Love letter # 1001

And now … I am awake, surfacing in this breathtaking vastness, in this desert of the self. I dwell on an island … infinite strandling, and everywhere I look I see the impassive, impersonal ocean, the matter of fact space that divides us … and the years creak like an old boat.

That little moment that never was, that we never held in our arms, its distance from here is not even measurable in time. We must be two strange fools to have acted like this, my love. What hideous complexity kept us from simple tenderness? What hubris from the gorgeously flawed love of sinners? A famous saint once said that complete abstinence was easier than perfect moderation. Was that it? Did we sense that this fire would make ashes of everything?

{This letter is an excerpt from a play called The Angel Of Loneliness.]

He Knows Where I Am

He sings to me. His voice, I hear it in the aching grind of the earth’s steady turn. It calls to me from the radio, seeking me out like a cat in the shadows that never pounces. Strangely, this gives me hope.

I’m a cynical bitch most times. I believe in nothing but I play the game just the same. I commute, I consume, I wear out men like shoes. It looks tough but anyone who knows me understands it’s a way of keeping everything down.

My husband loved me before he got his band of gold on me. I loved him too, even after the unmasking. I loved him because I wanted to love rather than hate. I loved him because to admit otherwise would have made the comfortable hell of house and home intolerable. It was everything I ever wanted – and I was stuck with it.

But he’s different, I know it.

He’s never commented on my weight or questioned me about my drinking or tried to make me his handbag. He’s still the promise of the one. I know he’s out there. He has to be.

I surround myself with him sometimes, wrapping my arms around myself to have some semblance of his embrace. I kiss the back of my hand the way he will one day, just to know that lips can feel like that. His song fills my senses like sweetness in the veins, like the desire to pass out. So narcotic.

He hovers near, eyes flashing in the dark of the forest. He is the rustle heard off stage. Ominous but reassuring. He is on his way.

Most days I wonder how I can go on like this. I ponder therapy as a way to get perspective. This is such an unwarranted faith. Surely a sensible voice will yell down this delusion. There must be a pill for this malady, a cure for love.

My heart is like a dam cracking, fissures in the wall widening by fractions, each beat breaking another layer loose. I want it all to end in a flood, knowing that the waters of cataclysm will soon form a placid lake.

This is my world, my imaginary universe. I catch the train to work subsumed in the insane poetry of it. Yes, he sings to me – but why do I sing back? How is it that a jaded, somewhat faded career hack can hold onto the certainty of miracles? I am so clever, so switched on normally. I know this is not good for me … but still.

But still …

The sun wakes up the day, the tides rise and fall and earth returns to earth – and like a wheel I spin, in love with the idea of the one who will love me. All my logic, every ounce of my common sense overwhelmed.

Truly there are oceans to drown in.

Yet I will forget all this clamour when I wake in his arms. His kiss will wipe clean the world.

Detail is a liar dressed as understanding – and it will all mean nothing when I feel his weight next to me.

He’s there; I know it, just outside the perimeter. In the next carriage. At the café I walk past. Around the corner from the gym. He is as real and invisible as the chorus of my latest favourite love song. I find myself dancing in a swoon whenever he’s on the airwaves.

I don’t tell a lot of people this; for obvious reasons. It’s a little too crazy, too real. But when I cut it all down this is who I am.

I am the dream of love.

Yes, I read the advice, I chant the affirmations, I book myself into the meditation retreats; but thus I remain. Right here. Where he can see me.

Please don’t ask me to stop dancing to this song. Not now. Not when he’s so close.

I can touch him, feel the static buzz of his hand just a razor’s cut from mine. I am already hearing the muted circles of his breathing, so nearly tasting the skin on the back of his neck.

Is this him knocking? This his shadow on the doorframe? I am caught out, not quite ready for the smell of a man on my skin. But I cannot keep him out. The key to my room is his will.

I know he will … because he knows where I am.

[This letter is an excerpt from a series of related short stories called Longing.]

A Distance Not Measured In Miles

Is it a thousand miles? I could drive there in a day but still it wouldn’t bring us any closer. The space between us is measured in silence now.

Every day I read the weather forecast for the far flung town you now call home, yet no matter how I try to imagine the way you will sweat or shiver all I possess is a number in plain ink and a vague idea. This is what remains of years.

But I – we – are not alone in this.

Robert, 44, lives a few streets over from his ex-wife and never sees her, not even in the local shops on a Saturday morning. He still can’t imagine how it all came to nothing.

Julia, 20, wonders why the man who took her virginity doesn’t call her anymore. He emails but never speaks. His embrace has become a series of letters on a screen, her disembodied lover. She could catch a bus to his flat but she is terrified.

Anthony, 73, recalls a girl he knew for one week when he was a teenager. His partner of forty eight years, Gail, knows only that her husband is a bit removed; always has been. He never mentions Penny to her. Gail has often wondered where Anthony goes when they make love but he has not said. He sees Penny everywhere but nowhere; and it still runs a knife through him. Slowly, he is bleeding to death for a girl composed entirely of memory.

I am afraid that I will end like up Anthony, stirring ashes long cold, hoping perhaps that some chance wind will shift them into the likeness of you.

It has not yet been two years since you took the last of what you considered to be rightfully yours and left big gaps in our house. Spaces not yet filled, except by horrifying stillness.

Veronica, 39, says much the same about the quiet that greets her when she gets home from work. Her lover, Marianne, an older woman, passed away not long ago. Veronica remembers that the aroma of Marianne’s cooking used to welcome her. The pots and pans are still there, close enough to touch, to pick up, to use as if they were hers; but the kitchen seems a long way away most evenings.

Jeremy, 18, plays his guitar and thinks about the girl who detonated inside him. He is full of teenage intensity for his love. She is at the same party. There she is, so divine. Just two metres away. But untouchable tonight.

Like you on the other end of the phone. I know the number off by heart. I am ten quick digits from the sound of your voice, from something you might say that will help me feel okay before I sleep. Of course, I will not, do not call. The time for that has passed. You have moved on and I respect that.

Stewart, 55, struggles with the idea that his wife has decided to strike out on her own. He finds it hard to accept that there isn’t another man, an ulterior motive. Whenever he visits his wife and sits opposite her he feels that he needs a telescope to see her. Somewhere along the line he lost sight of her, and she stopped waving.

Yungchen, 29, left her country of birth for a love she thought would bridge the miles. Six months later she finds herself alone. She calls him and leaves messages, knowing that her words will swirl in the air around him, will get inside him. At times she feels that she is right next to him … but then she opens her eyes.

Dreams are like light speed travel, swiftly jetting me to the strangely configured house where we sit and talk it over, where we almost work it out. It hurts but you are near, and that I can bear more than the invisibility of waking. Dawn always rises like a ocean and you vanish over the horizon.

Satoro, 35, is on an oil rig, working hard for his future bride. All around him sea mist and equally lonesome men. On land, without him seeing it, she is drifting. The weeks apart are too much, the weeks together too little. Meanwhile, love waits a little closer at hand and she is sorely tempted.

Gayenendra, 13, knows he shouldn’t. There is a whole world between him and the older girl who works on his father’s farm. Still, he hangs around, enjoying the way her limbs move and the sound of her occasional laughter. He hovers nearby but remains at an impossible distance. She is too busy to notice.

For all this constant thinking of you – you are – I’m certain – simply going about your day. Your choice is made, your grief washed out of you long ago by tears that no longer well. This drama of mine falls on deaf ears, plays to an audience of no one. How is it that people who share everything end up with secrets?

Agnieska, 32, still can’t figure how her boyfriend kept his affair from her. She thought she knew him inside out. Now she feels defiled, like he knows too much about her. Even though he has since moved to another city she can still feels his thoughts, his insights, nesting inside her. She wants to buy a ticket to the other side of the universe but she knows that this will not cut him out.

You, 36, have asked me not to call. Not in so many words but nonetheless. You are posting divorce papers to me, which I will dutifully sign. I could drive for a thousand years then and still not get anywhere near you. We could share pleasantries, knowing what we know, yet not dare to venture across the newly dotted line that redefines, that annuls us.

Me, 40 … I listen to the CD you sent me for my birthday, an old favourite from the collection that was once ours. In the case you stuck a note saying that at long last you understood what they meant by love will tear us apart.

Distance, you said, exists in the most intimate spaces, like that between atoms. I feel it now, my love. I understand now what you had tried so hard to say. If only we had been a little closer.

[This letter is an excerpt from a series of related short stories called Longing.]

What Is A Fire?

She will drift around like mist, almost not there. Close your eyes, shift your focus for a blink and she might be gone. It’s a risk you take; but what is a fire that does not promise to make ashes of everything? I know you know this.

An old fashioned quill has scratched beautiful calligraphy across your chest, just above your heart. Maybe she can see it through your shirt, ornate swirls as delicate as the tendrils of affection: I feel like this a miracle. You’re right, it is, but every miracle is also a test of faith.

Her eyes, for all their fathomless splendour, are sharp and they are searching you for something, peeling back the drapes that hang around you. She is walking inside you, her curious, supernova smile casting light and throwing shadows into corners so recently cleaned. You have renovated your soul, everyone can see it, but will she find what she’s looking for in there?

People think she’s air but you know she’s blood. She gives the impression of walking on clouds, of flitting through the world, of the loveliness of feathers, yet you have sat in her room past midnight and she has lifted that veil. There is a language that very few speak and she is of that tongue. For all that, you understand; not everything but enough. Together you have translated the world and both the thunder and the deafening quiet make more sense tonight.

There are a million theories but it is the singularity of knowing that brings you here, to this point of everything and nothing. Is it simple circumstance that has nudged you closer to her? Has the deck been blindly cut, or is this meant to be? Don’t answer. That is not the point. Your compass is your compass. You have this ship to sail in and the ocean is certainly wide enough; so tell your story of currents and islands and once nameless stars and let the rain be rain.

Every now and then a star explodes, that is what you want to say, and she is one such sun. That fear which is trapping your breath, not quite in, not quite out, is to be expected. What is a fire that does not burn the careless hand? Tell me of a light that is not also the outline of a shadow.

You are sifting the sand for anything that sticks, hoping there are clues in those grains. There are no answers in this sleuthing, in this trying to narrow the odds. Only more fear.

This is one of only two things we can ever truly grasp: it is the terror that comes with the prospect of loss. Everything else is a river of sand through your fingers. In time, if you are prepared to let it go, your fear too will trail away and you will find your voice.

She wants to hear you, that much is clear. She wants to know if you have the courage to feel what you feel. Do you? Is the sensation of flying too much for you? Have you room in your soul for a visitor who may choose to leave at any moment?

I know you do, your breathing has changed; so before you suffocate, before your silence and your vague approximate hinting cuts the oxygen to this miraculous flame, add the fuel. Her response is not yours to imagine, but the hymn of your love is for you alone to recite.

Say it. I have loved others before. I have loved and tried to possess and I have loved at the other extreme too, forgetting to care. The price has been paid, it was nearly too much, but now I have a lightness, an almost divine poverty, an emptiness that is full of you, my love.

You, my love. You, my love.

Can you feel it now? She may welcome you to her bed or ask you to leave and none of that matters because love is not a beggar. You are learning to love her for her and not just for you. Love burns despite.

Yet what is a fire that does not warm the soul? Flames dance the same in both light and dark, giving birth to planets and returning everything to the heart of stars. All of creation is carved in fire.

Ah, you are ready. You are walking to the foot of her stairs, little pilgrim, with your kernel of light. Shine it, boy. Let it blind you as it shows you the way.

She is waiting like a shimmer, like a petal drifting … unpossessable. Be as a river in this moment and you will come to know one of only two things we can ever truly grasp: the divine cascade of loving. In time, if you are prepared to let it flow, your hunger will also float away and you will come at last to the sea.

And that is where she too will be.

[This letter is an excerpt from a series of related short stories called Longing.]

Love letter # 231

It’s a beautiful time of year. Almost as beautiful as you.

The scent of promise, the smell of skin, the bittersweet buzz of longing – this is how I feel you in my body; alive and electric, deep and wordless.

These syllables are a proxy – nothing like the way I really feel. That I can’t describe, not even to call it a hunger.

Right now, the light is like honey and the air is like feathers. The evening is made of music and I’m already dancing. It’s almost as lovely as you.

Love letter # 163

Tonight, on my walk, I conjured you up; the light, the music, the softening air. It was like your touch, your soft hand on my arm, finger extended. You were on my skin again. Delicious.

I swear you were walking with me tonight and we were in our bliss. Everything perfect once more. Still you and me. That wonderful fire between us. That dance we once danced.

Now my body is the store of that treasure – and you are never far away.

That star we gave birth to – it still blazes in the sky. I see it when it’s dark outside and the clouds have blown away.