It is just past four thirty in the morning, and I am on the other side of the planet.
I am listening as the imam—or more likely, a tape recording of the imam’s voice—chants the call to morning prayer.
The mosque is about five miles away; there is a grove and a stretch of beach between it and my hotel. The chants reverberate off every vertical surface, bouncing back in echoes, layering the imam’s voice to fill the still-dark sky.
I am awake, waiting for the sun.
I managed to arrive without jet lag, thanks to Marcus’s sage advice that I adjust to my new time zone during the fourteen-hour flight. He and I have shared this route before; his advice worked then, and it works now.
From my bed, I look out over my balcony to see the stars fading over the gulf.
I sleep with the balcony doors open. I am lulled by the sound of waves and the occasional taxi. And before dawn each morning, I hear the iman’s call.
It grows louder, longer in its syllables. Another voice joins in. Another. The voices mix and meld, crash against the waves, gently waking everyone who hears, calling us away from dreams.
The faithful rise to pray. I linger under the blankets.
Work has brought me here. I took care of work rather quickly on this trip, allowing a few days to myself.
I have chosen to spend those days alone, pretty much.
I have attended functions and networked, as I should, but by and large, I am taking advantage of being in a place where sun, food and sleep are available in as great a quantity as one wants, a place where sex is unlikely and booze prohibited by Sharia, the Islamic code governing how life should lived.
No bacon either, for that matter.
I have time, in this other extreme of life, to be alone with myself, away from my children, my friends, my lovers, my city, and the attendant cares of those people and that place I care so much about.
Wake early, rest in the afternoon, stay up late. My circadian rhythm was easily reset to local time. Never miss a sunrise, never miss a sunset.
In bed this morning, I am lucid and calm as I mentally sharpen Occam’s Razor.
William Ockham was an English philosopher with a simple proposition: given the choice between two viable theorems, the less complex one is preferred.
His philosophical Razor trims away the excess.
His Razor can be applied to life.
I have had ample time to reflect on the quality of the time with Madeline and Marcus. I have blogged about the sex—this is a sexblog, after all—but there is more at play.
The relationship I share with Marcus is clearly ‘til death do we part. We’ve loved each other for a couple of decades; we can manage a few more before crossing the finish line. He is a secure guide wire to the best of my past, the certainty of my future.
Meeting Madeline, both online and then in person, was entirely unexpected. Our long conversations established a mental connection; now, easily, our bodies follow suite.
This leads me to wonder if perhaps one day I will prefer to relinquish the new-found freedoms of living by my own dictates in order to share life with someone else.
This future happens no time soon, I’m sure, if ever. I am still too bruised by having so many years of monogamy, love and compromise squandered by my ex’s impulsivity.
I am not already planning a future with someone I have only just met. But the what ifs? are a novel sensation after a year and half of locking doors and latching shutters as I shut down the home of my marriage.
A spark of optimism is rekindled.
The experience also raised the bar.
My life is generally open and expansive. If my life were a meal, it would be a buffet, served family style. Everybody eats when they come to my house.
But after the banquet, some people should go home. Others are invited to linger. For them, I pull out the private stock of aperitifs and dessert wines.
Those who enjoy the buffet and commend the chef may find themselves invited to the inner sanctum. It’s not an exclusive club, just . . . selective.
Pity those who ungraciously pick at the buffet, making undue demands on the chef’s generosity. Can this be made with fewer spices? Are these sneeze guards secure? Can I get a doggy bag?
These boorish few may find themselves shown to the door, where Mr. Ockham stands by, ready to roll up the red carpet and click the velvet rope into place.
Spending time with friends of such caliber as my oldest Marcus and my newest Madeline challenges me to look again at those at the periphery, to keep in check the demands they make of me.
I am the most nurturing of men. I want to take care of the needs of others to the extent of my ability.
But when that desire to nurture is abused, Mr. Ockham intervenes. Take care, he warns me; you are too easily drawn into the wells of other people’s needs.
Far better, he suggests, to take care of those who can take care of themselves. They give as much as they take. They eat their fill from the buffet, and yet it is instantly replenished.
They take care of me.
The rising sun clears the tops of buildings across the way, filling my room with bright orange light.
I sit up, then stand, nude as I stretch in the light.
I dress for a walk on the beach before breakfast.