THE statistics are clinical. They are the skeletal numbers of love. The seventeen times I saw you. The thirty seven phone calls, twelve postcards. Our fortnight in New York. Etcetera. I consult them when it gets too much.
I have them listed on a sheet of paper I keep hidden. When I am close to crazy – like just now – I resort to their antiseptic truth. One day, I hope, I will not need them. I will cease to count. 411 days since.
Yes. I know I’m obsessed. The traces are everywhere. Not least here. My slightly obsessional book about you.
But I have come to prefer addiction as my metaphor of choice – because everything about this feeds something in me. I used to call them needs – but need is a veil for want. You taught me that.
And so I have to confess – I still want you. Or rather, I still want to feel like this. These flames entrance me still. I am like the alcoholic – not simply in love with the drink but with the idea of being a drunk. I have not yet extracted all the jewels from the burning bedroom. And until I do …
The stats make clear the price of fire. They do not offer a solution.
And tonight those narcotic flames flicker sweet and smoky. I saw them earlier – being lit. Kids on the sand. Students on holiday. The girls not wearing enough, the boys with clear designs. Their party about to start. It sounded like sex and boundless optimism. Like no harm could possibly come.
Maybe they were not aware of it – but I was. They are closer to your age. This is their time.
As I walked past them – Mum burbling away on my arm – I tried to remember my time. There were no beach parties then. Not for me. I feared the loosening effects of booze and bonfires. Had I not won my scholarship and escaped the migrant suburbs, I may never have discovered sex – except in the dutiful rote of the marriage bed. Much like my mother had.
There was the other thought too. Inevitable. Less academic. The first of the stats. Me – forty five. You – not yet twenty-five. By the time you were born I had already fled the beach for a city of men and ideas. For a new name. I had taken the pill – been born again.
You are still young and firm and lovely and I have no further need of the pill. Have not bled for ages. Mum hasn’t asked me about that either.
And all the while – nibbling at my attention – the kids and their party. Fire getting brighter as the sun inched down. Hints of wood smoke. Music wafting. The squeals of girls. The deep bravado of unbreakable boys. It was like the song of my loss. So incredibly beautiful.
Back here at the house – Mum packed off – grasping for an anchor – I stood outside straining to hear it. As if doing so would somehow dissolve the feeling that something incredibly important had passed me by. It was not that I had missed it – rather I had had my turn.
Were you my last taste of it? Or were you my first?
I threw my head back – breathing in stars – and let the gossamer music lead me to the well – the one I where I knelt whenever you were inside me. The well of ecstasy and despair. The one where everything is everything.
I hold onto to my sorrow because it is the only thing I know that is as beautiful as you.
There is a happiness fetish in our culture. I see it now for what it is. It is a failure to acknowledge the eternal. It is the fear of knowing what we all know. That we are here – and then we are not.
Because I have loved you in such a ridiculous fashion I have come to accept this. More than accept. Embrace. As I type this I am suddenly certain that this is why I came to live here. To see the face of forever. To hear the sound of the great ocean approaching.
Who would have guessed that such tiny numbers could add up to this?