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20. What makes someone beautiful?
Beauty is intangible. At least, when it comes to people. It’s almost too easy to say that everyone is beautiful in their way, but I’m committed to the belief that every body is beautiful. Bodies aren’t the whole of people, though. People’s beauty lives in some other, harder to pinpoint place. Determining attraction can happen in an instant. That instinct is animal. Discerning beauty, for me, happens by process of compilation. It happens with more concerted observation than merely following my nose.
I met this guy. It was one of those rare, stunning, instant attraction things that gives you whiplash. He greeted me for our first date with a hug, and from that moment it was all accelerated heartbeat, flushness and sweat. We had a second date shortly thereafter, and then he skipped town. I’d pretty much written him off, as I hadn’t heard from him for a while when he invited me to join him on a 5-day road trip to some sort of Pervert Fest in upstate New York over a month later. I hopped in without hesitation, and it, and he, and we, were wonderful far beyond what I could have hoped.
In the few days after I returned, my partner of 5 years broke up with me unexpectedly. I called the guy up, he took me for a movie, and a cuddle. A few days later, at a quarter to ten, he texts me saying he wanted to crawl up to Brother André’s on his knees, and did I want to join him? That night. At 11. Wasn’t it a nice evening for self-flagellation? The novelty of being able to leave my house at such short notice so late at night without incurring the ire of my (… this is still hard to say…) ex, and having not been led amiss by this guy’s spontaneity so far, I agreed to meet him at a café near the Oratoire, half thinking I was in for a kinky adventure.
When I arrived at the Café, he told me that his friends thought he was making fun, or mocking, but he wasn’t. He was serious. We quietly walked up to the Oratoire, looked up at the dome and the night sky from the bottom of the stairs, got down on our knees, and began our ascent in silence. One prayer at each of 283 steps.
When we got to the top, we wandered around the basilica grounds in our separate ways. After a short while, I found him leaning against a sign, and leaned up next to him. We sat silently for a while. He asked if I’d like to spend the night with him, took me by the hand, and walked me down the hill to the car without a word.
I do not know what inspired this pilgrimage. I might never know what needed healing or redeeming or atonement. It hardly matters. I was honoured to share, and besides, in need of reconciliation of my own. And somewhere between the top step and the car, what understanding I had compiled the conclusion that this guy I’d met wasn’t simply smart/sexy/funny/kind. Not merely good lookin’. He’s beautiful. And I am blessed to have seen it.