LOVE & TREMBLING ~
A short literary gamble on love & trembling:
I wanted her to know where I was, at all times, during each second of the waking day, and every long minute of the night. To bear the misfortune of a love begotten and a love taken away, I imagine the brief encounter taking place for a second time. It might take the pain away. But there is not a second time, so I will recount the first, for whatever it is worth. I may stumble upon an error, but I know little of love, except the power of human reckoning involved in light of it.
There is a power I am not yet privy to fully understanding. For, under the guise of her, the woman of my brief encounter, no space or object could be without the imagination occupied by love’s pride. She was placated into every street corner, even sighted happily amongst market folk of the town, where I would always find something of her, even a fragment of an antiquarian item possessed of her spirit. Of course, back then, I believed in the transformative sovereignty of Jesus Christ, and somehow concerted the idea that she had the whole of humanity unified unto her own bosom, like Him, in the mystical flesh, as if the passage of electrical and omnipotent presence had been forever known to her, as it was too to the Virgin during and after the Annunciation.
I did not wish her to think that she was the first to achieve this, but in my mind, for so long as the entirety of my being fled upon her being near to me, she would be written into the one Spirit, and therefore, it would come to pass, as I knew clearly, that she really would be everywhere, even without her own wish, traceable in fingerprints, dust, wind, and, in the name of blood, channelled along the conduits of my own damned heart.
My last date with a woman had been eight years ago and this could well have been the last. I chanced upon arranging it, and later swore that I wouldn’t ever go through with it for fear of embarrassment. Shyness had prevailed since childhood, a problem stemming from the first debilitating encounter with group human contact: a social gathering in which a gigantic host of family members got together, acted with snobbery, told sarcastic jokes – probably about the false hope of Blair’s new Labour party, the breaches of correct government policy, and the rise in taxes for the rich – and left me alone in the corner to ponder about it all.
But that was fifteen years before, and yet the ferocity with which conservative aunts and uncles had argued for their own wealth and ego still concerns me to this day, enough to ignite the distress upon considering the likelihood of a successful romance. Those aunts and uncles dressed like idiots too, remember those women who attempted to charm at the races with their exaggerated hairstyles, frolicking hightail hats, and bizarrely patterned dresses with criss-crosses of pale, sickly colours? All in all, looking like the shape of a lion with scurvy, and smelling of a flower that came into contact with Neanderthal odour, thus contributing to the effluence of a thousand cloves, in decay.
But the date had been arranged. Yesterday, in some kind of a fit – a trembling of the arteries, a gale of Goosebumps along the spine – I sent the message that set in motion an opportunity at loving somebody; that somebody was the most special person imaginable; a good fortune capable of nurturing, as rarely did fortune ever provide those comforts of the womb. A sudden craving for the rearing of opulence in a woman came about, and flashed before my eyes, the very essence of everything seemed to snap into being; with the realisation of love would I be able to proceed with utopian visions, since buried and hidden underneath all those years of adolescence?
I had actually met her before, but only once. A football game was on television and I was visiting friends, one of whom just so happened to have met, the day before, a bright girl travelling down from London with a specific interest in the west country, in particular Devonshire. It was a shock and a revelation; her beauty was never seen in this part of the country, and her genetics were of an extraordinary mix, something far too exotic and formidable for the timidity of a forlorn country Englishman to comprehend. But, nevertheless, we spoke, and did so with due diligence and a steady temper, acquiring the gift of temperance between us. Furthermore, my gestures remained fastened with the politeness of pronounced features and attentive eyes, even if my beat of heart skyrocketed, putting a strain on blood-flow to my upper veins and the likelihood of clear speech; for my tongue tends to quiver when chatting of things with actual importance attached to them, like new women in the nieghbourhood.
Whether or not such meekness, tinged with mild docility, was attractive to her, I could not guess it; but for her lively attitude, and notable enthusiasm in reciprocal humility, it felt suggestive in embracing the aforementioned characteristics, which I therefore considered a vote, of love, of humanity – two sides of the same coin; her heart loved all people, that was clear, and thus, that it was truly capable of love, and therefore, that she was something of a miracle, especially in the west country. But could she be my miracle, one for me to keep?
How then, did this beautiful girl, whose name we shall come to shortly, end up becoming friends with my friends? For she was a consistently brilliant feature in the room, whereas, friends, they merely farm-out the towns and villages with dullness, drinking too much beer, scoffing pies, and shooting pheasants; either that is true, or, I am simply too accustomed to local ideals, as to become frightfully bored and acquiesced of the usual company. Regardless, she was a bright spark, and the reason for her being here was simple: travelling alone, only in town for a few days, and happening to be of an open-mind with respect to making new friends.
At the park on Sunday, she was taking a walk down by the river, the singularly-most popular attraction of the town where water is able to flow at an impressive speed thanks to the highland springs, a tidal wave of fresh rain forthcoming from the Atlantic drift, gifting the town with a spectacularly high rainfall average of two metres on annum. It is hardly a reason to visit, to get wet and look at water currents. But alas, she was inspired by water, as she told me, on account of her own spirituality and perhaps her respect for me, whom doubtless she interpreted as a doomed mystic, ‘Water is the content of our souls. Watching it is like flushing out the tide of our enemies within.’
Sam, my friend with confidence, who would understand nothing of eloquence and thoughtful speech, asked this wonderful girl for a lighter. Of course, it was a lie, as he has hundreds in ten different coat pockets. But Sam is a pathological flirter, and what’s more, he has also slept with a lot of those girls he flirted with, partly because he’s lost count, but also due to his goal-setting and increased concentration levels, lately training himself to take girls home and have sex with them before the weekend is over. But he had failed this time. For the girl from London was not like other girls: her perspective was evidently inspired, meaning she had a clarity of vision pertaining to the interest of philosophical avenues and new cultures, as if hard-wired into her brain was an innate understanding of the unique differences between two places, between civilisations – language and culture. It was thus in complete contrast to the motives explored by Sam’s previous partners: sex. And sex did not occupy the mind of a woman curious about culture, at least, not solely.
With great misfortune for the town’s status, Sam still fails to realise that all of those successful flirts had, to begin with, been sluts; all of whom, by appearance, had the same shameful foundation in reality, as if living atop a crust of the earth’s surface elongated by carnal desires, underpinning the corrupted soul, one which this new girl seemingly was seeking to correct and enlighten – with water? Ultimately, why in God’s name had she chosen our pathetic little town. There is a river, granted, it is clean, but there are also men, many men in fact, who desire only one thing, and men, men who know only how to drink beer and milk cows; men who spend their entire afternoons visiting local organic meat markets – did she want all of this? I expect not.
She ignored the football game and offered me a cigarette. I took one, acting like a child who receives the Eucharist, not a clue what to do with it except swallow. She lit it, igniting the flame, and I stretched-out to open a window, dropping the burning cigarette into my lap, where it ceased to go out, and if by design, categorically began to burn more and more rapidly, picking apart my new jeans. Calmly, however, she picked it up, delicacy morphed into strength, and flicked the ash out of the window, without a single misfire, not even a mark left on the window-sill. She also managed to avoid my flailing limbs, accelerated as startled by my own moronic behaviour, and the precariousness of accepting the cigarette in the first place. So far, so tenuous.
I remember we smoked out of the same window together. Me twenty-three, she twenty-four, but looking more confidently like a nineteen year-old with the knowledge of somebody thirty-five. The smoking led to a conversation, which had been a motive, subconscious and cerebral though it may have been in the moment, I was hardly used to practising actual motives. Progress began with her taking a smartphone photograph of the cigarette nib. What the hell is so interesting about ash burning on a stick? Well, as inferred by an excitable shift in her position, braced on the couch edge, it may have been the angle of the light, or, maybe the way I sporadically held the cigarette between ring and middle-finger, like a man without the concept of labour; indeed, a man who had spent the past eight years engaged in little else than the mild activities of running a second-hand hardback bookstore, occasionally standing up to sell the odd item off the gyrating stand, creaky and coated in dust, perhaps a keyring or a bookmark containing the signatures of Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings, of which the stencils appeared more like children’s crayon paintings than any graphics related to blockbuster movies.
Either way, she had been attracted to the photograph, and vivaciously went about expressing all of her recently taken photos, neatly collected into albums. One from her past few weeks of travelling had many iconic black-and-white pictures of castles, Victorian mansions, lakes with swans, and, most curiously of all, smokers in a multitude of different lightening poses, a name she gave to the ethereal quality of smoke and light that creates a striking and atmospheric portrait.
On her suggestion, as I didn’t dare to think of being pleased with the photograph, or to ask her for it, by whatever means, she insisted on sending the photo via a text message, therefore, asking for an exchange of phone numbers and inputting of personal details; presumably stored for all of eternity, so long as the digital database never collapses. I had won her contact, without really doing anything apart from choking on fumes. Now I had the opportunity to make second contact with her, to stay in contact once parting, and whenever else too, as we could message from anywhere, any time or place; these wondrous powers of digital communication, so shunned by families of field mongers who would rather marry off their cousins to one another. I now felt more alive than ever with the hope of romance in tow, especially as it had arrived without my father’s recommendation.
To think of all the opportunities that might come my way for texting her and asking what she was up to: whether or not she might get married, or might she move to America, might she become an actress in Hollywood? I thought the latter very possible, with her wide eyes and instantaneously communicative loveliness, imagining that she could portray the story of a non-blinking heroine tangled up in a time-spanning love triangle per historical magnitude and inescapable conflict. A lustre she had like no other, par excellence.
‘Valentina’ was the name that she typed into the contact details, nothing more and nothing less. ‘Call me Nath,’ she said, it’s a silent ‘h’. Here was a record of her exact nickname. A tangible piece of personal evidence, of having made friends with a woman. Valentina is her name, I kept thinking. A young woman from overseas with the most sensitive of souls and the most beautiful of pretty faces, expressing enthusiasm and intelligence. Her eyes shine like a divine brown torchlight and the movable expression of her jawline reveals to all who see her, a most stunning glance, a most incredibly alive bosom, burning with all heart and mind’s desire. And with such a foreboding artistry evident in her personality, she no doubt has the most acute sense of judgement and taste.
She wore a light grey cotton garment coming down to her knees, neatly primed to allow each perfectly-bred pigment of her body to form the alliance of correct figure, a black pair of knitted leggings with flowered patterns on, a definite sensual sense mottled into them, and a light blue denim jacket as the finishing piece, a slight aspect of punk, or something trendy. Dark brunette hair fell over her shoulders in curled perms, so that one could peek between the furs at her pale pristine neck and golden-like ears, and yet, if viewed from the back, she had that fine section of hair straightened, purposefully as to strike a silver line in the crust of her upper back, divinely-proportioned with a strong spinal cord. And from a profile view, one achieves the combination of both forms in action; straight and curly, as if, in complete rapture, she achieves an impossibly heightened sense of beauty, one that any woman could ever hope to possess.
‘My name is Fred. Fred Wildrick-Bamffrock, the surname is spelt with two f’s.’ She looked back, puzzled, and spelt the name ‘Weeldreek Banffrog’, but I said nothing, not wishing to disclose the severity of her spelling mistakes. Her English accent was actually very posh, and very polite, and very cute; without any harsh sounds to her speech whatsoever. Supposedly, however, writing is a different method of communication to anyone who practices it, and I understood its difficulties perfectly, having spent the last ten years reworking an unfinished novella set on a mysterious planet belonging to the undergrowth of a nearby marshland; a local legend based on fairies and witches, as so many old English folk tales are, and yet, despite sounding a commercial note, every soul in this damned town had dismissed the poetical style of prose, claiming the stories I wrote, passed down in centuries, not decades, to be not entirely true; my rendering of them failed to capture the essence of it accurately.
The fairies, bred of the Holy Spirit, had prevented the witches from stealing away the towns infamously large crucifix, built from granite rock – a spectacular forte of moulding from a goldsmith, still as yet unbeknownst to all – which had symbolised the strength of Christianity in the county for almost fifteen-thousand years. It was a religious preoccupation that dismantled the minds of most locals, and I had not the stomach to glorify the faith of our forefathers, therefore writing of a spectre instead. But neither do I wish to fully condemn it, giving the ghost an air of the holy round and about him, having once genuinely lived and prayed in the catacombs of a ruinous abbey. And yet, such a middle-brow position the townsfolk refuted and deemed disrespect-able of a well-bred young countryman, now a bookkeeper and a hermit, who, in their eyes, could have been a saint if only he’d tried harder, or, at the very least, a farmer, one with a few yards of crop. I had none of these things, except the ability to use my imagination.
It was done. She correctly had my name down as Fred. The rest of the day flew by, and she left without a word, except for a smile that seemed to say, ‘don’t be afraid to text me,’ or could equally be interpreted as, ‘I’m better than you, never forget it. And yes, you should be embarrassed for yourself and feel fortunate to have met me.’ Whether or not that meant she liked me, or wanted me to like me, was anyone’s guess. For I knew very well the complexities involved in conveying a fancy, vividly recalling the first chance at attempting to tell a girl of my fancy, aged ten, with a swift peck on the cheek, out of the blue, without forewarning, which caused her to leap backwards and tumble down a set of stairs built from solid rock; church-tiling was never intended as an object for resting upon, or a place for sleeping, not until the homeless began demanding it under our new laws of government welfare. From that moment on, I chose to convey my feelings silently, not in actions but in words spoken only to myself, and therefore, had spent a countless number of years alone, without the fortitude of a reciprocated fancy – apparently, nobody liked me.
A day later, my fingers were still poised at the ready, an internal debate over sending the text message for a coffee with Nath had become the dominant factor in determining the future of my universe; could the outcome of life be positive after all, or in other words, could falling in love be the meaning to it all, that one special thing that everybody seems to be waiting for, to desire, patient or belligerent?
‘Would you like to get a coffee?’ I sent it. Out of the two options, to send it or not to send it, I sent it. The second option would have meant more pain than the first. For how does one live with not knowing, especially when one is this close to knowing somebody; the heart’s yearning for further contact with a woman of mysterious beauty, a giant seed already planted and too well-harvested to not be ripe for the picking. It began to taste sweet, and then, almost as my digestion was complete, she responded.
‘Hello! Of corse. Come to me on Tuesday. That would be verry nice.’ It had that sweetness of tone which he remembered of her dearly, a fine tender voice and gentle rhythm of pronunciation; resulting in English of the innocent kind, a little misspelt, but wholly refreshing and with firm intentions – or were the misspellings a text language beyond my comprehension? Quite likely a peculiarity to do with her enthusiastic personality. She also took the lead by asking me to ‘come to’ her, which I found rather a turn-on, I had never thought of her like that, but it suddenly dawned on me, what would she appear like naked? I was flummoxed by the thought. I don’t dare to picture it. What divinity can appear to one naked? The Virgin Mary is forever clothed.
‘Great! Whatever time works for you.’ She had said Tuesday, but it was not clear when on Tuesday, therefore, if I had not asked her for the most convenient time, it might come across as obnoxious due to the notion that spending the entire day of Tuesday together would be okay. I had to slow down, otherwise, what happens is that I become obsessive; I will desire to spend me entire life with her having only just met and shared our titles.
‘5pm? I promess to finish my work soon so we can meet and take a coffee or food.’ This was trickier. Again, I pondered the meaning of it: coffee or food? Either she wanted a real date, or what is considered to be one, whereby the man takes the woman to a sweetly decorated restaurant and hopes for something magical to happen, like a loving kiss or maybe a tender touch of each other’s’ lips, or, well, I could never know for sure, as those stories come from the movies, and who knows if that romantic stuff really exists. Again, or, maybe she just fancied a snack after work, and had dinner prepared by a close family member for afterwards? I would go along with it, whatever, feeling encouraged by her promise of either coffee or food. A positive energy was transmitted in her response, an obvious effort made by her interaction, and therefore, nobody could be fool enough to neglect feeling enthusiastic by way of return. Thus, I decided to be diplomatic.
‘Great. 5pm! Let’s decide when we get there. Looking forward to it!’ My excitement had led to a crucial error, overlooking the meeting-point, where would ‘there’ be? It would have to be decided later, as she no longer responded, and to send two messages back-to-back, or to correct oneself in a second message, is plainly idiotic and would possibly ruin any chances more than just going along with the error. After all, she prefers the flow(ing) nature.
That put seventeen hours on the clock. Six for sleep, and eleven for date preparations. It could be possible to manage on less sleep, spending more hours with nail scissors and notepad, finally getting underneath the skin of my ugly toenails, formidably large, and draining my pen in the process, plus a thousand questions I could prepare and arm himself with, but no, six hours will surely be enough.
Listening comes easily, but questioning is not a natural gift. I often wish to ask what others would deem inappropriate, for example, when did you first have sex, where, why, how, did it feel right, and what made it feel right? Are you on the spectrum of bisexuality, and if so, to what degree? I had recently been told by certain friends, the few liberal-progressive types, that such a scale is what defines human sexuality, be it far from the simplicity of one’s heterosexuality, a term now reserved only for those people who can be absolutely sure that they never indulge in an attractive glance towards the opposite sex. I think that I should know these things about Nath, that they may prove useful questions to ask somebody like her during a date.
Up all night, worrying, exhausted. Preparing myself for the day of my life. No doubt my expectations are far too great, but I’ll learn to live with it. I prefer to be serious about things to do with love. I comb my hair in the night, spot-check, iron my shirt, check my lists of interests: film, literature – what were my favourite books again, just in case she asks the educated questions? – the names and birthdays of my family members, the memories of friends and adventures, childhood themes, but maybe I can largely forget about childhood, or, maybe I should just aim to talk about her. I realised, almost too late, that I should be planning questions to ask her, not answers to probable questions from her – how selfish. From time to time, it dawns on me that I am far too concerned with myself, whatever condition it might be, and no matter how we class it in terms and definitions, this idea of self-importance and ego, there is never a decent excuse for such wallowing and pity of self when it all (ego) comes crashing down.
The date went bloody well, and I’ve no idea how. All I remember is that her hand was firmly in my grasp and I felt no retraction, even though I could never be sure. It also suddenly dawned on me, at that point of physical interaction after a three-course meal, and two coffees prior, that I had planned the event no further; what came next after the drawing together of two hands? I didn’t even know where she was staying or how old she was, two of the most important questions I had forgotten to ask. It all remained a mystery; had she played a subtle hand, which warped my mind and prevented any thought of such questions occurring. Was she to forever remain a mystery to me, even after spending four hours together, which seemed to evaporate like the angels with wings that sometimes appear on the horizon of clouds over wintry county fields – the latter more of a personal constitution of the wishful imagination?
I pondered what had really happened, but there was a connection between us, and maybe that is all that matters, especially on a first-date. And yet, nothing was known about dating; had I fooled myself – had it been that she controlled everything? She had ordered the food, she had decided to call for the bill, she had asked for extra napkins, she had expressed the need for when to converse and when not to, and she had even wished to pay the entire bill, but I of course didn’t let her. Although, perhaps this was what I had secretly wanted: for her to take control. After all, it took the responsibility off my shoulders somewhat, I could settle in and be at ease with her, for I prefer to be obedient; she clearly preferred it too.
After a reciprocal relationship between fingertips, she gripped my hand, and all of a sudden, I needn’t worry any longer; whatever was to happen next, and whatever worried preparations had previously been through my mind, it altogether made no difference – it was better to be innocent. For me to be innocent was the only way out of a deeply distressing and potentially awkward romantic situation, which was, in turn, to be the only way through it; a total embrace of all my worldly ignorance, of my not-knowing anything about woman outside of Devonshire, let alone Great Britain.
Now something miraculous happened. I have to tell myself all about it, because, what happened next, was, I can say little more, like a feverous dream of magical torchlights being shone behind a white veil, disclosing the loving hand of God. The date ended, fine, I went home alone, but she was staying in town the entire week, and thus invited me to go camping with her, on an adventure. I will attempt to recount it, in dream-like fashion, filling in the gaps, for they have been paralysed from my memory, such was the ecstasy of our brief encounter. Having forgotten how it came to happen, how she allowed it to happen fully, I can recall details of what did happen, not of accurate feelings and truth-telling, but of circumstantial evidence.
I woke to a soaked pair of pants; the rain had seeped through every inch of the tents surface. I asked her faintly, and she responded with a yelp, like the puppy chasing an iced-lolly broomstick, mistaken for a wet bone. To her, it was a real sojourn. To me, a trip into an ocean of sticky and tiresome memories, of sore feet and stressful, balding, bad-breathed hiking instructors, except, this time, I was in love.
I noticed my wet pants the moment of stretching; arms and legs slowly became moist by the remnants of rainwater scattered across the once clad and cosy sleeping-bag. Once awake, as wide as possible, I lent up, catching my wet head of hair on the chilling roof, glistening with dew, and became frightfully aware that the rucksack containing a spare change of clothes had been left unzipped; all items at once a casualty of the bad weather. It was to be a soggy twenty-mile hike back to the town, over and under granite rocks, and through moorland filled with marshes and bumpy tides of fern bushes. I was to be dragged home by my lover, who, it turns out, rather unexpectedly, was born and raised in Colombia. Her wide-eyed stare had therefore been tainted with thousands of years of wild pre-Colombian ancestry. I expect Dartmoor was infantile to her by comparison with the Latin Americas.
But the day was brighter than expected, as upon breathing in the fresh mountainous air, I watched the daylight sun emerge and part mild-grey clouds, dissolving them into a meek blue with the promise of Spring. At this wonder of the moorland scenery, I felt ready; heaving out all the tent pegs in the space of seconds, and rolling up the tarpaulin like a hamster in a wheel. Tiredness and stress would be stowed away for another day, bad memories put aside, love allowed to flourish.
Valentina/Nath – she was now calling herself the former – still looks gorgeous, a broad pretty smile, neatly dressed somehow, and wearing a backpack larger than mine. I am completely smitten by her, and she waves to me, happily awake. We upright ourselves and leave the bed of flat earth behind, follow a river south, which before long, would split up into a number of tributaries and lead to flatter ground, closer to the villages, perhaps with a pub or a post office close-by for refreshments. I could dry my spare t-shirt in the mild sunshine.
Down by the river, she knocked over my bottle as I was drinking from it, a vicious but cute method of flirtation. She offered me skittles, from where I am not sure, but she refused to allow me one unless I could catch them in my mouth. In attempting it, I tumbled over a jagged mound of earth head-first. The pain in my fuzzy brain was but a joy, and thus she laughed, as we continued downstream. The stream grew wider, and crossing over large stepping-stones, at the last second, she prevented me from losing balance and falling in. I had a severe headache by now; the cold of my wet clothes and the skittles-game had accumulated into a breach of my mental comfort zone. But I was wearing love’s armour, so the shockwave was forgotten as soon as it had occurred.
The river opens out onto a small lake with tiny pebbles, and we have a skimming match there, which grows in intensity until she throws a pebble at my arm rather severely, cutting it, another injury. She tended to the wound with her immaculately organised first-aid kit, showing great care and attention to detail. I felt like I could be her puppet in a show. Perhaps love was like that – two people on stage together getting wound up in each others business. I wonder if the coil lasts a lifetime before it snaps?
We climbed a tor. At the top, we sat, out-of-breath beneath a granite rock, silhouetted in the sun, with a huge vista of carnivorous earth in the backdrop. She pulls out a pack of cigarettes and smokes; I take a tiny puff. As the smoke takes over our view, she pecks me on the cheek, then on the lips. I climb the giant rock, pulling her to the top, and then we snog. In the wind we express ourselves: her long dark brown hair blows against the eye of my pupils, as she casts herself off into the blue skies, almost tipping over the edge; our rock face becomes a precipice for discovering each other, a dance to the evening light.
By this point I had forgotten myself entirely. We run down the tor together, linking arms, colliding, falling over, chasing the ass of a sheep into the wild. There are mountains on all sides of us; deep in a valley, the sun sets, and we camp another night. She shows me her ticket for London Paddington station, and a pang shooting through my veins tells me it is all a dream. It was not a dream, but what is a dream if not a short period of time, of a lived experience, that we can no longer hold on to? It was to be such an experience as this.
We light a fire and I empty the food pack, full of porridge sachets and wet notebooks. She cooks the dinner instead, and I watch her stir up a risotto, fused with an assortment of herbs and spices. In her lap, I fix my attention on the fire, feeling her gentle strokes behind my ears like a soft flame, healing my skin. She is not deterred by the sight of blood – my gigantic blisters popping – and so I take off my shoes with ease and lie back in the tent. At that moment, I felt it right to presume she were a Goddess, preparing the dinner for me, a man in paradise.
The morning birds sung. The woodpecker pecked. It had been raining all night long again; the tent was drenched. When I woke, she was already outside the tent stretching and smiling at me, not phased by the cold, confident that the sun would soon rise, and appear it did, luminous behind a misty cloud. I sketch her in that moment, depicted in strokes of a simple pencil. I catch her attention, her intoxicating look, her eyes penetrable despite the long distance between us. I frame the landscape half-heartedly, instead focusing on a mirror image of her physical beauty. It takes on a post-coital presence, and I realise I have copied her from my imagination the night before, rather like Gustave Courbet’s approach to his woman with a parrot, except I am the parrot, and she is therefore instructing me. She has my wings, and even if I could fly, I would fly towards her.
The train arrives. We kiss intensely. We avoid too much eye contact. We are really quite exhausted. It was a ten mile hike that day. It was rather uneventful, I kept dreaming with her by my side, appreciating the scenery through love’s telescopic lens. I may have missed an opportunity to write with her a decent story, to unpick the history, but that would be pointless, as, overall, we are just lovers, confined to these natural ruins. Time will go on ahead of us. We are left behind. I am left perched on a stall, the parrot who will live for another sixty years, praying for the kingdom to be at hand, for love to be present, for youth, romance, and all those flickering delights of life’s occasional offering.
She was gone. I caught the next bus to the Cornish coast. I ran down to the beach, along a huge stretch of sand, and dived head first into the cold sea. I remember surfacing three of four times before diving into another wave, smiling like a wild boy from the west country.
I swore that I would love her forever, whatever the cost. What a fool I was for thinking so, but foolhardy I shall happily remain before the stairway of love’s beautiful sacrifice.
Indeed, knowing that I might never see her again pains me greatly. We said goodbye, but we pretended in that moment, to one another, that we’d have another encounter someday. Perhaps it would be soon, or perhaps many years in the future. But the truth is, we won’t. She will travel across the world and meet another man from where her roots belong, get married, and possibly forget that she ever felt so desperately in need of my love. I will probably meet another woman, I may even get married too, but I fear, that if I do, I won’t be able to kiss the bride before I can kiss her again – I will remember her as Valentina.
It was a brief encounter like no other, and certainly, I thank our romantic natures that it was ever allowed to happen, in such splendour, and with the gravity of our transatlantic oceans. Now I must turn my attention back to selling books, converting a county of philistines to the beauty of reading, the only meaning that can trump a woman.