1 This is the first intimacy: for a while you allow yourself to be completely enamored with and consumed by the other. You hang onto their words and gestures, how they pull in their lips or scratch their ankle or button their shirt. You don’t know much about what they’ll do when they’re surprised or disappointed or angry or sad, but you know what they’ll do when they think no one is looking, because they have ceased to be themselves just as you’ve ceased to be you. While they’re falling in love with the way you brush your hair out of your face or cover your mouth while you laugh or wrinkle your nose, you’re falling in love with the way they tap their foot or laugh before they’ve gotten to the end of the joke. It’s the beginning and it is comfort, even when you don’t notice it anymore.
2 There is no such thing as two equals in love. There is no such thing as equal sacrifice, if you cook I’ll do the dishes if you get the floor dirty you clean it up. Instead, each person secretly believes that they’re giving more, giving everything, giving all the time. This is a small, selfish pleasure, because if you always believe you are giving more, and often, and without complaint, you believe the other is indebted to you. If the other is indebted — without knowing — you will always have leverage, you will always have a way to shame them with your love. See, see this? This is what I have done for you. But equal to this small, selfish pleasure is the big, self-rending choice to keep quiet about it. It is knowing exactly how you might break the other and knowing you will never do it. This is also intimacy, but it is as much intimacy with yourself — with who you are, and what you believe about love and generosity and goodness — as it is with the other person.
What promises can you keep?
3 Lovers meet again and again over the course of time. As strangers and pilgrims and veterans. Here I am, they say. If no one stays the same forever, how can you promise always to love in the same way? You can only promise presence. Here, you say, take my hand as I stretch it across the table. You are well-met. You are new and wholly frightening and wholly wonderful…
…this is the first intimacy.