RECENTLY, IN THE COMPANY of a woman I admire, I sensed her slip away. It was in nothing she said, or did, but I felt it all the same. Sensed it, yet in a physical way, so that my whole body began to quake within, though I did my best to smile through it, nod, and to make small talk and conversation.
If I had been given permission to speak at that moment, if someone had put a microphone up to my mouth and asked me that question, “How do you feel?” no sound would have come out. Maybe only a dull, death-like croak. Inside, lava was bubbling, plates were shifting. I was going to explode.
Yet I suppressed my own voice, my own feelings, because who really has any use for something that cannot be expressed in simple words? The truth was that a simple phrase like, “I love you,” would have been enough to calm me. The “I love you” never came out though. Even that had to be hidden away.
On the train home, I sat stunned, overcome by the sensations in my body. I listened to music, or entertained myself with work, yet I could not describe what was happening to me. Surely, a man at my age should have total control over his faculties, to be able to shut off or turn on certain parts of his psychology as the need arose. My entire life I had been bullied and teased on account of my softness — soft, this is the first word that often comes to people when asked to describe me — and yet as hard as I tried to scrub it from me, my sensitivity had again betrayed me, left me out to the cold.
I was a sensitive man and I had a heart and this just would not do.
At home in my bed, the overwhelming crash of the waves fell upon me. It had been nothing she said, nothing she did, but just that sense of someone being there, being present, and then withdrawing into obscurity.
I decided then, that I would get rid of the cursed feeling for all time. I imagined this soft, pink, membrane of thing, this feeling that some call love. I imagined placing it in a box, and taking it deep into a cave by a beach. I put planks of wood over the box, and covered it with mounds of sand. There it stayed for some time, repressed. Tucked away. Hidden from everyone. Including me.
Life went on like that, and I was happy to have my feelings under control. Everything was in its right place, and such feelings served no purpose. The more time that went on though, I began to feel that something was not right. I felt dry, and stale, and I could no longer write as well or as fluidly as I once had. The fact that I had concealed my heart from all others did not trouble me so much as the reality that I had stopped paying attention to a part of myself. That whatever love or admiration I had felt for this woman was good, and there was no reason to be afraid of it, or to keep it in a crypt.
So on another day, I summoned the courage to descend back into the cave and to find the mound of sand, where I had once buried my heart. I moved the dirt away with my hands until I found the wooden planks, and after removing them, I found the box, and pried that open too, until my heart, my love, once again felt sweet oxygen and began to pump and feel again. At last, I dragged it out of the cave and into the sunlight and let it pulsate. Maybe it was soft, maybe it was vulnerable, but I could not do without it.
An Estonian-language version of this column appears in the autumn 2018 issue of the magazine Hingele Pai.