Tuesday, February 23

An Open Love Letter to Intense Heat

I LOVE YOU.
If I write the words down, they do not bang around so painfully in my brain, so relentlessly, as though writing them down satisfies and stills them. It is almost eleven months since you broke up with me, and I am not sure what compels me to write an letter to you on this temperate February night when my windows are open and I cannot seem to get comfortable. This is a letter to you and only to you because you are the only person I have ever loved. You; the most distant word in the dictionary.
It was a cocktail bar of sorts; a tacky rectangle on the ground floor, possessing a darker restaurant on the first, but they had a happy-hour we occasionally enjoyed. We started off with the same order – two mojitos – the barman making them in tandem, us watching the mild spectacle, waiting and thirsty. Eventually you would try other cocktails from the menu, although I stuck with the mojitos. It was in there I told you that I would always love H—n in some way or other. If I could take that back, I would. I have said many silly things in my life, but that is one to top them all. O, how I regret saying that to you! At the time, my naïveté might suggest it was not so silly; I thought I would always love H—n, but over the next year I learned what love was and what it was not. You taught me both.
Today I was walking through Spitalfields during my lunch of the Monday quiet hour and all the stalls and tourists. Last January you had been put on notice of redundancy and I was meeting you for lunch, to be with you, listen to you, try to make you feel better. I loved comforting you. Caring has never come easily to me – finding it leaves one too exposed and looking like a fool – but I came to love caring for you. Not through any intention of your own, caring for you became to be one of my favourite pastimes. If, when you were upset or crying, I could make you laugh, then that would make me happy; your perfect smile emerging underneath your fringe and the cheekbones coming out to play; perfection, smiling angel and I was happy at just that. I went and sat down somewhere else, looking over where we had sat before, just after you had broken up with me and we were still friends, where we sat one lunch break and were friends. I sat there and looked at the same place we had sat, the axis indeed, one of the final places where we pivoted before we fell apart. Forgive my emotional wreckage. At the tremble of my lips, I departed, but the streets were already deserted because it was mid-afternoon.
One would think that things would be easier by now, that I would have stopped thinking about you every day. Indeed it has become easier – no longer am I disabled by thoughts of you as thoughts that are nervous and piercing, in flight across the blue room of my skull and singing by the window, all feathers and grace – but you never leave me alone. Are you forever destined to infiltrate my daydreams? Am I doomed to suffer your memory until my last breath? Kill me now! I will not mind. I have suffered enough during my life, what is some more if it is in your name? There is no sadist here, but I will endure this tormenting sadness if it is your face I see throughout.
My mum (who really did like you, and misses you more than she cares to admit) told me not to let you know how much I miss you, and I have tried to abide that advice, but here I pause, looking up from the dispassionate tedium of my existence to admit – if only to the void ahead of me – that I love you; as I loved you once, I love you still.
Whether it is embarrassing or not, my mother has become my dearest friend again. You know that I have never really had friends; acquaintances, yes, but not friends. For instance, there is no-one right now whom I would call to confess—‘I am still in love with the girl who left me a year ago.’ My best friend had white skin except when she went on holiday, when her exposure would turn golden delicious and the tanlines around her holiest of holies were the most beautiful, most breathtaking things I ever saw. I miss you, my best friend. I should like to have another friend like you again; someone who knows my past and my joys, my sadnesses and my reasons for staying alive; a friend who can calm me in a sentence and remind me why life is not so brutal as I imagine.
Yes, life, which you taught me to love. During my classes for confirmation we went on a country retreat to discuss Jesus and our impending sacrament. I asked one of the teachers – a pink-faced man with swollen lips – a question while we all sat on the grass—‘How am I supposed to love God if he’s someone I’ve never met? Obviously I can love my mum and my dad and that, but how can I love God if I’ve never actually met him or anything?’ And the man said to me—‘By loving your parents, you are loving God.’ It made perfect sense to me. And so, by loving you, I was loving life, I was in love with life. Without you, life is not so colourful. Life is tolerated but becomes, once again, an unfortunate side-effect of being alive.
Of course we had our bad times, but our good times were the happiest I have ever been. My friend asked—‘So, how’s it going with you and L—a?’ ‘When it’s bad, it’s really bad, man. But when it’s good, it’s the best thing in the universe and … I couldn’t be happier.’ How much truth in that confession! Nothing has ever taken the form of that most sacred and white of pleasures than what I felt when I was in your company. That night in Manchester (when the smell of the December mist told me that nothing would be the same again, and I knew it, forever); the summer afternoon up on the rooftop (your freshly-shaven legs in the sun, the looseness of your dress, how you smiled, and again I say how much I adore your smile); your birthday (when I wanted to make you as happy as I could, and to give you memories as unforgettable as you had given me).
Above all of these occasions is Brighton. Brighton, that sallow glow on the south coast where you had studied and become so much of the young woman I loved. Brighton was perfect as perfect can be, but not Brighton as a place but Brighton as a heaven with you. It was in Brighton I realised – because it truly was something beyond my control – that I would never give up on you. It is, ah yes, a cliché, but I would never give up on you because you were all I wanted and in your company I was the best version of myself. It was then (in that pub garden on the bench, when I confessed so much to you) that I understood that no matter what you would become I would never give up on you because I loved you so.
A love I had never felt for anybody or anything else.
It is perfectly innocent to fall out of love. It is perfectly easy for one to think that it is their fault someone fell out of love with them. Along London streets I spent many an hour thinking over why you left and how I could have made you stay, if I had done this or such & such, it is enough to send someone insane. Now I know that it is pointless, but it is a story to recall next to the fire one day to some strangers. It is likely that I have not yet fallen out of love. I would like to, and I have tried to. Falling out of love is more difficult than you made it feel falling in.
Maybe one day you will start a family with the man you love (your parents overjoyed) and he might love you a certain way, with a certain lightness and fervour, but I assure you that no-one will ever love you in the same way that I did and the way that I do. In some way I feel as though I should apologise for that, but I won’t.

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