After tea, the woman and her lover begin to move toward the bedroom. She pulls a dark chocolate bar from her purse, a new kind, one they’d never tried before. As they take their place on the bed, a small table and a lit candle between them, she carefully opens the wrapper and hands it to the man. He begins to inspect the wrapper, noting the ingredients, percentage of cacao content, references to cacao sources, and so on. The two of them critique the graphics and presentation, quality of the inner foil, designs on the bar itself, enjoying the ritual as a key element of their customary interaction. And when they taste the chocolate, the man makes notes on the wrapper in small, crabbed writing: “Fruity.” “Lush.” “Too sweet.” It’s a ritual which delights them both, bringing “conscious sharp focus” (as he says) to material elements of their time together, as a prelude to their exploration of gossamer realms. The chocolate wrappers are carefully saved, to add to a compilation and inventory of the dozens of brands already consumed.
After the chocolate ritual, the pair begin a tantric gazing practice which lasts for at least an hour, if not longer, before they have physical contact. The gazing practice is actually the most intimate part of their evening, fostering a deeply felt emotional and spiritual connection. Both would probably agree that their gazing practice forms the basis of their relationship.
Michael was a stickler for something resembling the scientific method, and so our encounters were an odd mix of great fondness and objective scrutiny. Though we stopped short of taking notes after each encounter (now I wish we had) he insisted on intellectual clarity, specific language. In some ways I felt we strayed into realm of the ancient charnel grounds, bypassing the perfumed gardens of love preferred by Western practitioners. At other times, a sort of grim glee swept through us, echoes of the cosmic joke told by enlightened beggars and tricksters.
Personally, I had some struggles with the way things were going. I really yearned for a dollop of fuzzy affection now and then. Instead I found myself climbing the stairs to a scholar’s lonely chamber, interrupting the hermit at work (or on EBay) with a kind of girlish hope in the transformational power of what I was feeling. I persisted in calling what we did “a relationship” and I’m pretty sure he was more comfortable with the term “exploration.” I believe he described it as such to his friends, partially to cover his tracks should something get back to the other women in his life.
Terminology aside, we were both tremendously excited by the discoveries we were making. We would gaze for twenty minutes, half an hour at a stretch, come up for air, share notes, have a little more tea and chocolate, and then dive in again. As the self-styled “tantrika” of the pair, I still took it upon myself to do cobra breaths, and summon kundalini, and all that stuff, before I showed up on his doorstep. At least, I did that some of the time. Eventually, I just went in with “intention” (as they say).