Don’t Fall in Love, Fall in Mate
By Vivi Rathbone.
With Winter in Buenos Aires, comes the season of despedidas.
And despedidas bring with them a lot of powerful emotions.
And sometimes, if you’re lucky and unlucky, you fall in love.
I didn’t fall in love.
I fell in mate.
My friend Mateo loved mate. He loved mate more than most yanquis. We would always drink mate together, until the time came for him to go home.
He told me: “Te quiero, but I’m leaving. Maybe I’ll come back.”
I didn’t want to wait for him, so I said: “come visit me in my dreams”.
He said “OK”, and then, he gave me a wooden mate gourd. It was a parting gift to remember all of the good mates we had shared, and I loved it.
It was stable and sturdy,
It was warm and deep:
A vessel for a sacred herb
A hollow space, filled with tea.
It was a heart,
a cask for love,
hollow chambers filled with blood.
Mate was the blood
that pumped through my heart chambers.
The tea passed through the thermos vena cava,
infused the yerba leaves in the right atrium,
and then was sucked up through the bombilla pulmonary artery,
into my own system,
where it become a part of my blood.
Valves and atriums.
Mates and bombillas.
They all flowed with love.
And I thought, this mate is our heart.
Until one day, the mate gourd fractured.
I felt the water seep through a very small crack and leak on my hand.
Is it his crack, or mine? I wondered.
My friend Mateo and I didn’t talk, and he didn’t visit me in my dreams.
I was sad and the crack got bigger and wider and deeper and leaked, until I just couldn’t take it anymore. So I washed it and put it away on a top shelf of my kitchen, so I couldn’t see it. I went weeks without any mate.
Then, one Thursday, I listened to love songs. I went on a love song binge, right before bed. I fell asleep, awash in borrowed sentimentality, and fell into a dream.
In my dream:
I was sitting on a stool, surrounded by strangers in a strange place filled with stools, when I noticed that Mateo was next to me.
He was turned away from me and he didn’t see me. I elbowed him in the side and shook his knee and tried to get his attention.
He turned and acknowledged me. “Hey, V!”
I woke up.
I felt that painful ache of when you wake up from a dream when you’d prefer to remain. So I closed my eyes and fell back asleep, and into another dream.
In my dream:
I was sitting on a picnic blanket on a grassy hill overlooking a river.
I took in the beautiful view, and Mateo walked over and came to join me on the blanket.
It was temperate and sunny and peaceful.
We sat in silent meditation, and then I woke up.
I tossed in my bed until the arrangement of my pillows allowed for my body to lay to rest and I fell into another dream. This dream was tense. My parents were there and they were angry with me. Mateo was there again too, but we were arguing.
I woke up, disappointed that our dream sequence had turned sour. I fell back asleep and met him in another dream.
In my dream:
I revisited the past, the night he gave me the mate gourd. I closed my eyes and I placed my hand over his heart and I saw him without my eyes. He was skinny and weak, he looked like a skeleton. He was incomplete and imperfect and unafraid to reveal himself to me. I saw a red cord that started in his big beating heart, and flowed through the palm of my hand, through my arm and connected to my own heart.
In the dream I opened my blue eyes and I looked into his brown eyes and I saw that he was many people that I love. Dream identities often blur.
His brown dream eyes were his eyes, but they were also my mother’s warm eyes, they were my high school sweetheart’s teasing eyes, they were my best friend’s coffee-colored eyes, they were the eyes of friends I had yet to meet.
I saw –
We are all the same, we are all connected by cords of love.
It wasn’t Mateo’s heart I saw, he showed me my own imperfect heart, my own weakness to love. Love is just a big mirror, and when I looked with my heart, and not my eyes, I saw the mirrored reflection of our universal soul.
In the morning, I woke up smiling. I often dream of the people in my life, but then I knew that everyone, in dreams and reality, is a mere reflection.
As the poet said; “If I am I because I am I, and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you. But If I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you.”
No, but rather, I am she as you are he, as you are me, and,
We are all together.
I layed in bed for a minute, and then I got up because all of a sudden I was really thirsty for some mate. I went into the kitchen and looked on the top shelf for my wooden mate gourd. I brought it down and held it up, turning it and examining and admiring it.
The crack was gone.