FOR MORE GRATITUDE SEARCH THE TAGS. In the meantime … thanks. – Paul x
Letter to the unrecognisable ex
After seeing you again the other day, I am now compelled.
The sadness of the occasion, the shock of you. The way you screwed up your face, like an irritated child, and the bitterness that hardened your eyes and smelt like poison. At times, like hatred.
Who is this imposter? I wondered. Where did the one I loved, and who seemed to love me, go? And where does all this nastiness and conspiratorial mania come from?
I am not sure who you are now. Who you ever were. Certainly, you do not appear to be the bright, funny, incredibly smart and playful person I shared a life with. I understand that you have had your share of disappointments, that I may well be one of them, but that cannot explain what I encountered the other day. None of us are virgins in the convoluted game of suffering, and many of us have responded to our wounds by taking a cautionary step back from the minefield of relationship. But not like you have, old flame.
So much of what I heard saddened me. It sounded not only like retreat, or the donning of armour, but like rancour. Loathing. Of self and of others. Maybe even me and what I represent to you now. It felt like a cut gone septic. The fever having driven you mad. And in place of the beauty that once radiated: persecution, entitlement, the squeal of a hard identity, and the ego-centric mantra of continuous complaint. As though the once adventurous adult had withdrawn into childhood; but without the innocence and wonder. Or is that the child simply gave up on the idea of pretending, and now, exhausted, thumbs its nose, sitting defiant in a pool of its own piss, hoping the stench will drive all the bad people away? (Mother especially.)
I say all this because I cannot believe that you believe the bilious ideology you spouted at me – and I ask myself, what tide of regret has washed you onto this jagged rock? My darling, I’ll say it bluntly – you seemed more object of pity than rebel intellect. More fundamentalist than fearless.
So, I apologise. If there was something about me, or the way our love dissolved, or the manner of our formal separation that either triggered or still contributes to your current state, I am deeply sorry. If I acted in folly or blindness, or was petty and small, I take responsibility. None of us is above reproach.
Yet my sense is that you will regard this letter, and my writing of it, as yet another attempt to control you, or to take away what you seem to think is yours by some kind of right. Yet, I persist because the very act of this missive is my Quixotic attempt to show, by action as much as much in words, that we can react to our various disappointments in a different way. That we can accept the brute fact of aging. Make peace with our smallness. Regard, with a measure of grace, the inevitabilities of human failing. Their cruelties. Lies. Manipulations. The cold wall of their unloving and the ringing heel of their judgement.
I picture you in your bunker, nestled in the dust of pre-apocalyptic zealotry, feeding off You Tube videos…and I know with a jarring certainty that this is not the one I loved. And here, my challenge: how not to let the gap between affectionate memory and evidence obscure the truth, and thereby lure me into the manifold fantasies that take joy and hope and risk and intimacy and bake them into a crust of fear and regret and mean-spirited isolation.
You see, even if your tear this letter up, spit it back out at me as conspiracy and vitriol, I will still be thankful. That I knew you when you shone. And that your newly adopted darkness has served to warn me.
And so, stranger, this may well be the most powerful of all the many insights you have offered me. I will carry it forward, in honour of the one you used to be and the one you may one day find a way to become.
Love letter # 819
Today will always be the day. Corner turned. Stranger looming into view. Eyes in a crowd. Ignition. Nothing ever the same.
What is it – this abrupt transition? Not just the blood in a rush, or the validating gaze of desire. Nor even the magnetic recognition and the promise it contains. Perhaps it is a kind of birth, a world beyond chrysalis. The self reconfigured by the presence of the other. A cell divided, then reunited as someone different.
You appeared and, by an almost instant magic, I vanished – and then returned, at your side, anew. For the brightness had drawn a shadow on the ground; and the shadow had come to life.
Love letter # 495
What I really wanted to say to you on your birthday was that your advent showed me that I could be more than merely self-obsessed and that I did indeed have a capacity for kindness and generosity, and that I too could make a difference in someone’s life. I simply cannot thank you enough for this extraordinary gift.
Love letter # 443
How easy it would be for us not to bother. We could be that couple. We could lapse into blaming one another, or else let the fancy roam. The world is full of younger, seemingly sexier alternatives – charming strangers at parties, the new face at work, the cute student at the checkout. Not to mention the years. The human frailty. The ruthless face of mirrors.
Yet, tired though I am some days, dizzied by the scent of greener grass, I am never more than a glint in your eye away from remembering. There is so much more to this creature called us than the rush of animal blood and a collection of clichés. More than routine and bickering. More than settling.
Though it may appear otherwise at times, I am deeply, profoundly thankful for this. For your part in the chaotically constructed citadel of our lives. I recognise the lure of the various fantasies and the nagging insistence of doubt but, for all the nicks and cuts, the reality is still evident. For better or worse we have made a home together and I for one am in no rush to relinquish the key. I would much rather sit near you again this evening, and wake to your sleepy smile tomorrow.
Love letter # 358
I love you because, in regarding you, I behold the possibility of myself and, more than ever, find the prospect wonderful. Thank you.
Love letter # 406
Yes, I get to receive your love, and for this I am honoured and deeply thankful – but more than this, you let love you and that, my friend, that is where the profoundest, most liberating joy is to be found. For when I am in the act of loving you it is as though I am love. I can only hope that you too get to experience this extraordinary wonder.
Love letter # 457
It was at a wedding. Ten years ago, I think. At some point that day I realised that I loved you; or at least, that my thoughts kept drifting back to you at every moment when I wasn’t directly engaged. I woke the next morning feeling empty, knowing what was missing. Not merely your presence, your closeness, your touch – but what those things represented.
Now I know what it means to be known. To be recognised, to belong. To see another and, in that unerring reflection, to gaze upon the truth of self. Sometimes I experience this as a kind of music; at others as a mode of silence – yet always as the humbling liberation of formless beauty. The freedom that lies beyond the restriction of names. The unity awaiting us outside of the empire of I.
There is no thanks I can either utter or scribe that can fully contain the wave of gratitude I feel when I ponder this hinge in my life. I think back to that wedding, to that time, and I picture you, just around the corner. Waiting for me to notice.
Love letter # 591
Okay, so you’re probably wondering why I’m emailing you again after all this time – but let me assure you I’m not after anything. I’m not looking to push any buttons or play silly emotional games. I just wanted to say that I dreamt about you last night.
It was a garage sale scene; me wandering in off the street to find you and boxes of your heavily discounted history. I picked my way through the jumble, looking for who knows what, and we chatted with such casual, unaffected ease that when I woke up I was awash with a kind of contentment.
And now, hours later, it’s still with me. Maybe the dream, and all its obvious symbolism of clearing out the clutter of the past, has swept a broom through me.
This afternoon at least I think of you and am at peace – only the gentlest, slow moving wave of calm love coruscating in my body. All dramas ceased. All conspiracies forgotten. All bleeding stopped. Just the vapour of your long distance loveliness, which I am breathing in as I write, and a sea of undiluted affection.
Love letter # 405
Sometimes, it’s true, I wish I had never met you; but then I count up all the blessings that flowed from the destructive path that your advent tore through the city of my complacency and I am truly thankful. My dissolving at your touch was without doubt the most far reaching and ultimately affirming experience of my adult life. If I once cursed your name I whisper it now like incantation. If you were the lighter of fires, I have become the shaper of cinders. From the deluge you heralded: the river, the flood plain, the sustaining bounty. Thanks heavens I met you.
Love letter # 360
What is now obvious to me, and I suspect to you as well, is that there is a kind of love that transcends the usual bounds – that has nothing to do with possession or control and does not sit within the cutesy little ring fence of chocolate box romance. Indeed, it is a form of loving that outlasts being together. I am honoured to have had and to still share this remarkable bond with you.
Years may have gone by since the word ‘couple’ applied to us but in your presence, even on the phone, the indefinable and unmappable space we carved out of nothing when we were poetic and hopeful kids still nourishes me. I am thankful to have known the sublime recognition. Of another. Of myself. And each time we linger in this realm together I am reminded and confirmed.
I say this now, not because I miss it, for it is still here, but rather because that mad, heady promise of ‘love you forever’ looks almost certain to be upheld.
Love letter # 347
Rarely does it take more than a splinter of memory. A nuance of light. A scent on the breeze. Just a beat and I’m there with you; and once again it is obvious how I got here.
You were so beautiful I had to look away. Had to leave the room. Because I knew right away. It was there in your eyes, blazing supernova in an otherwise ordinary sky. Your grace was the melting of me, the line of your mouth the unspoken code, your movement the dance that unveils. I was stripped in a blink. There was no possibility of pretence.
Oh, how I wanted it – the cessation of games. The brutal magnificence of unadorned seeing. A pedant’s language dissolved into the purity of speaking. I would have yielded everything; and indeed I did. With abject gladness.
And then you took me in your hands and there was no you and I. Simply us.
I behold you now and, in spite of all the detritus of familiarity and the erosive banality of years, I revisit that shimmering moment of fusion, almost nuclear in its intensity, and I am humbled by your choice of me and thankful that I did not resist when first you promised to shatter me utterly.
And now I take your hand in mine and there is no me and you. Just us, as it ever was.
Love letter # 364
Forgive me, but there is a dreadful song that reminds me of us. It was a summer hit back when lust and opportunism threw us into bed and into our brief, optimistic affair. But hey, we were kids and hormones and hope were enough to obscure what we always knew to be true – that we were simply not suited.
Remember how your parents disapproved; how they wanted another kind of man entirely for their darling princess? It was fun for a while, wasn’t it – toying with their displeasure? Pretending to be teenage rebels? Or maybe that was just me.
Not that any of it matters now. Our lives have unfolded in their separate ways and time has dissolved any leftover pain and regret. Now we’re just like old songs. Accidents on the airwaves.
But here’s the thing, the reason I’m sending you this … that crappy old song took me right back to the brink of your kiss. To the night when curiosity and proximity took over. When I tasted you. Felt the solid, animal warmth of you. Had so many crazy, sudden ideas bursting in my head. And do you know what – just for a few minutes I missed you, almost loved you again.
Now, in the calm and mature morning, I am laughing at the cute persistence of my own folly but also I am acknowledging the fire and the sweetness and the validation you gave to me. In a way, from this distance, I can perhaps see you more clearly than young lust allowed.
So thank you. I know our little tryst wasn’t much – but it was something – and even now I carry the jewel of it in my heart. I hope, in some small way, that you do too.
Love letter # 502
In the beginning there was a kind of blindness. In the end I was staring at wreckage. In between there was you. Or rather, the manner of my breaking open upon your touch. The dumbstruck awe, the distemper of desire, the sheer terror that only beauty can evince.
You came, I fell at your door, you fled.
I chased, you ran even harder, and before too long even the angel of love had departed.
In pettiness and anger I blamed. In hurt I cursed. And yet, in loss, I soon found. With rubble I made anew. With time I gave thanks – for the ecstasy of your kiss and the wrench of its withholding. For the breath of your whispers and the silence that came after.
Now there is a kind of dust; the soft settling of memory and forgetting. I leave a trail with my finger – the surface shiny underneath – and I like the taste. Not just the ghost of you or even simply the echo of an erstwhile me, but something distilled and refined. An essence I could not detect in the flurry of the drama. That which has survived the fire. A rain of ash which is now a springtime of renewal. To which I am, at last, no longer blind.
Love letter # 469
The sheer power of a solitary word can sometimes be overwhelming; like when I struggle to say your name out loud. It is as though my body remembers the very shape of the breath it takes to form the sound and, in doing so, goes back in time. To the singing temple bell of your hello. To the warm sea of your gaze.
Someone asked me about you yesterday and at the mere mention of you I was not simply transported but shaken apart by the precise earthquake of one single word. Your name. Nothing more
Today I am wondering if there is anything else. Perhaps this amazing physical wave of surrender is the only truly liberating force available to us. The only thing that will take down the facades we so carefully construct to obscure the truth from ourselves.
Your name is the ocean – and even now I remain in its flood. What a sublime testament to the space we created in our time. Thank you, my love – for I am blessed once more.
Love letter # 762
I think you know how grateful I am. It could so easily have been different. A turn of the corner here, a small delay there, and the river of chaos that bumped us together would have swept us oblivious to destinations we can now only wonder about.
Our real fortune, of course, is that we both have what the other most wanted to find. Not missing parts but matching courage. The vision fearless.
Now we both laugh at the absurdity of those around us, at their ridiculous, ineffective levers of control. Together we have discovered the strength to reject all of their bloated ‘thou shalt not’ narratives, to see through the phoney divisions of class, gender and sexuality that those around us wished to have us accept. Have tried so hard to force down our throats. Only we don’t swallow.
Perhaps in a year or two they will be grinning triumphally saying ’I told you so’ but even if the grind and the differences do get on top of us we will have had the experience of today. We will have held out for something more than obedience and TVs. Than monochromatic suburban smallness. Than sticking to the party line and hating ourselves for it.
It sounds a trifle romantic, I know – but in your arms I have found stars hitherto unglimpsed. Reason for living scarcely permissible in the narrow, must have, status obsessed straits of work & spend, amuse & medicate.
Okay, so these fighting words may well come back to bite, but I will have loved you in the interim and known your love in return. For this, I shall forever give thanks. Because now that we are together we are scared of nothing – and I will never forget how good this feels.
Love letter # 397
I always loved you. It’s just that you never knew – or didn’t want to. Or maybe you just pretended. Never mind; in the end it saved us both.
Love letter # 316
Emotional availability, compassion, fearless honesty, the withholding of judgement and a sense of union. It’s why I still love you. Why we’re still we.
Love letter # 294
I am so glad you came into my life; even though it is apparent that you will not ultimately choose me. (Maybe I am wrong about this. Either way, that choice is yours to make – and I leave it to you.)
For my part, how good it is to be flooded with sweetness, to be transformed by a smile, uplifted by a small sign of extra care. In the end – after sex and novelty have had their sway – it is intimacy and recognition that will carry us through the night. Even as you withhold your kiss and bow to the fears that beset you I see how you have reached out – how your fingers have prised me out of the weave.
Though it may go no further, I thank you for the reminder – for allowing me the very idea that someone out there sees me. That somebody truly beautiful knows.
I have floated on this for weeks. It has washed me clean. Today I am lighter by the precise measure of your likeness. I wish you would fly with me – but even if you won’t I am grateful for the joyous elevation you have lately made possible.
Your airborne friend,
Love letter # 459
A song came on the radio today. Not one I hear that often – but one that still sings of our time together. While it played – and for a few minutes afterwards – I was in love with you all over again. All I could hear was your husky laugh. Taste your mouth. Feel what it felt like to be wanted by you.
Less romantic realities may have ground such wonders to predictable dust, yet my body still holds the sensations. My heart still sounds out your name. Not in deluded hope or obsessional fixation but in honour. For loving you was one of the most wonderfully intense and beautiful things I ever did.
I am not sure where you are tonight, or who you are with, but I am a fire in the arms of memory. Warmed. Glad to have once been so crazy.
I thank you once more for the blood you sent crashing through formerly ossified veins; because, having been broken over the back of you I am no longer afraid of anything. And I will die knowing what it was like to love as though nothing else mattered.
Which it doesn’t.
Love letter # 448
Love is like a carpark sometimes. Y’know, circling round, looking for somewhere to pull in. Hoping someone might let you in. There’s a distinctly numeric quality to it; something banal and utilitarian when viewed through a certain prism. Especially for those of us not blessed with the beauty, wealth or status aphrodisiac.
Into this category I most certainly fit. Just one of the many. A number plate in a multi-storey parking bay. Could be anyone really.
How fortunate I am then, that for reasons I simply cannot fathom, you hit upon me. You could surely have chosen others equally as suited – if not better.
Unspectacular though I am, I am not so foolish as to pick apart your reasons. Rather, I remain utterly grateful. In the lottery of selection that we ordinary folk are effectively condemned to, it looks like my numbers came up this time.
Honestly, I could kiss you for it. 🙂 xx
Love letter # 475
Overwhelmed, almost crushed, by the sheer breathtaking beauty of things. The salty air. Damp earth. The warmth of your arms around me.
Again I am halted, paused in thankful reflection – grateful to whatever gods, angels or blind mechanical confluences brought me to this viewpoint. From here, through the tiny portal of my consciousness, I am able to glimpse something of the eternal. Not simply to behold it as dry fact but to experience it as beautiful.
Because it is the simple and extraordinary fact of your beauty that alerts me to your existence and, in that, confirms the miracle of mine. Science tells me I am a slave of process – but your glory sets me free.
For with your voice I sing – and in your form I dance in time. Yours is the tongue of the answered prayer – yours the hands that write out the verse. And when everything is shining and wonderful, it is with your eyes I see.
You have transformed the world and I shall ever love you for it.
Love letter # 283
To this day I remain astonished at your choosing of me. Grateful for the shine in your smile. Amazed by your continued nearness. Whenever I stop to behold it, I am afloat on the sea of your beauty. Lifted up by the advent of your light. I swoon to your song and, in such musical company, I move to the rhythm of the vastness – and in that lovely cadence it feels as though I blend with you and will never, ever be alone. There is nothing I could give back to you that would even come close to emulating this extraordinary gift; the one you unveil with every feather of your touch.
Love letter # 265
What was once a wind whipped, steely chill is now the softly folding mist. Hard edges turned to comfortable blur. The colour of memory wistful and lovely. Sad howl rendered mellow song.
They say ‘tis nothing more than time but I feel it is not so; for in this gentle distance circles the thankful breath of grace. The rhythm of a passion cooled – the life of a love still beating.
This is the calm of acceptance – a space where flowers bloom without the rigour of daily tending. It is the beauty we inherited from the respectful closing of the book that used to be you and me.
Once we had a fire. Now we have a warmth. Where once we fought over an impossible future, now we share the peace of a past that served us both well. This is a legacy at once more subtle and powerful than the mere passing of days – because like the light that drew us together, it is the steady and eternal beacon of harbour. And here, at last, no storms shall set these ships asunder.
Because you told the truth, I knew you were a liar.
A little distance is a fine thing, is it not? Torch gone out. Fury all done. Need to blame no longer prevalent. Though I remain wary of the convenient airbrushing of hindsight, I can look at the dynamics of us from the measure of a year and know that without doubt I owe you a debt of gratitude. Not because you were kind or wonderful. Not because you tried to show me something. Rather, because you lied. Because your manipulation was so carefully constructed and wilfully cynical that it astonishes me now to realise that I allowed it into my life for as long as I did.
At the time I satisfied myself with the poetic idea that I was giving you a fair chance; even though my instincts were fairly screaming at me to withdraw. In retrospect, I can see that my hesitations were not so noble. Partly it was a sense of fairness – but it was also a kind of weakness. A hunger. The fear of being alone. Goddamit, even a dose of unrequited lust.
It was that commonly expressed but ultimately forlorn hope: maybe she’ll, perhaps he’ll … But they never do. Or least, they do so rarely enough that it’s not worth the grind and humiliation.
You certainly had no intention though, did you? Your game was sharper, more calculated than mine. You said just – and only just – what you needed to in order to keep me onside. I was a pawn in your Machiavellian politic, a means to a private end. Even your apologies were about personal advantage. You promised without ever intending to fulfil and your frequent sweetness was little more than a calculated sugar hit, doled out to the junkie on your string.
And who was the fool who swallowed it all down? (Oh yeah – that sucker.)
It was only when I could no longer effectively lie to myself that the truth about you could not be denied. And even then, it was only a slip of your tongue that let the cat out of the bag. Even habitual liars tell the truth eventually – usually by mistake.
So why am I thankful? Simple. Because, by your flawed approximation of intimacy, you inadvertently proved to me that it really is okay to draw a line in the sand. I don’t have to be an all forgiving Jesus figure anymore. I can have the guts to say no – this is not acceptable. I will not tolerate this. You can be damned in my estimation. Held to account.
The real beauty here though, is that I can say all this with without the hyperbole of impotent rage. I can simply assert it as a free choice. A decision I make about what I want in my short and tenuous life. (Certainly not you and your ilk.)
Whilst I readily concede that we all act out of self-interest – that we all lie, scheme and cheat to achieve our objectives – I am satisfied that I and most others learn at a relatively young age that the conscious manipulation of other people’s affections is cruel and cowardly. It singles out those people who employ these tactics as unworthy of my time and energy. For I am not here to heal or save them from their misdemeanours; that is a messianic delusion from which you have saved me.
So please, do not for a moment consider this missive a bridge back. It is the rubble by the riverside. It is the deconstructed act that I once chose to believe – now seen for what it was.
I seek, nor offer, the easy palliative of middle class forgiveness. I have no message or advice for you. Only profound thanks. For by your deceptions I have unearthed a truth about myself; and the next time I encounter somebody like you – which I surely will – I will know exactly what to do.
It will doubtless mean little to you to hear me say that this fact is nothing short of a beautiful liberation. From neediness. From fear. From lack.
From predators like you.
Love letter # 340
When I loved you in the absence of detail there was only love; and in this way I held you in my arms and looked into your eyes and saw that I was not alone. Thank you.
Love letter # 678
Today would have been 25 years for you and I. Never mind that it’s not – for that lovely fire around which we first gathered as barely more than moths – still burns in its hearth. I know that you know this, even if you do not think of it today: and this is why I can smile at the memory of that distant but still intoxicating flame. Because we made something everlasting from it. Not a home perhaps – but a promise unbroken. To love without fear and judgement. To know that our shadows are the evidence of our light. And that, at day’s end, when all the shouting is done, good hearts will find one another and share the beautiful quiet.
My love, as ever,
Love letter # 377
Even after all this time I would still die in your place; because it was you who showed me a way of living that I had not previously imagined. When I first loved you the whole world came to life and I discovered a new way of being. With you I unearthed the real joy of this mortal plane: the ephemeral majesty of it all, the beautiful seasons of aging and the tender, silk fine connection of one soul to another. And for this inestimable gift there is nothing I would not yield in return.
Love letter # 305
Although time and aeroplanes have put distance between us – and mismatched desires once drove a knife into our togetherness – the years and the miles have not dulled my central affection for you. Whatever the dramas and disputes were back then, the light that drew me to you shines as bright as it ever did.
Though I am aware that hindsight and nostalgia are themselves warping prisms, I recall the connection we had and I realise that it is precisely this that I am searching for now. Something real and deep and affecting. Something committed and risky. Something that changes me utterly. As my love for you once did so profoundly.
And so today, I send you warmth and well wishes and humble thanks. That which you gave me was more than you will ever know. More than sex or validation. More than mere support or recognition. Perhaps I cannot find the words to say clearly what it was (is) but I feel it every day and I honour you for it.
Love letter # 870
After today I love you even more. It’s not that you’re suddenly better looking or more desirable. Rather, it’s that you have allowed me to be absolutely honest. And you have returned the favour.
Even now you know what’s driving me – sometimes eating me, scaring me, crushing me – you still have room for me. More than room. Genuine warmth. Kinship. I feel I can be me around you and not be punished for it.
But better still – you have shown me you – and I am deeply honoured and thankful for this. For you are more beautiful than I dared imagine and I am the lucky one.
Love letter # 142
Most years I scoff at the idea of Valentine’s Day. It’s such an obvious Hallmark occasion, a corporate concoction designed to give us something to buy during the slowest part of the retail calendar. And all that flowers and candlelit dinner shit. It’s so goddam suburban. Puke.
I know you know what I mean – which is why I can imagine your shock at receiving this. Because this year I have decided to get over my easy cynicism and to use the day as an excuse to say what I do not say often enough: that I love you, that you bring such incredible beauty into my life, and that when we’re together I feel safe.
Indeed, maybe we’re too smart for our good far too often. We think we’re so cool, so indestructible – but in the chill of the night we are all liable to the frights that darkness permits. Magnifies. For this is when we feel most alone and turn to our loved ones for reassurance. For anchor. And this is when I find you – always my light, always my warm harbour.
So this Valentine’s I am promising to acknowledge this fact every day – and not to need the external prompting of dead saints to remind me that I am fortunate indeed to have you near. Lucky to have you love me. Downright honoured that you let me love you back.
Love letter # 315
You were the storm that broke without warning – smashing down from a sky that had seemed clear just moments before. You were the gale that tore through the musty old house and ruffled all the dried up feathers. You were the dream girl who invaded my quarantined sleep. And then, when all the usual things were turned upside down, you moved in.
I will never forget that time. Your swashbuckling approach. My body still holds the charge of those magical weeks – a memory that buzzes. My breath still recalls the rush. Indeed, I have lived off the flush and thrill ever since. A task made easier by your undiminishing care and your ever incredible beauty.
I still thank all the stars in the sky that I was in that room that night when you first walked into my life. Even more so because you still walk beside me.
Love letter # 365
From all the prophets of the world I never learned a thing. Neither have the sages brought me a scrap of joy. All their words and supposedly stupendous insights have done nought but leave me dry. Their wisdom is the grandest folly. The self-perpetuating denial of the apparently spiritual. The fear of death dressed up as eternity. Only in you have I known the wonder of the light. Only in the tender, uncomplicated honesty of your smile. And only by surrender am I truly set free.
For you are not the promise of forever. Nor the fiction of salvation. You are just the one who stands beside me. Yet for this small and simple fact I am profoundly grateful. And we are skin on skin together. Warmth on warmth. For no greater purpose than the sheer joy of it. Because we choose it – and because it makes our whole world more beautiful. If there is a greater truth than this I have yet to hear of it.
Love letter # 213
Some distances melt away – with song, with years, with chance. Like when I thought I saw you in a corner – the corner you made your own when we were we. But this is no sad missive, for I was breathless with joy when I briefly believed it was you – and it was then – and you were never more than a handspace away. At least I know of such splendour – and it is now mine to remember.
Memory is an unreliable witness, I’m sure – but what wonderful testimony it gives. If ever I ponder it, it’s as though I can feel the light pouring in. Everything is radiant – and I am glowing. It is an amazing gift – this love you inspire. It cleanses me – and I am empty when it shines. And that is a wonderful thing.
Love letter # 136
There is a door inside me that opens onto a world we once shared, with its secret geography and private jukebox. This street – its bars, its late night revels, its kissing in public – and those records – our lovers’ soundtrack still playing. All of it so alive. Still visceral beneath the eggshell skin of time. Like the dance that happens in the quiet between heartbeats.
I sometimes get sad when I think of it; but mostly now I am uplifted. Inspired. We are like a classic movie. When I see it I am reminded of the things that truly matter and I forget the daily trammels. The huff and bluster of my pride and vanity are drowned out by the song of those beautiful scenes – and I remember that I once loved and was humbled – was broken and made anew.
I stride down the street like some kind of king until memory catches sight of me and then I turn the corner where I once crawled before you.
Whatever you are doing now and however you recall those ridiculous days, know that you have made something wonderful in me. More than mere nostalgia or wanton regret, you made me realise. And you still do. I can never thank you enough for that.
Love letter # 262
I count my blessings – my liberty, my lightness – all here because you turned away – and I looked inward. And there I found the true source of love – radiating outwards. The ecstasy of love is in its outflow. Its channelling. Its being. I am love because you turned aside.
Love letter # 210
Without knowingly planning it I found myself walking those streets again – our streets – as if drawn by a dislodged memory. I followed the beaten sidewalk to your apartment. Past the church, under the bridge, across the park. Yes – that park. I imagined you standing at your gate – like you used to. Hungry eyes. Lips parted. How corny we were.
I stood across the street – gazed at the window I once looked from – tried to recall the sound of your laughter. Or the way you looked when the lights went out. Things that stain the years the tincture of you.
As I walked away – leaving that place of ghostly dancing – I realised that I no longer needed homages. The particulars have faded to a beautiful haze – and you are now more like an angel, or an evocation. You are a source of light in my life. I may not wish upon your star – but I feel its warmth.
If you – like me – have extracted such treasures from our madness – then I am honoured beyond words.
As I was when you opened your door to me.
Love letter # 267
I was so lucky to know you, let alone be anywhere near you. You showed me things I never even dreamt of – dances I never imagined. There are things in my life now – ideas, ways of being, feelings – that never existed before your beautiful eyes set fire to my complacency. In your hands I was the traveller finding new lands. With your kiss you electrified my life. When I fell for you I learnt to soar. When I begged you to stay I knew at last that I was not the limit of things. You were the end of self-obsession. Perhaps I paid a price for loving you – but oh what I got in return …
Love letter # 182
You never really know at the time how deeply someone is going to affect you. It’s as though your senses are quietly gathering a million tiny fragments, the future stockpile of memory.
This must be what happened with you because even now – years later – the thought of you is so richly textured, so immersive. When that song comes on, or the light shines just so, I am almost back in your embrace, feeling that unfathomable wonder.
Perhaps it makes you laugh to hear it now but I loved you beyond my previous capacity to imagine it. You were like home. Like earth. I never felt more true that when I was with you. I wore no chains around you.
And I believed that you felt the same. Maybe you didn’t. I don’t know.
It makes no difference now. We are on opposite sides of the world. All I know is that, despite everything, I carry with me the treasures you left behind. Far from making me sad or enslaved, they are the doorway to a beautiful tenderness. I open it whenever the world seems unduly harsh or I seem to slide into bitterness.
I know it was never your intention but I cannot thank you enough. It’s as though the breaking of me was, in fact, the making of me. Perhaps I am not unusual in this. Nevertheless – I am all the better for having both loved and lost you.
Love letter # 122
It’s so good to be reminded that I am not everything; that the popular ‘vale of illusion’ fantasy which posits a self-centric universe is itself an illusion – a fetish of hubris and extravagant denial. There is something other than me – and at the very least it’s you.
You are not simply a means for me to see myself – a vehicle of solipsistic recognition – you are the door out of self.
My love for you reminds me to be thankful – humble. It reminds me of time and ephemerality. Of fragility and smallness. Of all those existential terrors. But it frees me from the fear of them – lets me embrace them.
Yet what your love for me allows is utterly indescribable.
Love letter # 165
Remember when you said, it’s okay, I can put it away? Except you didn’t – and we kissed – then did it all and more besides. Every rule we ever made for ourselves, strewn like shirts torn from torsos. Left on the floor with everything else.
We knew we were gonna pay – and we did. Me stripped bare – you scared to death. You’re on a plane now, flying to anywhere, and I’m stalking old streets, jogging with the ghosts of old adventure.
So easy to say it was foolish – to wish it off the record – but no, I’ll not. This scar was made by beauty, this skin made new by hunger. I could scarcely have imagined a better legacy. Wherever you are, know that I am thankful. Your love and, later, your retreat, showed me the way to surrender and, later, to a strength that continues to amaze.
Never put it away, my love. Always let it flow.
Love letter # 147
Everything you heard is true. I did say those things. I was hoping to convince myself. I failed.
In my pain I tried to hate you, to spill my guts like a shield. Easier to rage than to cry; to clothe my nakedness in lies. When the love I had could no longer be shared I spat it out, as if it, as if you were the poison. But then, when the wounded animal had cried its awful cries, it lay down in the quiet and loved you even more.
Just as my love once felt like flight itself, tonight it comes like peace. The words have run dry but my heart still spells out your beautiful name. What magic cadence. And now … I cry to be free.
So I send you these words instead; for these are not my pain speaking, nor my vain hope pity seeking. These are the words of the song that still fills my blood with joy. This is what you left me with. Thank you, bella.
Love letter # 168
I had no inkling; no pause to think it could ever be like this. You came from an unimaginable place – snuck up on me, overwhelmed me. Yours was the beam that passed right through me.
Yet it was nothing; over before the flowers, spring snuffed early – jump cut to winter. With but a spark the world burned down – and now even ashes are on fire.
Why was I shown this incredible thing and then denied it? To be like this. To be free of everything. To know that even thought will burn away and memory crumble to hushes.
You are so distant now it is as though I had invented you, composited you from misread signs and wild abandon. You are the love that never was, the light that shone for an instant, promising beautiful stars. It’s night time now. It almost always was.
I get through the days very well – most nights too. In fact I barely think of you. All I have is what you triggered in me – this oceanic feeling – this sense of beauty everywhere. Even your ghost is a gorgeous dancer.
Love letter # 288
It is all too obvious – things can’t be undone. I can wish as hard I like – and so can you – but wishing is the salted wound.
Can I see it now? Yes. But hindsight is a teacher – not a lover – and you were the right person at the wrong time. I have since learnt that the love you so fulsomely gave was an incredibly rare thing. If only I had known how to accept it.
You were the only one who gave their love freely. Ultimately, everyone else was loving for a fee. But they couldn’t see I was broke. You could. And so I pushed you away. I couldn’t let you see that. I loved you too much.
You didn’t imagine it – I loved you hopelessly. It made me sick somedays.
But none of this is why I’m writing. I only wanted to say that you taught me the difference between love and pretending – and now I won’t accept anything less.
Love letter # 104
You came towards me in the coldness, in the warmth you went away. In the night, you slept beside me; in the day you drained away.
You never meant to – that much I’m sure – but the light shone regardless and all was transformed. You only wanted a kiss, not all this. But you were all the beauty in the world. And I was all eyes.
You were everything once, now there’s something else. Open doors. Rooms that fill with light. You knocked the walls down and now I’m free to breathe. And the cool air passes through me; surrendered, on my knees. Bending – not breaking. Alive.
You never knew it – but the thing you tried to keep from me was the greatest gift you gave. You asked me not to love you, so I learned to love instead. And it’s magnificent. Thank you.
Love letter # 141
Why would I travel the whole world when the most astonishing beauty is right here? If there is anything better than when you touch me, I have yet to experience it. You are all the riches I could ever dream of. I would give away a mountain of gold to share a simple meal with you.
In our humble home … all the wonders of the world. With the touch of your hand … every victory I ever craved. And when you sleep beside me I have no need for further dreams.
I hear your key turn in the door, I hear your footsteps on the floor – and I just love you.
Love letter # 133
I think sometimes I might be blessed. At least, that’s what I think when I think about you. I’m sure there are more worthy candidates. Kinder. Warmer. More truthful. Better able to return the love you so freely extend.
I woke up in the middle of a dream with you, having no idea how I came to have you in my arms. I blinked – and your incredible kindness filled me up. From a point somewhere in darkness, I found myself in light.
I am like the desert after the miracle of rain – transformed. I sink to my knees in this abrupt garden and I thank every God anyone thought of for all these flowers; and I pray that I work out how to look after them.
Be patient with this terrible gardener you have chosen, for I have only just learnt to use the watering can.
Love letter # 171
When I learnt to care about you I learnt to get over myself. Loving you saved me from the obsessive drama of the ego. Without necessarily planning it, you threw open the gates to something other than me, me, me – and as a result I am lighter.
The cannibalising introspection that ruled my days has become a night of splendour, a night spent loving you. By letting me give, you helped me loose the chains of control. Today the flag is unfurled, snapping gladly in the cleansing air. And why? Because what I always wanted was not mine for the taking – but mine to offer gladly.
And with your permission, I would be honoured to offer it you.
Love letter # 34
Before you, I practised guitar. Since you, there have been songs. You are the difference between the passing of the days and the beauty of the season.
I think of you every day – but some days I am awash; the floodplain in flower. Whatever I was before, I am new. Yours is the light that let me see.
I know what the fire is now. I have the ashes to prove it.
They say we pay for glory with blood. Let it be so. I would burn a thousand kingdoms for this. More. Such things are baubles. This is what matters. You being next to me.
I know it’s stupid – but then I am a fool.
Love letter # 26
Now that there is nothing left, I am free to think what I want – and I have chosen to think of the beautiful things. I will remember your loving, your incredible tenderness, your fingers twined in mine, your head on my chest. I will give thanks for the storm you unleashed, for the blood you made hot, for the meaning.
In the privacy of recollection, the edited reel of our days and nights, you will always be the star. The truth does not change the way I feel; it simply sets the record straight. But I would rather the sweet river flow than be dammed.
There is a jewel untarnished, undimmed by the scratch and bang of history – and this is what I carry with me. I’d rather be a fool who loves you too long than a bitter man with a shut up heart who lets the sweetness pass him by.
Love letter # 40
It is strange to wake up without hope. Liberating. Now at last I am free to love you as I may. No waiting by the phone. No hanging on Facebook. Just love – and moving through the day. Not weary. Not fretful. Unshackled.
So this is your final gift to me; I realise it now. Yesterday my longing was choked with ash, today my love breathes freely. Tomorrow I will light a candle for you and it will burn forever.
You are the guiding star, my beautiful. I am but a traveller making his way. And even without you – still I am not lost.
The cynics, the cruel talk, the friends who say told you so – they won’t even put a scratch on you. I know what’s true. I was there. That’s why I’m able to thank you for everything. You made a difference – and I will never be the same.
Love letter # 31
When I was king of the world and you were queen of the universe it was incredible. Okay, so it only lasted six weeks but it changed me forever. Once you know what it’s like to fly it’s hard to keep your feet on the ground.
Thank you for astounding me out of my slumber. Your crazy beauty made the world brand new. Your mouth was another language. I was running on half power until you laid your hand on me. Then I was electric.
The things I thought I knew – you threw them out. And the things I wasn’t even aware of – you made them bleed. Most of all though, you showed me my heart. Now it beats in me like never before. Now I know what it means to live.
Love letter # 8
And so here we are, as I always knew we would be. Miles apart; days drifting into weeks and longer, treasures gathering dust. Dusk becoming midnight.
I guess I thought I’d get used to it. I never did. The world kept reminding me. Every time I thought that perhaps the fever had dulled, or the vivid light paled – just as I was about exhale the last vaporous wisps – I realised.
I understand that all things pass, that there is no owning, and that wishing – for all its intense and consuming drama – has no effect whatsoever. I am just a man at his desk, waiting in the softening blur of evening for some unforseen angel to deliver him his elsewhere girl.
I never met anyone like you – maybe you never met anyone like me. I hope so. But I would still burn the whole world if the only thing left was you and me.
Yet even though there are still nights – this one included – when I beg whatever gods there are to let me sleep, I have enough sense left to insist that, come the morning, they leave me enough blood for love.
For to love you is to walk through the day in grace and humility – to remember that we are all disrupted music – to see how the light illuminates every single thing. Not a soul shall be cut off from love. For this incredible gift I thank you.
I cannot say where this river will end; other than in some vast welcoming sea but I know that sooner or later every drop of me will rise up to the sky, where perhaps I will be closer to you. For even if I was an angel you would be my special one.
Love letter # 128
Please excuse my anger – it’s the mask my dread likes to wear – it’s the naked fear of losing you – it’s this incredible vulnerability in me you have exposed.
Believe me I have tried not to act out. I have tied down outbursts. I have hidden tears. And when I was busting to adore you shamelessly – that too I kept quiet.
I used to wonder why some people were the way they were – now I know. How many times have I gone looking for signs? How many nights have I tested you? I would be ashamed; except I know all this seeking comes from deep need.
Sometimes, I swear, I am a vessel of desire, a mere carrier of torches – all burning for you. If once I seemed strong it was because I did not care. Then I took the risk of loving you. Then your beautiful kiss undid me.
Last year, I wore armour. This year, I wear my wounds with pride. They are the mark of a man. He who does not bleed is bloodless.
Though there are times when I swear I’ll die, when my hunger kills my good sense; there are other hours, like this one, when I know I am saved. You let me love you – you drew me on – and now I am alive. At last.
Love letter # 301
I thought you might like this. I tried to write you a beautiful love letter but nothing came. No stupid angels. No overblown mush. You’re a bloody legend, mate. Thanks for putting up with me.
Love letter # 101
I thought I was the king of everything – now I know I’m nothing. The castle I constructed has weathered to a stack of old stones.
Now I am poor and free.
I wanted what could never be given – and in that wanting’s honour I served dreadful masters. Grasping. Jealous. Vengeful.
My various masks cracked from the inside as a writhing wildness in my veins snapped whipcrack electric. It was the blood coloured me all along, struggling to get out, given fuel by hunger.
It took you to set me free – even if you didn’t mean to.
I fell at the foot of your stairs, truly humbled, and I rose again … cleansed. I am no saint. I am no wise man. Rather – I am like the sapling – fallen from the branches above.
I shall sleep under the sky with nothing – yet I shall be the richer – for I have found a way to give; and I thank you for this gift.
Love letter # 71
At this distance, what I once was blind to is now obvious to me. Your tenderness. Your forgiveness. Your wonderful laughter. The way you blushed after a few drinks. Your kissing me when I least deserved it.
I carry little jewels with me always. The memory of sleeping in your embrace. The look in your eyes when you cared. Your late night phone calls. Our private jokes. Dancing on the median strip as the cars blurred by.
If I am occasionally given to great self-pity at the hard fact of your leaving, so too am I thankful for every light that shines. When I miss you, when I shudder with nauseous wondering, I give thanks for the nights when we were everything.
It is my honour to have walked beside you and no amount of ex-lover anguish will ever make me wish that I had not. Even if I find myself bleeding again tonight – it will be blood given for splendour.
Love letter # 98
Okay, I confess – there are days when I wish I’d never opened the door to you. These are the days when I miss you so much I ache all over – the days when all the distractions do nothing to take my thoughts away. Days like today.
But mostly, I thank the stars that I once held you – that there were nights when we hid beneath the sheets. How lucky I was to kiss your beautiful mouth – to know your skin. These little treasures made me richer.
I am the like the lottery winner, the peasant who caught the eye of the queen. Your graces could have fallen upon much greater men but they came instead to me – and I have never been the same.
Even when I am riven, faint with blood loss, weak with hunger – even as I pray for oblivion … I remember how blessed I am to have known you so. And bittersweet days like these, when I so stupidly long for you? Why, these too are diamond hours.
Love letter # 4
Mostly it doesn’t matter but when it does … it does; and it’s then that I realise how much I miss you.
I pretend that everything is as it should be. I act the part of someone who has drawn a line. I have all the right language, all the appropriate behaviours – and everyone is fooled. Life goes on. Mark it down to experience. There are other fish.
But when the bandages come off the blood is still sweet, the bedroom still cold – and I wish that you were here with me.
Some days this tide lasts a minute, others an hour, but the knowing is always the same, the longing true. The fact that you live a short walk away, that your number is in my phone, that we have this undeniable brilliance whenever we are together …
I have given up asking why. Forensics won’t make it any better.
Anyway, I apologise for this fit of indulgence. I’m sure I could go on for ages; instead I will say only this: I offer you my love and all the honouring that goes with it. No bitterness. No recrimination. No cruel re-writing. And even though I miss you like oxygen I will never try to hold you in.
There is a breathtaking beauty at the heart of everything and you help me see it. Thank you.
Love letter # 110
Having endeavoured to maintain a modicum of sanity I must now confess to abject failure in this regard. I look back across the gulf that separates me from my old self and the mad river is you.
Naturally, there are blessings: the coldness that surrounded me, the dullness in my heart – they have been replaced by fire. If I was living beforehand, I am simply alive now.
However, I have cause to wonder who I am. What became of that reasonable man? Was this delirious demon always there; a hellcat in hiding?
Composure is just a mask waiting for a kiss to destroy it. Perhaps even sanity is simply what we accept in place of love. If I have bled at least it proved the existence of blood. This knife makes me real.
It would scarcely surprise you to know that I have been through anger – that I have sought refuge in the treehouse of spite. You will, I hope, be pleased to learn that I have abandoned such follies. I live now with invisible dancers, with those shimmering, magical beings who love without reason – who love simply because it is the best of all possible ways.
So to you, my friend, I give abundant thanks. If I wake up tomorrow in a beautiful place it will be because you trashed the maps. Indeed, this whole world is new because of you. Was there ever a greater gift?
Love letter # 24
For the times we had, I offer simple gratitude. I am profoundly grateful for the beautiful days and the satin nights. I give thanks for the times you called to tell me you loved me. I am blessed to have held you in my arms. It was my incredible fortune to kiss you.
I thank every star in heaven for the time we danced along the roadside. I am forever glad for the sexy text messages, grateful to have known your scent up close, honoured to have loved you.
But so too am I grateful for your diaphanous deceptions; for your flagrant disrespect. And for your countless lies and your obvious manipulations, I offer up thanks. I would not be here without your quite remarkable selfishness. It was not your kindness but your cruelty that set me free.
Now – every day – I sink to my knees in gratitude and the love I have for you falls like the cleansing rain, washing away my conceit. How lucky I was to have known you so.