I want you to know me in all ways possible. I want your love to fill me emotionally and physically. I want to bring you the satisfaction you bring me."
"Meara, I already feel more satisfied with you than I've ever felt before."
"And I do, also, Sam, but I want no limits between us. Sam, I love the way we communicate. I feel safe sharing everything and anything. The only thing confusing me is I'm not sure if I love your intelligence, your sensitivity, your creativity, your understanding, your caring or your handsome exterior. Hopefully, you'll let me stick around till I'm able to figure that out. I figure I should be able to figure it out within 40 years or so."
"Meara, you fill my life with so much love, you will always be welcome to be a special part of my life."
Meara continued to gaze deeply into Sam's eyes as she quietly unbuttoned the buttons on her blouse. Rolling over onto her back, she undid the clasp at the front of her bra and exposed her breasts to Sam, for the first time. "Then the time for hiding anything has passed, Sam. Let me feed you with my desire. Let me nurture you with my love."
Sam watched her breasts, swollen with desire, rise and fall with each breath Meara took. Topping her perfect mounds were peach colored nipples, fully erect and inviting. "You are so beautiful, Meara, my priceless treasure."
Sam reached out and cradled a breast in his hand, eliciting an audible gasp from Meara. His head lowered, till his lips enveloped her eager nipple. "Oh, Sam," she cried out. Moans flowed from her, as she held his head to her breast while he continued to caress and suckle.
The next Saturday, Sam and Meara sat enjoying a nice meal at a local restaurant. They carried on a pleasant conversation. Not knowing how or when to bring up the subject, Sam decided to just say it. "Meara, I have something for you."
"And I have something for you, too," said Meara, with relief in her voice.
They both passed sheets of paper over to the other and then laughed, as they viewed the other's STD test results. Meara said, "Sam, I want to be with you and realize I don't care if that includes accepting whatever consequences might come with you, yet I needed to show you I am safe. It never crossed my mind your thoughts would be running in the same direction, yet, knowing you, how could I not have anticipated the same from you? I believe I'm just so in love with you, nothing could keep me from you. Sam, tonight I want you to spend the night with me, in my bed, in my arms, and in me. All I want is to be that close to you. I have no expectations of what will happen or where it will lead, as those things have no meaning to me right now. I just need to connect with you as close as is humanly possible."
"Meara, I love you and want to share all aspects of love with you. I have no doubt our sharing will take us into deeper depths of emotion, but I want the physical side to work for you, also. I know the guys you've been with have been insensitive and self-serving, but please let me know about your past frustrations and disappointments, so I can make sure all your concerns are addressed."
"Sam, you are so caring, attentive and loving. If that's all I get, I'll be totally fulfilled. My past experiences have been frustrating and disappointing. As your amazing attention wasn't present, I focused on physical satisfaction, and that wasn't to be found. I'm not sure if there might be something wrong with me or if it was something my partners did or didn't do. I have never experienced an orgasm through intercourse, though I know other women have. Maybe I need more time than men can realistically give, or maybe I'm just incapable. I stopped having sex many years ago, as I couldn't face another experience of being aroused and left with no release. Sam, with you I've discovered sensations I never dreamed of. With you, I feel satisfied even without an orgasm. I don't even care if I have an orgasm with you. I just want to be with you."