Souls are places; I’ve always thought about this. A soul can be explored like a place and felt like a place. A soul can be retreated to like a place and intruded upon like a place. A soul can be fragile or strong depending what it is weathering and what it is built upon, just as a place.
I’ve always found my soul to be a castle, the interior of which is an endless library. The castle is high on a rock overlooking a vast sea. Outside it is always night. Too much light would ruin the volumes and volumes packing every available space inside. Books which contain my memories, my knowledge, my ideas. They stretch out into every room of the labyrinthine castle, up into towers and deep into basements. The castle is sturdy. It has to be. The sea brings many storms.
Here in this forever night, it is quiet and still. Here I can be reflective and private, contemplative and questing without noise and distracting light^.
My light is that of bright, but flickering candles and shimmering silver stars.
The library inside the castle is curated by tiny creatures who store away my knowledge and thoughts in volumes of clothbound* books. Everything is lit with a glowing candlelight, warm and comforting.
The highest tower has a glass ceiling where the galaxy of stars can be seen in all their majesty. I keep the door locked. Only I am privy to this place. This is where I seek inner peace and solitude. This is where I recharge. There is a hearth here, and comfortable seats of all kinds. Upon the hearth are the moving images** of those few beings who have touched my soul. The fire is not a fire. Instead, there is a resonating glow, a pure unearthly and unbound light, warming and healing. This is where my soul touches something bigger, something I do not fully understand, but have always felt connected to. The light in the hearth is where my soul touches the Universe***.
The books in this space pertain to my morals, fears, hopes, and truths. They are always expanding. There is also a chest where my deepest secrets are kept. The key is around my neck. It cannot be removed even by me. I have opened the chest for only a few. I have emptied it for none. There will always be a secret in the chest.
There’s a children’s wing filled with toys I loved, imaginary friends who once danced through my life. There is a tree with gold leaves. The books kept here are those that ignited my imagination as a child. Characters come and play here reciting old poems and favourite passages from long lost memories. A shabby treehouse sits between the branches. I know there was a light in there at one point, but it sits dark now. I’m too big to get up the ladder. The child that plays here doesn’t ever go there. Someone sits up there though; sometimes dripping can be heard.
Recently a new wing opened to me. It’s been opened a couple of times before and closed again. I like it here now. Everything is different than what I ever remember it being here before. This place is warm and smells faintly of the sea. There is passion here for many things, for life and love and work and happiness. A man sits here, smiling. He is surrounded by books about sports and sailing, about battles won and lost, and odd snippets of information pertaining to many subjects. This room radiates love. Honest love. Devoted love. Intelligent and respectful love. Though the outer world is always night, here there window which lets sunlight in. Here I can say anything. Even the ugliest shameful parts of me are accepted. Here who I am is always enough.
There are many monsters which roam the library of my soul. They vary in shape and size. One is a pushing, violent thing, with teeth which bite and claws that cut. One is sweet and small and gentle to encourage trust, but it always lies. One is always moving and carries a clock with a dial which spins too fast. It likes to jump out onto the shoulder and whisper maddening prophecies in the ear. The worst is nothing but a blackness which feeds on me when I am not looking. It likes to lurk in places it shouldn’t and is often trying to break into the highest tower.
There are many weapons available to combat the monsters. The weapons are easy to find but hard to wield. Courage is a shining silver sword. There is a humble long-bow which can be armed with arrows made of truth. Acceptance is a shield. Trust is a dagger that must be given away.
Other artefacts reside in the library of my soul. I have a spyglass which allows me to see benefits which may still be far away but are worth waiting or fighting for. This spyglass is patience. It doesn’t have a fixed place and can be hard to locate. There’s a compass for the lost which always points to the heart. There’s a little candle which pops up whenever needed. It’s flame changes; it can be tall and unyielding, or dim and in need of cultivating, but the candle is always lit even if just as an ember. The candle flame is actually a little living thing, made from the hearth fire. It is hope.
A dragon stalks the halls sometimes, which of course breathes fire from time to time. I’ve tamed him somewhat. Right now he is raging beyond my want to control him. I spend energy putting out the blazes, but by the time I get there he has already taken off to some hiding spot to regain his strength. I’ll get around to catching him again soon. At the moment I need the fire a little bit. It’s helping to keep the dark monster at bay.
I’m not sure where the castle ends, there are new places being revealed all the time. There are towers that are shut away and stairways up and down. I may never discover every element of it. I haven’t divulged everything here now even, just that which I needed to remember. Just that which needed to be rediscovered to aid me through recent events.
Perhaps your soul is a carnival or a garden or a humble cottage at the edge of the world. This is only what my soul has always been, a castle library on an unpredictable sea beneath a vast universe.
~The featured image can be found here (I don’t own it, yadda-yadda-yadda) and is the Ravenclaw Common Room (which is ma house. Big up my fellow kind of wit and learning). Honestly, one does not affect the other. It’s just coincidental that this is the nearest comparison to what I’m describing. But that in itself is pretty amazing, I won’t lie.
*Not leatherbound. No animals were harmed in the formation of my soul.
**Much like the paintings in the Wizarding World, although in my renditions, the figures are unable to move between portraits. I’m not sure what this means.
***It occurs to me, I say this a lot but have never really explained it. There could be a post about this in its own right, but for now, I will say the following. The Universe is not a god. I don’t believe in a divine being who wrote a book of rules or came down to greet us in human form. I believe in what I see, a great vast expanse permeating everything, connecting everything. And yes, I hear when it speaks to me, and yes I speak to it. It’s hard to explain, but I do not have to explain. I’m not asking you to understand or to believe. The burden of proof is on me, but I have no proof for what I experience subjectively….. It’s just what I feel. You’ll have to roll with it.
When I was a child (perhaps 8 at most) I was sitting in the living room of our then house playing* while my dad was watching a film set in what must have been Victorian times. I was slipping in and out of attention to it, as kids do, but I remember being struck by a scene in which a dashing gentleman asked an aging dignitary if he could have his daughter’s hand.
“Why does he want a hand?”
“It means he wants to marry that man’s daughter,” replied my dad.
“Oh. Why is he asking? Why doesn’t he just marry her?”
“It’s traditional to get a daddy’s permission** before a man asks a lady to marry him.”
“Oh. Does that mean if a man wants to marry me, he needs to ask you for my hand?”
“Yes, but don’t worry, I’ll make him take the rest of you as well.”
Thus began a list of stipulations in my young mind about what my future paramour would have to do before I would agree to wed him. Obviously, as was proper, he would have to seek and gain my father’s approval and permission. I have always trusted my father would never sanction any man he deemed unfit to be my husband. As I grew up I began to understand that this was an out-dated, actually rather un-feminist tradition based more on the idea of passing property and status than a girl’s happiness, but my heart clung to it. For me, if the man who had raised me and protected me, and loved me without condition, gave his go-ahead, I felt I really must be in safe hands. And so it has remained an important part of any proposal, and I have let all possible suitors*** know this.
I have always reserved the right to say ‘try again’ if he lacked the courtesy of getting down on one knee. I mean… right?
Lastly, a speech. It didn’t have to be saccharine or long, just sincere and conveying the reasons why marriage (and marriage to me in particular) is an important step he is now ready to take. And why he thinks I should be ready to take it to.
Just three non-optional stipulations a man had to overcome to ‘win my hand’^. In a book I love, a character tells her partner, in no uncertain terms, that before he can ask to marry her, he must achieve three great deeds. I would much rather fight the dragons and walk the darkness with the man I love rather than have him do it for me, but I consider these three stipulations rather like the ‘great deeds’ a man must complete to earn his right to get a ‘yes’. Maybe not a feminist or modern-age way of doing these things, but hey-ho, there you go.
Of course, outside of those mandatory stipulations, I harbored hopes about how a man would propose to me. I wanted to be surprised, and swept of my feet. I wanted it to be perfect for us. I wanted special and magic and beautiful.
And then it happened.
I expected so much to happen when I was proposed to; I believed it would be important, where and when and how it happened; the speech, the candles and flowers, the ring^^, and romance. Really though, as soon as the question is out and around you, the only significant factor of a proposal: the person.
The truth is in the quiet moment that follows, when your heart jumps and then stops, when your voices catches in your breath, the place and time fade into the background, until you’re left with a human being kneeling before you waiting on one word.
Here before me was a person who had walked into my life just over two years ago, and started adding stuff, like magic and adventure and laughter and swords^^^, and all the really important stuff, like support and fun and generosity and courage and acceptance and kindness. And understanding. He just seemed to get all the less admirable qualities in me – all the bad anxiety days when I would withdraw, or cry, or find nothing good in myself or sometimes even the world. And he would come and hold me, or just be still and silent with me, or remind me why I have value and show me just a smidgen^* of the beauty in other people and the world. He can just make me laugh, no matter what mood I’m in; I can be drenched in my own tears and snot, or so worried my heart is beating too fast and he will say or do something which forces me to smile. I really am not sure how; I believe it’s just a wonderful aspect of who he is.
Here before me was my partner. Someone who had stood beside me during the dark days of both our lives. Someone who was always honest about our relationship, about our future and about his past. Someone who both trusted me with his broken bits and could be trusted with mine. Whenever some difficultly arises in our relationship, I always know I can speak honestly about it, when I am calm and ready, and be listened to and valued, and I have been amazed at how my comments are met with genuine understanding, and an active effort to better the problem which is instant and consistent. I see him making the effort to create lasting harmony between us, and I am always grateful for someone who believes in us enough to do so.
I saw this person who had been so easy to love from the beginning, the process of which had been as wonderful and as simple as stepping out into a beautiful morning, in the honey glow of a summer day, colours so much more vivid. Everything about is had been gentle and private – our meeting, our first kiss, our goodbyes and reunions, and all the little everyday adventures, going on holiday, making dinner, talking well past bed time about everything from the NFL to books and writing. Whatever we did was better because we were together. That’s all we needed. Just us.
It was no different when it came to the proposal. On an ordinary morning on May 28th*^, as gentle as as simple as all our engagements, Chris decided to ask if I would marry him, and that was all that mattered.
Did I want to be with this person for the rest of my life?
No. Not just the rest of my life.
A lifetime wasn’t nearly long enough. Forever could never be long enough to love and be with him.
So, I said yes.
*Probably Barbie was rescuing my little pony figures from the peril of my sister’s action man villains. Or possibly they were hosting a party with the villains. I can’t remember exactly.
**And I remember being extremely proud of myself that I knew what that meant.
***Two. There have only ever been two serious suitors who might ask for my hand in marriage, and one of them, I am pretty sure, would have received a resounding ‘no’ when he asked my father.
^And the rest of me too.
^^The ring, just by the way, genuinely struck me as incredible. Chris, all credit to him, managed, by himself, to venture into the jungle of engagement rings and strike gold. Now, I must admit here, I doubted him. Just a little. Simply because he is a man with little care to artistic design. Yet, I don’t think I could have chosen a better ring myself. So, bravo, Chris, bravo. I shall never doubt your jewellery picking ability again. But also, now you have no excuse for not buying me jewellery. …. I get to squeal about the ring.
^^^Both metaphorically and actual. There is a real sword in our living room, which has become the point of focus for many guests, and which sometimes I remove carefully and use to duel the powers of darkness while riding my imaginary dragon. I always win.
^*There’s a word I don’t think we as a society use enough ‘smidgen’ – say it lots. It’s kinda fun.
*^Yep, it’s taken me that long to get this post written. No sign of those Winchester blogs I promised yet either. It’s a wonder I have any hypothetical audience at all.
Back in the Autumn of 2013, which feels an age and a day ago now, I wasn’t doing so well within myself. On the job front, I was having a better time than I had been the previous year, being finally out of retail, and part-timing as a writer and child-minder, but I was making little money from either. On the personal front, I had recently broken-up from a whirlwind romance, which had been off-again on-again since spring. The experience was something few people actually knew about, and fewer still knew the whole story*. Truth be told, I had been saddened and a little embarrassed by the whole affair, and even though I was happy it had come to a conclusion, I was starting to feel disheveled about ever finding a person with which to spend my life.
My dour mood stayed with me for a while. I was still living on a pittance, keeping my head above water, and living with the rag-tag group of characters at the Buddhist centre. Nearer Christmas, I started to feel better. I had a trip organised to see my parents in the majestic land of the Swiss, accompanied by my long-time best friend for the New Year, and my work now included tending to the care of an adorable 9-month old who lived on the same street**. All this kept my mind away from relationships, and all the complicated mush associated with them. I was trying to figure out how to be me.
Just before New Year I was given the news via text message that I was being asked to leave the Buddhist centre over spacing issues. If there’s anything which is going to help you figure out who you are, it’s being thrust into the unknown with no money, no close friends living in the same city as you, and enough emotional baggage to fill the cargo of a Boeing 747.
There’s a person you’ll have to grow into before you meet the person you’re meant to be with. At that dark, transitional time, I wasn’t yet who I needed to be for the universe to deem me ready to meet Chris.
I was a penniless writer-come childminder living in the city, and he was a recently recruited officer cadet living in digs in a riverside town about an hour away. We were so close, but so far. I was single, but he had a recent girlfriend. Our destined meeting was to happen in just a few months, but I didn’t know that then. I was still just hoping that someday it would happen. Just hoping one day I would be enough.
There came a particularly difficult day; January 21st 2016***, a wet, cold excuse for a day, which had been a barrel of chaos in almost all areas. At work I had been told my pay was to deplete, a message had come through reminding me of my impending need to find new accommodation, my shoes were leaking, everyone I called was otherwise engaged^, and my family were at regular blow-outs.
On route home, on the long street which ran between where I got of the bus and where I lived, I hit my lowest moment. A loose slat caught my foot and set me tumbling down into a puddle, causing me to both slam my knee so hard tears weld-up, and get coated in a nice sheen of rain soaked street grime. If there was ever a metaphor for how I felt my life was going in any given moment, that incident was it. I remained where I was while my throbbing knee recovered, crying because I had fallen and because I felt my life was falling; because I was covered in mud and because I felt like mud.
And in that moment I wanted someone to be waiting for me; someone who would know me enough that they knew I was going to get up from that puddle, even with a busted knee and tear soaked eyes, and limp my way home if I had to. Just like I had always done when vicious plot twists wrangled themselves into my story. I knew I would do it alone, but I wanted someone who knew me to not let me get through it alone^^.
74 days remained before I would discover who that someone waiting was, but I didn’t know that, kneeling there on that pavement, wet and cold and in pain. I didn’t know who he was or where he was or what he was doing or when he was going to walk into my world.
If I had known, I wouldn’t have wept in the dirt. Here’s what I would have done.
I would have dusted myself off, and stood up, and carried on down that road, past my abode at the Buddhist Centre to the train station positioned just a few streets behind. I would have purchased a ticket for Totnes and taken the first available train to the station there. Once there, I would have waited patiently in the rain, maybe for as long as an hour, in the dark and cold, for the next bus service to Dartmouth. There I would alight, and start running.
I would run from the bottom of the town along the river edge, and take on the steep hill leading to the majestic building which sits at the top, behind a set of ornate gates, monogrammed with a seafaring logo. The guards at the gate house wouldn’t keep me out either^^^. I would bound over the barrier between us, through the parade grounds, and into the building, and I would head to the zoo*^ where he was living at the time, along with the rest of the guys in his division. But even if they were there, I wouldn’t stop. I’d find him in the mess of maleness^*, and I would get his attention, gently saying his name, and I would look at him.
I would look into his washed out green eyes for the first of what would be many times, knowing he was doing the same thing. And I would say this:
Hey Sweets. Sorry. Chris at the moment. That nickname won’t mean anything yet.
In 74 days, you’re going to meet me. I imagine the idea of that is horrifying right now, given I look like I swam here through a dike using my knee as a flotation device, but I promise I’m usually groomed, with joints of a regular size. Truth is I had a really bad day, just a stupendously bad day in the middle of a stupendously bad few months, and I just wanted to see you, because soon you’ll be who I turn to on all my bad days. And I know I don’t have that long to wait, but I want you now. I want us to be us now.
I know I have a little bit more to learn before I can be with you, so I’ll leave in a minute, and wait until the Universe really brings us together. I mean, right now you have a girlfriend, and I have issues up the wazoo, so I think we both have some aspects of our lives which need to play out. Particularly the girlfriend thing, who by the way, has more issues than me. But our meeting is coming; that amazing day is just a few months from now. And the odd thing is, it’s going to be just as average as any other day. But we’re going to meet, and that will make it one of the most incredible days of both our lives. Because two years later, we’ll still be together, living together, fighting all the bad days together, and sharing all the best days.
74 days doesn’t sound like much, but when it’s the gap between you and I, it still feels like an eternity. Because I don’t want to have to wait to be with you. I want to be with you now; I want to know you and laugh with you and love you now. And I know you want that too. I do, because I am going to know you. Soon.
You’re going to know me, and I’m going to know you – but not like anyone else. We’re going to know each other in that deep, everything kind of way. Not just the little things like favourite food and what make’s us laugh, but the dark, scary, messy stuff, like the worst thing you ever did, and all the little broken bits inside.
And man are we going to love each other. So much. Just so much, that if I start trying to describe it to you here and now it’ll all come out as cliched rubbish. Not to mention all your oppos here will probably make fun of you the moment I leave. Well I suppose they will anyway – I mean I just burst in here from the street, crazy Jane no-body, desperate to meet the man she knows she’ll marry. Let’s face it, they’re going to give you stick. I’m sorry about that. But I may as well keep going now, huh?
I love you. Some part of me has always done so, even when it was just the idea of you. I always knew you were somewhere, and I always loved you, and I love you now. In 74 days, you’ll see.
That’s when our story is going to begin, in a coffee shop, on an otherwise ordinary, rainy morning. I know this all seems wildly unlikely; two people just finding each other one day, but we will.
We’re going to know each other. And we’re going to love each other. And it’s going to be the adventure of a lifetime, a story we write and share. Fighting the monsters together, taming dragons, exploring foreign places, searching for buried treasure, changing the rules, breaking the rules, paining futures in the clear night skies, ducking for cover when the storm hits, kissing in the rain. The whole 9-yards and then some.
You and me. That’s all we’ll need.
Anyway, I better go now, because you’re probably going to get some phone call from your crazy soon to be ex-girlfriend, demanding attention and raving over something small you forgot to do, and I’m almost certainly about to be thrown to the ground and arrested for running in here uninvited, but it’s been worth it just to see you when I feel like the world is against me. I can fight the world with you, Chris.
See you in 74 days. Wait for me, alright?
But, I couldn’t do that. I didn’t know about that seemingly ordinary morning in April just around the corner. I didn’t know about Chris, or his smile, or his way of making me smile even when I’m crying. I didn’t know how much I was about to love someone just for being the person they are. I didn’t know any of it. I was just a girl in a puddle.
So, I lifted myself off that pavement, and I took a long breath, and I hobbled home alone.
*This can be attributed to my young-adult make-something-of-myself appear-perfect pride problem. It’s not such an issue anymore, but it bubbles to the surface every now and then, which is why even after the cooling effects of time, I’m still not liable to speak of that spring/summer relationship in any concrete detail. Maybe one day though. I’ma workin’ on it.
**As of the time this is posted she will be three, which I think makes me 1263538-years-old.
***I’m not 100% sure on the exact date, but I am certain it was a Tuesday, because Domino’s had the special two-for-Tuesday running as I walked past. There’s a chance it was the following Tuesday, but I needed a solid date for dramatic effect. Let’s call it creative license.
^ I mean in terms of being able to answer the phone; at the time, I don’t think any of my close friends actually had a ring on it, save two who had wed the previous September.Rest assured though, if my life were a sitcom, at the time, probably everyone of note in my circle of allies would have been neatly paired off.
^^ That should not be taken as a discredit to any of the wonderful people I had in my life at the time. Guys, it was a really rough day, and as stated above my tries at communication failed.
^^^They jolly well would. I imagine outside the realms of this hypothetical land where I am able to know the future, the most I would get here is a face-full of gravel as I am tackled mercilessly to the ground for trespassing, but in the mood I was in that day, I reckon I would have made it further than on any other day. Not that I would jump gates and barriers at major military training facilities, nor recommend doing so. Let’s face it, I would hardly do well in prison.
*^ From what I understand, ‘the zoo’ is the initial dorm area where the cadets bunk together for the first period of their training, before moving to more private pastures later. They are the only animals in it, as far as I am able to discern.
^*Fun side-note here concerning messy maleness (all PG I assure you). I once visited a ship as a guest while most of the occupants were on shore leave. Chris took me aboard in the early days of our relationship as a quirky date/see where I work kinda deal. There were a few sailors still milling around. When Chris took me to see where he and other cadets slept, I was astonished to discover no one was much dressed, and none at all above the waist. One guy was changing when we stumbled past him (I saw nothing), and another was ironing in his boxers. I never did find out if Chris had mentioned to anyone that I would be stopping by, but he certainly didn’t warn me of the very very casual dress code.
— In the end my knee was fine, just very bruised and a bit swollen for a day or two. I used one of the monks’ frozen veg packs to aid the recovery when I got home. Actually, thinking on it, I’m not sure I ever told him I had done so. O_0′ Wonder how karma will get me for that error. I did live without a freezer for a year, so maybe it already has.
Chris has returned home after.
It’s been a long six months. Although eased by a brief, but wonderful holiday to Dubai two months ago, the time apart has been challenging and a very steep, unrelenting learning curve, I think for both of us. This is our first real deployment situation, and certainly the longest away, and with the least contact. I knew the basic principal of entering into a military relationship; my father was an engineer in the RAF for much of my childhood, and I have worked for families who bore the weight of loved ones in dangerous places. I knew to a degree what to expect, and I knew the emotions I would have to encounter, but in these situations you can only really be relatively prepared at best.
We’d encountered the dreaded deployment separation before, of course. In the year and seven months we’ve been together, the Navy life has steadily but certainly been letting itself in by the back door. At first it was days, a weekend perhaps without contact. Deployment whisked him to European shores in not so far flung countries like France and Belgium. I knew he was close (relatively speaking) and I knew he was safe, and more often than not, we remained in regular contact. The build up was a blessing. In many ways, it was like wading into the realities of a military relationship. Eventually though, you hit the deep end.
At that point, you either start swimming, or, well, you know the rest.
From day one I knew this was a strong partnership and not in the hazy daisy new romance way. As people we connected honestly. I didn’t set aside his faults and he didn’t ignore mine – we knew these differences, acknowledged them and found ways to circumnavigate them. It seemed only natural. Just a bases we both happened to work from, and made simple by the fact we enjoyed our better aspects so much. So, I knew we had it in us to beat this too. However, naturally I suppose, doubts and fears crept in, mostly about myself and the lifestyle that comes with the Navy.
Questions started small and grew unwildly the closer we came to saying goodbye. I never once pondered if I should be with him, but I queried a lot how I was going to cope. Either our relationship was about to prove itself, or it wasn’t, and I was acutely aware of that. Mostly I worried I would get some important issue horribly wrong. What if I couldn’t support him in the way he needed? What if I let my own head and needs get in the way? What if I got angry at him even though it wasn’t his fault? ‘What if’ ‘what if’ ‘what if’. It felt traitorous to doubt our relationship so unnecessarily, yet unhealthy and unhelpful to box them up somewhere in my head and hope they went away.
Even I (and trust me I had some incredible skill) couldn’t have foreseen half of the problems with only being in touch with your other half 10% of the time at best. I thought I had prepared myself for most things. When that floodgate opened it poured in all kinds of crazy waters.
Letters. What do you do with their post? I had been given permission to open some things, but not others. They could be important, but confidential. A company or bank might need information. Okay, well, that’s simple enough, but will the bank accept information from me, the unmarried partner? No idea. Hadn’t even considered it. And that’s not even the beginning.
I became a PA and base point for Chris from every family member. I didn’t mind; I like his family. They need information about insurance policies and bank details and car documents, and on and on. I’m fairly organised. I could win awards in keeping folders filled and filed with relevant information in relevant places. I have a system nagdabbit! But 99% of the time I was faffing and searching for bits of random info I didn’t even know existed.
Then there is the prominent and predictable lonely aspect.
It. Sucks. My. Writer’s. Behind.
This is not a regular type of lonely. I know what that is, and I know a quick phone call or a whole lot of chocolate and reading will cure it somewhat. This is nothing and no one will do, kind of lonely. For the first week or so I was acutely aware of the not-there-ness of him. There was a space which hovered wherever I went, where I knew in any other life in any other time he would be there, but he wasn’t. Nights were lonely, days were lonely, people came and went, and always this lack is with you. It’s like the sea has stolen his being, but left you with the moments when he would not speak – just a quiet presence always with you, but just beyond sight. There is no way to really express that to someone who does not know; I tried. Much of the time I hid away more than I should have. And the questions were always with me.
Still I anticipated our reunion with excitement. I pictured many a romantic and emotional scene, which played out and offered comfort when things started to turn dark. How long would I hold him and not let go? We would kiss and dance, and lament the sufferings of our separation in poetic words and heartfelt speeches. Perhaps our celebration would be wild and spontaneous. We might whip away to some private spot in the country, with floral bedspreads and handmade soap, and not leave our quiet solitude for days. Perhaps I would meet him at the train station and the flurry of travelers would gaze at the weeping pair in the middle of the arrivals area. There was many an unrealistic expectation. I knew it was all a coping mechanism, something my heart played on loop to appease my head, but there was some real hope in it.
What we would say and how and why. These were important to me. I just hoped somewhere in all that distance the line hadn’t broken between us, and I needed words to show me it hadn’t.
So when the moment came this afternoon, I was excited, but I was anxious.
The key turned in the lock; I approached the door to great him, and our hellos were gleeful. After dragging in three heavy bags, he didn’t even remove his coat to embrace me, and there we stood for a few silent moments in each others arms, in our home, for the first time in half-a-year. Instead of beating faster, my heart rate evened out.
We said two sentences each:
“I missed you.”
“I missed you so much”
“I’m glad you’re home”
“I missed you”
There was no romantic fanfare, no sobbing with glee or whirling around the room. No poetry or dancing or lamenting, or hiding away in a secret place. Just fifteen words between us, and in that everything that needed to be said, and everything that needed to be felt.
After that we slipped back into us; we fell into relaxed conversation about work, and odd facts and bad movies. Nothing had changed in who we were, nothing had turned to chaos. There was no more given or taken. Just us, and who we are.
And Chris is home, and so too am I.
“Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom. Think of love as a state of grace, not the means to anything, but the alpha and omega. An end in itself.”
― Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
Today another literature master left our weary world behind him. Marquez was a profoundly influential Colombian author and journalist famous for his novels One Hundred Years of Solitude, and Love in a Time of Cholera. His themes often encapsulated human solitude and states of love, and have become timeless reminders of desire and hope through the 50-years of his career.
For me, Marquez is an important role model in cultural writing styles. He famously stated that he approached each book a different way, relaying on the shifts in the story to dictate his narrative rather than a given format. As such he works can be rooted together only in a few key narrative choices. Marquez encouraged participation in his readers, drawing them with a lack of detail and off-screen events, forcing them to use their own perceptions and bring themselves to a conclusion.
In 1982 Marquez was the first Colombian to win the coveted Nobel Prize for Literature, an honour he attributed to all the great artists of his homeland.
It’s always sad to know that words become echoes of the people who wrote them, to acknowledge a life has faded out from beyond them, and will now remain behind the great works as oppose to around them. I read Love in the Time of Cholera and was taken by its themes of desire and endless devotion. The love he spoke of in his works tells of a person of great understanding about the nature of people, and that there will be no more stories created by such a unique writer is sad to conceive of.
Farewell Mr Marquez. Rest well.
You know what? Don’t be my Valentine. I’ve considered it and decided I really don’t want one. I have no interest in a sudden burst of affection or obligated expression of devotion associated with the short term craze of a single day in the year. Don’t buy me a card because you feel it’s a necessary convention, or drive yourself mad trying to think up an elaborate gift. It’s not that I’d lack the gratitude for such things, but there’s something false about waiting to be a valentine to do it, something allocated by society that appears to make it easier to make excuses for not being attentive the rest of the year. So don’t be my Valentine. Why just be a Valentine when you can be so many more amazing things?
Instead, be my friend. Be a real, unwavering, friend in anyway you can. If you know I’m worried about doing something, call and ask how I am, and be proud of me if I can do it. Talk to me about your fears and let me be there for you. Pop over just because you were in the area and had some time to kill. Leave me silly pictures on Facebook and Whatsapp because you know making me laugh is easy and you wanted to share the funny. Take advantage of any crazy dares or challenges and use them to create marvelous in jokes. Arrange meet ups in families coffee places when you feel a little worn down by life and let me try to raise your spirits. When things get tough my side, do the same thing, but try to raise my spirits Offer to pay for a drink or a meal once in a while, just because you know things have been hard and you want ease the burden of living in any way you can, even if only financially. Be loyal and dedicated and do what you can when you can. That’s what I want to be for you.
Be part of my adventure. Come out of nowhere and into my world. Bring a thousand experiences and loves and joys; share your energy for the world with me. Encourage me to try crazy things, even when you know I’m a little scared. Revel in my enjoyments as well, as sedate or careful as they may be. Listen when I rave, as I will listen you you when you speak passionately about something you once did, or what you want to do. Call me up and announce we’re going to the woods… in the rain, and you know I’m the best person to do it with. Be quiet for a few minutes and suddenly say “remember when we-” and talk about how we walked in the woods in wet socks, with soggy hair, and we laughed the whole time. Store away in your mind, something you heard me say once about wanted to try something, and then, sometime later, surprise me by proclaiming that is the day we do it…. together. Try new things with me, things you didn’t know existed until we came upon them. Make “I will if you will” an unbroken promise of eating gross sounding or looking foods, weird sports and mad-cap ideas. Travel the world with me, and if circumstances like money prevent us, make the world we’re in as exciting as you can. Live my adventure with me. That’s what I want to be for you.
Be a decent human being. Reach out into the hearts of those around you and act with kindness and grace. Not just towards me, but to everyone you can. Don’t look for reasons to extend a helping hand, but do it because you believe the good of the world is partly your responsibility. When you see someone hurting, listen to them, or when someone looks overwhelmed by the situation their in, remind them how strong they can be. Don’t let anyone stand alone, ever. If you believe in something, take any opportunity to make it count. Fight prejudice and intolerance even when you’re not in the firing line; stick up for those who need your voice. Get it wrong. Lose your cool sometimes, say hurtful things you didn’t mean to, because that’s part of being human too. However, admit your errors, apologize, learn and accept. Treat angry or misguided people with consideration and sympathy. Feel loneliness and call me. Let me come get you. Let me be human with you. Let me cry with you when you hurt and be a rock when you feel unsteady. Let me tell you how strong you are even when you can’t feel it. Inspire me with how kind and giving you are to others, even when entrenched in your own pain and uncertainty. Know that no matter how hard it gets, as long as you keep trying, I’ve got your back, and extend the same offer when the situations are reversed. Understand when I get crazy and sad and lost, and even when it’s frustrating, be there to help me through it. That’s what I want to be for you.
Be on my team. Listen when I talk, debate the universe with me, with a mutual respect when our opinions differ. Keep an open mind about ideas I want to try and even when you know they’re a little far-fetched, and even when I fail, be proud of my efforts and tell me so. Be honest when you think I’ve gone too far. Don’t hide it because you want to spare my feelings; just sit me down and go through your reasons, and even if I get upset stick to your guns. If I try, and if you were right (which you probably will be), don’t say “I told you so”. Share in the failure with grace and encouragement. Know that I already learned the lesson the hard way, and I’ll listen to you better in the future. When someone goes too far, is overly harsh or judgmental towards me in your presence, tell them so. Don’t be pushy or violent or mean, but be firm and help stand up for me. Let me do the same for you. Take my side sometimes, even when you don’t have to. Be the person I go to for support and advice, when I don’t know what to do. Remind me that we stand in all fights together. If I falter take the helm, if you falter and somehow I am unable to see, ask me to take the helm. When we argue or disagree, don’t shout or walk away. Whoever is wrong, let’s sit down and talk, respect the other person’s feelings on the matter and never assign blame. Let’s come to a negotiation on all matters and never look back. One day at a time, let’s build a strong side which benefits us always as a team. That’s what I want to be for you.
Be my lover. Wrap your arms around me on cold nights, or when you find me crying over silly things that won’t matter in an hour. Cuddle me spontaneously; sneak up from behind, extend your arms for me to run into, shuffle closer and place and arm around me when I’m reading. Kiss me in many ways and many times. Place a gentle kiss on my head, or on my knee or my shoulder. Give me wild kisses in the middle of a thunderstorm, or after you return from a long trip and you just can’t help yourself. Kiss my lips tenderly for no other reason than you just wanted to. Take any opportunity to put your skin on mine. Brush your pinkie against my hand when leaning in for the salt at the table. Place a hand on my knee when we’re watching a stupid movie. Rub my shoulder, push my hair back behind my ears, carefully remove an eyelash from my cheek. Arrive home one day with a little gift, not because a certain day has arisen on the calender, but because you thought I needed a lift, or because you saw it and thought of me, or because you just wanted to. Hand me a daisy you pulled from the lawn on your way to the door. Read me a two line poem you wrote while on lunch at work. Make me a thing which doesn’t exist, because actually you were trying for an origami swan, but it went wrong and now it’s a “gibberwick”. Explain what a “gibberwick” is. Love me physically as a woman. Listen to my needs in that department and trust me enough to express yours. Always respect me and my body. Find the areas that move me into passion and enjoy them, and let me enjoy you. If I put up a physical boundary, respect it instantly. Understand their are always reasons for such things and even if I don’t tell you why it’s there, never cross it. Leave me notes on the bathroom mirror, or on the fridge, or on the page of a book I’m reading. Write random things only I’ll get, or riddles I have to contemplate, or just a musing about what you had for breakfast. That’s what I want to be for you.
Be my home. Be the place I come back to, the light at the end of a dark day, and let me be yours. Be the solid root of stability in an ever changing world, be loyal and close and yourself. Wherever we stand we stand together. Be the logic in my chaos and the sunlight through the clouds. Let me warm you on cold days and cheer you on bad ones; let me be the person you can call anytime for any trouble. Let’s watch each other’s back and protect one another. Be brave enough to be honest with me when I’m wrong, and trusting enough when I do the same for you. That’s what I want to be for you.
Be every one of these things and more; be everything you are, but don’t just be my valentine.
I don’t want a Valentine. I have no interest in a sudden burst of affection or obligated expression of devotion associated with the short term craze of a single day in the year. I seek a commitment and a partnership, and a love that weathers all.