Tuesday, July 7

Chamber Music

WHEN WE MOVED in together, we agreed that the mezzanine would be where I wrote. It had a desk, a worn rug, and much of the junk I had never bothered to unpack. It became my writing area but was seldom visited, not as much as I would have liked, anyway. If I wrote up there it was when she had gone to bed, because she liked me to be in the same room as her when she slept. The floorboards creak underfoot. The heat collects up there. I was not often inspired to write, so rarely did I spend the evening up there, and, when I did, the words were hard to take hold of.
Since she moved out I have not been up there; maybe I have, once or twice, to collect the odd thing, but I have not written up there certainly, preferring the dining table where I can smoke and not be disturbed by the creaking floorboards. Since she moved out I have been filled with inspiration; I cannot stop writing. The room became off-limits. It was as though the occupant had died and that everything within should remain untouched, a shrine to what once was.
I am due to move out of this flat, our flat, by next week. It is a thought that unsettles me deeply. On the one hand, I am in need of a new start, and a new location, unburdened by the past. On the other, I am still clinging to that past and am clawing at it despite my efforts otherwise.
This evening I went up to the mezzanine to begin packing. It seemed as good a place as any to begin.
At first, I saw a note from L— tacked to the writing desk. In salute to one of our favourite films, it read—

You’re my only hope. Rx

I picked it up and threw it into the binbag. What is the use in keeping it? That is over and I am no longer deserving of such messages. Waves came over me so that I felt nauseous. On the shelves were some other cards. I picked those up, too, and leafed through them. One from my mother & father, wishing us well in our new home from the 19th August last year—

Dear R— & L—
We are so happy that you have found the perfect home!
May you have many happy years together – with lots of fun, happiness & good health, with a small amount of sad times & ill-health to make you appreciate the good times!
Always make time for each other & remember how you felt when you first got together because it can be far too easy to take each other for granted!
You know you will always have our love & affection & anything else you may need, just ask.
Love you both so much.
Dad & Mum
xx xx

My mother had indeed liked L—. They were good drinking partners and conversed well.
I started to cry. My parents had been so happy for me when I met L—, when we moved in together. It was with a face full of tears that I reached down into the binbag and pulled out L—’s note; no matter what, I could not forget her and should not try to. What was done, was done. I could not erase things, nor deny they happened. Sentimentally overturned, I continued to read through the cards, which, for their very presence, had, at some point or other, been regarded highly by me.
There were three from L— I had kept: our first Christmas together, a card she gave me with a gift for no particular reason, and a birthday card. Reading over them I became bereft. What struck me was how positively she had spoken about the future, as though through all the mystique one thing was for certain: that she & I would be together.

Here’s to you, my darling, and here’s to us.
to all the years behind us, and the countless others ahead.

She knew that we had a future and she wrote about it to me in small notes, short enough for me to dream along with her of all that which was to come, to be shared between us—

Here’s to you, to me, and to us on our first Christmas together on this extraordinary adventure.

I wept as I read through them, while outside in the courtyard a group of girls sat with bowls of strawberries, talking & laughing. I came to my birthday card, my twenty-ninth birthday, which featured a design of a postbox and a phonebox, both of which sandwiched the entrance to our flat, the flat we had just rented together. This was when she started to turn, when she started to become ill and when she started to become tired of me. I noticed it back then. If I had to pick a time when the relationship began to fail, when the cracks started to show, it was my birthday, when we stayed at my parents’ for the weekend. Although the relationship took another seven months to die, that was when – if I was being honest with myself – I knew that things were not as good as they had been. Still, the sign-off gave me hope—

My darling,
Who thought you’d be seeing this year in with a whole new view?
(Do you recognise it?)
Happy birthday.
All my love, always,

The sign-off gave me hope that things would get better. ‘All my love, always.’ What more could I wish for than her love always?
Simply: it was not to be.
I no longer have that love.
She did not lie, nor do I believe she exaggerated for the sake of a birthday card. I am convinced that she believed she would love me always, just as I believed it. These things happen. Love fades, and so forth! I suppose I should be happy that I once – even just once – gave someone cause to think they would love me forever, that they could be in love with me forever.
I put the cards in a pile and all of the rubbish I took out to the bins in two large black sacks. Outside there were many couples sitting on the grass, walking their dogs, waiting around, coming home from work. I still love her, I thought on my way to the bins. Of course I still love her because I am unable to stop loving her. She was the first girl I fell in love with and will always have that place in my heart, immoveable, tattooed on the precious four chambers—‘This was the girl who taught you love.’ Maybe I didn’t show it as often as I should, maybe I took certain things for granted, maybe I became a worse person and she noticed. I won’t ever stop loving her nor will I ever stop caring about her and hoping she is okay; that is difficult for me to write because I am not sure I want her to find happiness with another man, but if that makes her happy, truly happy, forever, then so be it. That will be good enough for me.
I returned to the flat and decided that I would stop packing for the evening. It had caused me enough heartache. As I write this now my entire throat and bottom jaw is in agony for a pain I cannot understand, but it is wrenching and truly awful. Retiring from these keys, I find little to be happy about but I must continue. I will not discard her messages, I will keep them. In years to come I will look back upon them fondly and I will remember her fondly, as she deserves, shining and beautiful in the night of my life.

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