“I want it all. Everything. All of you. I will not accept anything less.”
The Great Houdini had a way of saying things that made me understand that, despite his jovial nature, he was not kidding. And right then, in that hotel room in New Orleans, he was very serious. His voice was quiet, as we were sharing our space with my family but there was no mistaking his solemnity of this desire. It wasn’t a demand, but a command, the latter of which I respond much better to. But despite not dangling the invisible ultimatum of a demand over my head, I had no doubt in my mind that he meant exactly what he said.
“I know you. You’re used to being one foot in and one foot out. I get that. I do. But I want everything. All. All of you.”
All is one of those words I had not then, and have not yet made peace with. All is totality, entirety, whole. And despite every romantic comedy touting the wondrous feeling of falling for someone, belonging to someone, I have never been particularly comfortable with it. I am honest enough to say my own issues play a significant role in this disquiet. But mostly, I don’t understand how you can exist if you have given yourself completely over to this person, this relationship, this love.
“You have all of me.”
“No. I have more of you than any man ever has. And still, only as much as you’re comfortable with.”
That was the truth. Had been my truth through every major relationship I’d ever been in. First Love? I knew we were doomed once I grew up and stopped looking for a savior. Gay Husband? Epically doomed from the start. Almost Fiancé? God, I loved him. Adored him. Respected him as a man and a human being. But we were young. And our circumstances were so extreme. And a part of me always knew this would not be the beginning of a lifetime.
And I am ashamed to admit, I found some comfort in that.
“I don’t really know how to do that.”
“I know. But we are going to figure it out. Because that’s what I want. Not part. Not half. Whole. All.”
He put his hands on either side of my face and kissed me, as was his way, pulling away and looking at me intently long enough for the racket around us to go silent for a moment. Then he kissed me again, and started talking to my godfather about chess.
That conversation stays with me. Every once in a while, something, someone, brings it back to the forefront of my memory. Someone wanting all. Me not feeling comfortable giving it, certain every step will take me deeper into a mudslide of heartbreak.
As I’ve gotten older, I find myself inching towards this metaphorical all, leery of it but tiptoeing closer, eyeing it watchfully. I haven’t again been there, but every once in a while I find someone who makes me feel like I could take a trip. Temporarily. Just to see what it’s like, how it’s changed in the years since I’ve last visited.
But then I remember the problem with all is that, ostensibly, there is none of you left for yourself. That giving all, being all to someone else, means there is a good chance you are sacrificing something of yourself. Hopefully it is something you can afford to lose and the tradeoff is worth it. But often, it is something you give to pay the price of admission. And there are no refunds.
I know I am supposed to be caught up in the whimsy of the all. But I just can’t bring myself to trust that all won’t fall down all around me.