Letter to the lighter of 500 fires

It was on a night like this. That’s when all of this began; and everything before it ended. Ten years ago, almost to the hour. We were gathered for your birthday. You were turning twenty two. I was nearly twice that. At some point, prompted by you, we snuck away from the party and you said, “You know that I like you, don’t you?”

That I had guessed, the rest I had no idea about. Sure, I knew you were a storm but I did not know that the tempest you would inadvertently unleash would lay waste to my very edifice of self. That within months I would be led to the brink of surrender. Would put it all to the flame. Willingly. Maybe not gladly but with my eyes wide and clear. Knowing only that it was no longer safe to assume that I would survive the fire – except perhaps as ashes.

Of course, a decade down the road, I can enjoy the hindsight and give thanks that by offering to yield completely I was, in turn, and by slow degrees, completely liberated. For a while the advent of you was the single worst thing that ever happened to me, my most disastrous and complacent folly. If I had courted the dizzying drama of the volatile younger woman I had, instead, set in train a self-destroying momentum. Perhaps that too began as an almost literary flourish – another lovely heartbreak routine – but the reality it soon became was ruthless, relentless and ravaging. Yet I remain profoundly and humbly grateful for the fact that I was somehow able to understand that my only viable path out of darkness was to plunge directly into the heart of that deepest night – and to wrench from the ark despair its final glories. Ecstasy and deliverance.

And that is where all this – these five hundred or so love letters – sprang from. For you so steadfastly refused to allow my love that I sent it out into world instead, where, in the roaring silence, it would never be rejected. Never get spat back in my face.

My guess is that, if by chance you are reading this now, you will regard this blog monument as proof of my obsessional inability to let things go. Perhaps it would be mildly embarrassing or downright cringeworthy. I realise that it seems a bit strange – and even if I were to point out that this collection of letters long ago ceased being anywhere near all about you, I know how absurd and inflated this must all appear. For you it was just a fling that went on a bit too long. For me it was line that divides the man I am now from the one I barely recognise as being me. How differently we each view the same scenes.

If am still the hapless, needy older man fool in your memory – if indeed anything at all – well, no wonder. It could well be that I am just that. Ten years is no guarantee, and half a thousand love letters doesn’t exactly suggest moving on. Nor indeed does the act of writing this. On this night. Your birthday. The anniversary of my immolation.

“Yeah, I like you too,” I said – and in the moment that followed, when we held that deep gaze I will never forget, there was a barely discernable sound. A scratch and a spark. And before long the whole universe was on fire.

The thing is, it no longer matters what you think – or even what is true. The light from our supernova love is still flooding my world with indescribable beauty. It is still an ocean, a wave that transforms, and all these breathless billets doux are testament to its infinity. I send them out with no hope or wish for reply – for they emerge from a node of brightness and simply radiate outwards, as though the love I felt for you, which was too intense for either of us to reasonably contain, can now be expressed without restraint. Can go on forever. If only I could find a means of sharing the wonder of this with you. Then you would know.

Most likely I will think of you in my final hour and, almost certainly, you will have forgotten all but the merest scraps long before then; yet still I wonder how many letters of such love I will have penned by the time I am ready to stop. Because the first ten years have not dimmed the star one lumen – nor curtailed for one moment the extraordinary freedom of surrender.

“We don’t have to do anything about it,” you said.

“I know,” I replied – and we both knew at once what a total lie that was.

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