‘I don’t love her, that’s certain, but perhaps I love her.
Love is brief: forgetting lasts so long.’
Today I bumped into someone I knew from a long time ago. Someone whom I once cared for immensely and loved with a torridness often reserved for the kind of loves that that either die premature rockstar deaths, or live forever.
We were together only some months but in those few urgent, calendar bound days we probably immolated our little world a few times over with that rare passion and ultimately, each other.
It was a shock to my system when this love finally met its tragic end and I continued to reel under its intoxicating spell even months later. An analogy I once used likened me to a fast-spinning top dwindling to a giddy, wobbly stop.
It would be years before we would ever see each other again.
I heard later that she’d taken up with someone new soon after we parted ways, and that this was the ‘one; the love of her life, I believe. I remember reading a book some years after in which the protagonist laments his curse of love. The story goes that after having been with him, women would immediately go on to find their soul mates; the love of their lives. Of course this meant that every woman wanted to be with him… but not really. I thought I was a lot like that man. And at the time I heard of Abi’s new found love, I’d probably never felt more wretched.
Years passed and time nursed many wounds but I continued to carry with me the small vanity case that was my emotional baggage. The bag was empty save a vacuum that echoed a plaintive moan. A sound that emerged from a chasm of an empty, groaning belly hungry for closure, and therefore peace.
Many eastern religions imbibe the practise of a ‘proper’ set of mourning rituals which not only see the departed soul safely to the other side, but also ensconce the bereaved in a shroud of grieving that lasts anything from three to ten to thirteen or forty days. I understand why. This time is of essence to work through the process of grieving and healing, after which the mourner is better equipped to re-enter into the routine, commitment and chore of every day living. It had been perhaps forty months and I had had no closing ceremony, no mourning ritual. I realised that needed to see Abi again and lay my demons to rest.
I always get what I ask for, sooner or later.
We met. She had grown up and was glowing. In her radiance, she smiled politely and responded cordially. The past was never mentioned. The past was a four-letter word. The past, it seemed, had never happened. It wasn’t unpleasant. It felt more like something you got with a Happy Meal. Mildly amusing, plastic and entirely forgettable.
We met again. Then once more. Always by chance, it was, at a party, a club and then yesterday at a restaurant.
I stopped by the table and made the usual interrogative noises after health, work and weather. She made the usual sounds, namely ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘mm-hmm’ and ‘good’. And then I did something I will replay in my head and wonder about possibly forever. I asked her if we were ever going to have a conversation that went beyond monosyllables.
She looked me dead in the eyes and simply said, ‘no’.
I didn’t say another word. I just nodded and walked away for what I knew would be the last time.
You know what they always say – to be always careful of what you ask, for you just might get it? They’re right. They also say ask and you shall receive. Both are right. Both true. And my God, vanity cases are ugly.
‘Though this is the last pain she will make me suffer, and these are the last lines I will write for her…’