FOR MORE CONTRITION SEARCH THE TAGS. In the meantime, enjoy. –  Paul

Love letter # 472

Did I try to change you? I should not have. They were my bruises.

Love letter # 490

Did it happen while we weren’t looking…or when we were? Was it our turning away or our insistence? Not that it makes much difference now. Knowing won’t make you love me again. Nor I you. Yet, as I ponder the detritus, I am drawn ever closer to an abrasive conclusion; that we brought down the sky in a tussle over dust. These grubby specks are the trophies of ruin. This, the Pyrrhic victory of vane and selfish campaign. If I once threw up a wall thinking to keep things together, instead it drew a line between us, entrenching rival empires, who fought till the end of time, and left the scene with nothing. Save the evidence of blood.

Love letter # 355

Now, with all these years between, it finally becomes clear why I was drawn to you and why my actions were misguided. You had a fire in you; and so did I. But I tried to smother mine.

Was it because I thought that’s what you wanted – an anchor of sorts? A counterpoint? Someone to stand between you and them. To provide cover. Or rather, was it that I was scared? Not of you, my love, but of the flames? Of what might burn?

Yet really, asking all this, I know. The truth was always in me; it’s just that I tried to heal it with lies. Until the walls got so cracked. Until the drone of all those people who insisted they had our best interests at heart became unbearable.

It looked like an explosion to them – but only because they never bothered to notice the smoke.

Meanwhile, in our separate yet equally destructive ways, we torched it all. Even us. That pretty fucking picture, that zombie suburban act. (I could not have admitted this previously; but we broke up to stop them keeping us in their specimen jar. Your fire needed oxygen, mine gasped for all manner of tinder.) It could have been different though, couldn’t it? If I had kept my promise and let you fan my flame.

Knowing this now doesn’t change much. It might even seem hollow. It’s just that I’m almost certain that the fire they tried to put out still lights your world – and still threatens to incinerate theirs. Mine is ablaze too. Wild engine. Warm hearth. Dancing in your likeness.

Yeah – it is too late. Far too fucking late. But honey does it burn.

Love letter # 934

Nothing is permanent; not even the arc of your love.

I realise that the gap between elation and despair is the downcast eye – a slip of the tongue, a new arrival, a chorus in a minor key. Perhaps just…hesitation. Dust, once stirred, will never settle back exactly. Even the stars are shifting.

I look at you now and know this; and if I am wont to dread I bite my lip. Breathe. In a beat or two this wave will crash from trepidation to thankfulness. We are still here, still us, and in this moment I remember why I will never take you for granted again.

Love letter # 592

At the time I was blind. Just acting. Reacting. Blundering hurt and foolish. Doing things I never should. Saying stuff I didn’t really mean. Or now wish that I hadn’t.

Because I felt out of control I tried to impose a form of control on you. All the usuals: blackmail, pity seeking, stubborn refusals and vulgar displays of faux generosity. I was like a child; and although I knew it, I could not seem to find the lever or the gumption to stop. No wonder you burnt me off. If I first thought you cruel for doing so, now I see how patient you were. How you kept your powder dry.

Perhaps, for a while, I wallowed in the drama of self-loathing – drunk on the lurid spectacle of hating myself – but I have recently emerged from this pantomime of righteousness. Indeed, my sending you this missive of acceptance and apology is really me forgiving myself. Seeking the absolution of mirrors.

I think it’s fair to say that I loved you, but now maybe I love you more. Because now, finally, I am able. Therefore, I can honestly say sorry that my folly came at such a cost for you. In my self-obsession I stroked the ego of my suffering; yet all the while it was you who wore the bruises. You who quit the scene with the weight of further disappointments. Though I cannot undo these things, I can at least now shoulder my fair share of the outcome.

You may say that even this is little more than the self-serving theatrics of sentiment; and you may well be right. Who knows, next year I might look back at this and cringe. But today, as I write, it truly does feel as though I mean it. In the end, that’s all I can hope to offer you.

Love letter # 498

Though I may have behaved badly, please do not doubt my love – or at least my honest belief that this is what this feeling is. I am flawed. I get angry and jealous and can be petty, insecure and controlling. All these things were in me before you came along – perhaps they will persist after you have finally had enough.

You have helped me understand that I act out because I am afraid; scared that you won’t love me, that nobody could possibly love me. You are also helping me to see that my controlling behaviours do not help the situation; that playing the victim or being the bully are both doomed strategies. But please, I’m not asking you to be my teacher or my shrink – only that you be patient. That you find a way to want to be beside me.

I won’t grovel because I know that’s also a stupid game – I will simply own up and promise to do my utmost. This may not be enough. In fact, it may be an utterly pointless gesture. Right now, without lapsing into old habits, there is probably not much more I can realistically offer you. I get that apologies and promises ring hollow after a while, that they even seem like lies and manipulation, so I will make no predictions, offer no guarantees.

Instead, I shall say simply that I love you as much as it is possible for me to give love and if you are inclined to believe this I will take that alone as treasure and I will cherish it.

Love letter # 886

Of course I lashed out at you. It’s what injured people do. Defend the ground they think is theirs. Blame the other.

Neither of us were saintly, let’s be frank. Our dynamic was both destructive and self-affirming. Over time and poorly chosen words we both threw up barricades. The patterns became deep ruts, tracks from which we could not divert.

So we went around in circles – vicious ones indeed – until …

Now, from the distance of healed up cuts, I can see how easily things could have been different, how I could have made other choices. Truth be told, I knew it back then too but I was stubborn and prideful, too convinced of my ‘rightness’ to understand what I was about to lose in order to gain or maintain some delusory upper hand in a ridiculous stand-off that never needed to happen in the first place.

Whatever you were, I was a fool. Worse – arrogant, even spiteful. I loved you, I really did, and that made me afraid, and in my fear … well, y’know.

I recognise all this now and apologise for my part in our ruin. I can only hope that this may still mean something to you – because it does to me. Even after everything.

Love letter # 447

Time may well have washed us all away, eroded every last vestige of us and consigned that very idea to photo albums and dusty keepsakes, but there is still a room inside me filled with a kind of light; and even though I realise the utter pointlessness of regret there are still moments when the truth of my erstwhile complacency is nearly unbearable.

In these moments I ask myself what kind of blindness I was afflicted with – why could I not see what was right beside me? What form of the ideal was I scanning the horizon for? What illusory ‘other’ kept my gaze fixed in space? No wonder you turned aside.

However, I will spare you the drama of my self-reproach and say instead that I am truly sorry for my arrogant assumption that you would never leave. Not only did it rot the foundation of us but it has polluted the air of what followed. For both of us. I sense it in newly formed fears. In the holding back of love. In episodes of despair. In the loss of once unshakable belief.

I hear all this in your voice whenever we speak. Even read it in between the lines of emails. Perhaps I am over stating it here but it seems like we are not only older but lonelier; and although I understand that I am not entirely to blame (and that blame itself is not the best reflex) I can no longer deny that my lazy assumptions and lack of genuine effort and attention contributed massively to the corrosion of our once exceptional union. For this I apologise unreservedly.

Love letter # 342

You know as well as I do that things are not great between us right now; and I think we both know that pride and vanity have got in the way. Perhaps even ideology. Words we disagree on. Is this not ridiculous? Aren’t there bigger things at stake than our ego and our desire for control?

Let’s please stop this silly war and focus on what it was that brought us together – that made the stars shine and the sound of falling rain into beautiful music. These things are not dead; they’re just buried at the moment.

If you want to bring them into the light once more I will be right there with you. If not … well, I think we both understand where things will go.

Love letter # 549

When did we stop listening? At what point did boundless love morph into a tiring habit? How long since we beheld one another with joy or desire?

These, I suppose, are the standard issue dilemmas of the long term relationship. Perhaps they are just the inevitable victory of reality over idealism; the crush of pragmatism over the vaulting fancy of passion. It makes you wonder why we ever bothered, doesn’t it?

Even so – if I concentrate – my body recalls the electricity your touch used to generate. My heart remembers the way the light poured in. And the hope. The beautiful belief. The way I sank to my knees in thanks for the incredible wonder of you.

But of course it’s not like that now – and for this I apologise. Not for the grind of time or the ebbing tide of hormonal hunger but for the way I forgot to try. Or blamed you. Maybe I made you the avatar of my disappointment – as I had previously enthroned you as the star of my dreams. I am not proud of these extremes, for they set you up to fail. Primed me for a shattering loss of faith. Exploded the myth of us.

In conclusion, I guess what I’m really asking is this … is it too late?

Love letter # 444

I am writing to you now, from the distance of forever, because from this far off vantage I can see at last. Like so many others I too was the fool of abstraction. I abandoned you for an idea. The myth of our selfish age. For the absurd and dehumanising notion that I could only ‘improve’ myself if I cut myself off from the very facts of my being – if I pursued the so called personal empowerment so beloved of TEDtalkers and self-help charlatans.

And having ascended their peak of spiritual awareness what did I find? Excuses for coldness, for thinly veiled cruelty. I gave up the love of a real person for the delusion of self.

How was it that I so readily fell for this naked ideological consumerism – for this capitalism of the soul? What sleight of hand made your love – my love – seem expendable and unevolved?


Like almost everyone I knew, I too lived in the terror of the obvious and the vaulting denial it inspired. I was so desperately afraid of my own vulnerability, my very mortality and the basic fragility of my animal being, that I tried on any reasonable sounding sophistry that would hide me from my skin.

It was a lie for which I paid dearly. It has cost me the only truly sacred things available to earthly creatures like you and I. Love, tenderness, the knowing that comes from the knowing of others. These mirrors by which we see who we are. What we are. And how utterly beautiful that is.

This then is my long overdue acknowledgement. My acceptance of your humble wisdom. You offered me the flawed and wonderful treasures of intimacy and I spurned them for a kind of philosophical masturbation. I sought the impossible and punishing perfect and lost the warm and bloody reality of your lovely arms about me.

Knowing you, you will smile and thank me – remind me that my departure made room for another. Even so, I give you my apology and, at long last, an honest farewell – as opposed to a fearful retreat.

Love letter # 414

Forgive me – for I have been the fool of beauty. It has unwound me. Stripped me back. So much so that I wonder at its power.

What is this perfection of form, this ideal, that it so dissolves the structures of reason? How can a way of seeing, a kind of knowing, make so splendid the shape of the world that even though the sound mind senses the misty error of its perceiving, still it is swayed?

My years and all their collected and catalogued disappointments tell me that you are just one of many – another other, about which I know scarce more than optimism will contend – and yet … how you move in subtle glory. Fine of figure. Sweet of disposition. Sharp and quick of mind and humour.

Why is it that I would willingly blow my cover to show my heart to you? Why would I bend to shape of your touch? Kneel at the shrine of your kiss? Because there is something in beauty that must be revealed. Beheld.

We all are broken and corrupted creatures – yet in our beauty we are nigh divine. As you seem to me now. For here are the very bells – chiming like a song in your nearness – that have woken me from my sensible slumber and turned my maddened eyes to thee.

Love letter # 256

You and I both know that there is no fairy tale – that these things move in cycles. From making me want to be the best I could be to accepting me at my worst, and vice versa, we have seen the beautiful and the busted. Yet here we are. Clinging to our life raft. The very idea of us.

Do we give it all up? Do we stay with a sinking ship? Or is there another way? A way back to the inspiration. Forward to something better. The richer, deeper more complete love that comes out of struggle; that is forged in the grind and toil of the everyday.

Let us at least agree that this is not a dream but rather, something we can make true if only we have the desire. Perhaps it has seemed for too long that I was not prepared to make the effort – but I’m telling you now that I am.

Yes, I have been a selfish, foolish, forgetful lover. For that I apologise unreservedly. However, now that we face the very real prospect of losing us, I am ready to step back from that pointless precipice. Whatever wars we have fought – and both lost – they are not worth all this blood on the floor. All those bright red stains on our character. They are not worth a single kiss from your lovely mouth. Not a single knowing look from your startling eyes.

We do have choices here. We are not victims. We have all the love in the world in our hearts. Will you dance again with me to its joyful beat – because I am here on my feet waiting for you to join me once more?

Love letter # 290

I saw you this morning – but I’m fairly sure you didn’t see me. What struck me was how light you seemed. Your complexion. The way your hair fell. The jaunty rhythm of your walk. I was reminded of the sirens in your eyes and of all the madness they used to induce in me.

In some ways I was glad – relieved that we were no more. For now I am free of the blinding, humbling, crazy-making feelings that the merest touch of your hand once set off in me. Not just fireworks. Fire storms. Indeed, I think it’s fair to say I lost myself in those great waves.

And yet, when you turned the corner – out of sight once more – I understood with a cold shudder what I had lost. A kind of hope. A life outside of my own self-serving thoughts.

Thus I am writing to you this evening to say without reservation that it was my neediness, not your cruelty. My weakness, not your arrogance. Sure, you contributed your fair share of poor behaviour to the silliness but it is clear to me now that the war between us started in my suspicions and spread from there.

For this I apologise – not simply because I ruined my own love but because I trampled on yours too. I can only hope that you have by now sweated out the poison I poured into you and that the beauty which first drew me to you is shining brighter and stronger than ever. From my brief glimpse of you earlier today, it certainly looked that way.

Love letter # 248

Hindsight maybe cruel, even unfair – but it illuminates the patterns that repeat in our lives. The dramas that play out over and over. And it makes us ask the question. What exactly was it that I thought I wanted?

I can see now why you left. I pushed, you pulled. I wasn’t sure, so I pushed some more. You ran. I never allowed you the space to love me because I was at you the whole time. Your love – however great it may have been – got smothered by my need for proof. Because it wasn’t really love I was craving. It was certainty.

(It is an impossible religion. Please do not convert to it.)

Yet for all that, whenever I think of you, I still miss you. As ridiculous as things became, I never forgot the fire in your eyes. Or the way your tears welled. For I remember the light – and the hand that put it out.

Love letter # 361

Someone asked me why it was that you and I split up. You two seemed perfect, they said. The irony here is that it was a failure to be perfect that caused us to separate.

In the beginning, we were one another’s heroes. In the end we were just ordinary. Not awful or abusive – just flawed and far less shiny. Perhaps it’s even fair to say that a touch of boredom set in. And there’s nothing sexy or wonderful about that.

I used to castigate myself for all my failings. Now I only regret not forgiving you for yours. I loved when you were fabulous but I felt let down when you weren’t. I wonder sometimes if it was a fairy tale I married; rather than a woman. I know that I played the prince for you – kept the act up for as long as I could. Did you play the dream girl for me, my love?

And for a time, of course, it was magical. Sometimes I am incredibly nostalgic for that. Other times I feel that it set the bar too high – never gave us a chance at being human.

I can say all this now because the strength we did have together I have never even come close to finding again. Partly, this could be the effect of aging. I can accept that. Almost smile at it. But what if that’s not the reason? What if we split up because we were too greedy? Too stupid to see that the broken down model we had was better than anything else on the market.

Most days I try not to give this thought oxygen – but tonight, as I contemplate the quiet cold of the empty bed and the knowledge that I will wake up alone – I am choking on it.

Love letter # 399

However poorly things turned out – however awkward this is for us now – please remember that whatever else is true, I only ever tried to love you. Perhaps I did some things in pursuit of this which were not 100% honest but I was fighting for your hand – staying in the game – turning over every goddam stone I could. I would have trashed the temple for your kiss – and more besides. If I have been a fool for you, it was for the dream of you at my side; which I would have pursued to the edge of forever had there still been a chance.

Love letter # 348

I’m sorry – but I’m calling it now rather than later. I can no longer pretend. I have played my cards. Declared my love and had it turned down. There is nowhere else for me to go. But away.

I understand that it is my weakness, not a fault in you. I am solely the author of these mad cravings and you, in a way, are their victim.

Yet still I cannot bear it. I know that when I’m with you I will want you all the more – and that is an untenable situation. What am I to be? The pathetic little muppet that begs for your affection? Or worse, the guy who can’t keep his hands to himself? OMG – when will he get over it?

Well I don’t want it to get to that – so I’m jumping ship now. Because you cannot pursue someone who will not be caught. And pushing and probing is useless. They either like you or they don’t.

And you don’t. And you won’t. Ever.

Perhaps if I did not love you so it would not matter. But I do – and it does. Far too much for ordinary comfort. For pretending. Fake smiles.

I accept that this will inconvenience you, perhaps even upset you a little – and I am sorry for that – but I know deep in the pit of my stomach that this is the only way. Since you will not be my love, I cannot pretend. I did try – but in the end your beauty did undo me.

I thank you for your playful mind and tuned in soul, for your kindness and your time. I thank you for reminding me that love exists because of imperfection, not in spite of it.

You are a wonderful woman. It has been my honour to know you. No wonder I want you. But I will not chase a lost cause. Been there, done that. Pointless. Not to mention degrading. It is not a spectacle I would wish to put you through. Far better that I have my ridiculous drama in private, where no one else can get hurt.

I did not get to hold you in my arms and say I love you – or have you say it back – but I can imagine it now and the thought of it makes me smile from ear to ear. This remains my dream. Yet I know it will not happen. And knowing that, it would be foolish and downright disrespectful to hang on in the shadows of stubborn hope, only to feed on morsels.

Once again – humble apologies … but it needs to be this way. I hope you can at least understand this – or if not, forgive a silly man his passionate distemper.

Love letter # 217

In the beautiful madness of desire it is easy to forget the other. It is our want that is foremost. The space that longs for an end to emptiness. This is the blindness of hunger – the trap into which I have lately fallen. Led by the combined gravitational pull of your loveliness and my craving.

So when you asked me to step back I curled into a ball of remorse. Of self-protective self-regard. Much as wounded animals do. Burnt and a little bitter – as though righteous anger might salve my broken pride and aching heart.

All of it selfish. All of it not taking you into account. Yet I claim to love you. It is my badge. How then, I wonder, can such contrary feelings be squared? The truth is, they cannot.

Therefore, I will do my lachrymose hurting as privately as possible – and my loving as generously as I am able. For sure I will be imperfect in this endeavour, because I have no magic pill to make me bright and shiny when I feel all bloodied and bruised.

I accept that there is a level of choice in all this. Partly I want the drama – it is strangely validating – but equally I believe that none of us can live in denial of how we truly feel. Our modern desire for self-development will never overpower the glorious distempers brought on by skin and fire.

Because of this I feel humble enough to offer you gratitude and apology without agenda. I will still love you stupidly – wake up to the sound of your name in my bleary thoughts – but I shall no longer press my ardour or my appetite upon you. I will stand behind the line you have drawn and do everything in my power to turn my wishing into giving

Love letter # 214

Only by my hunger could I hope to measure you. Only by desire. And by not seeing exactly what I desired, I became blind to the love I already had. It was as though you could never love me enough. So in the end you stopped. For if my love will not do …

I see that now.

Not that that changes anything. You’re still half way round the world and I’m still here. I think about you nearly every day. I love you without fear now. It is a beautiful thing. A beam of light in my life. A jewel in my memory. The things I overlooked back then – they shine like wonder now.

You were a beautiful presence in my life – more beautiful than I knew. But you were not bigger than fear; and neither was I. For even our terror could not keep us together.

Had I not been so afraid I would have seen your little gestures, your shy kindnesses, and I would have been in flight. Would have taken you to the sky with me. Just for the glory of your smile.

Love letter # 454

If the roles were reversed I would most likely be nowhere near as gracious or as strong as you – for I know what it is to bleed and to long for that which will never return. I remember all too well how it feels to stand beside the one you love and have them not love you back; and although I will not apologise for no longer loving you as you wish, I will say sorry for my part in the slow disintegration of us.

We both know how easy it is to say that tired, trite line – let’s just be friends – and how awful it is to be that friend. To that end I promise you this: my quiet disappearance. I shall not inflict my egotistical guilt on you in the form of so-called friendship – not if it makes things worse for you. Not if it is as hard for you as it once was for me.

Perhaps, after all, lovers are best housed in memory – free from further taint or temptation. Where fresh wounds cannot be so easily inflicted. I will retire into this space if you so wish it. Keep my distance. Keep my mouth shut. You only have to say.

Yet if you can bear the cooler fractions of what you it is desire, these I will gladly give. That we may honour the beauty that remains and salvage from our inevitable human frailty the nobler part of love’s much tarnished glory.

I cannot offer you everything but what I have to give I shall give fully – not as duty or self-seeking recompense but as treasure newly found. If you will take these tiny jewels, I will dig them from the earth to lay them at your feet.

Or I will retreat and leave you in peace.

Love letter # 270

Today I was invisible. Sat there, pint in front of me, noise swirling around me, and the gaudy rush and bother of the party seemed to wash over me. I felt detached – unhinged from the world of warmth and recognition. I was just the lone man in the corner – the silly old fool who found himself thinking of you.

This is the freedom I fought for – my splendid isolation, my aloof lack of need. Here is my dead hunger, my self-containment in all of its solitary, untainted glory. The pristine loneliness that now conspires to empty me of breath and fill me with a space into which I can disappear.

And to think I left you for this.

My, how those heroic affirmations poured from my mouth. I fought you off with my language, boxed you up with my ideas. I confronted your honesty with an unholy disguise; and then when you were finally done I was left to walk around in the wafer thin garb of well-chosen words.

I would gladly admit to the lachrymose self-pity of the mistaken if that was what it was – but really I always knew that the bubble I called a thousand different things was just a bubble. I will not confess it to anyone else, but to you I can say that I find this so-called liberty an awfully lonely corner.

I gazed out at all those lovely, colourful people, heard the sweet burble of their conversation and was utterly and profoundly locked out from the world they moved in. Perhaps not in reality but in the much more visceral realm of my heart.

And I longed for the warmth that you so freely gave.

You were right. I just thought I was. You were real and this was the fantasy. Yet this, I am certain, is of no comfort to you. Love cannot be retrospectively applied, nor tears so easily wiped away – and anyway words have done enough damage already. Haven’t they?

Love letter # 204

Because I was hurt, I tried to hurt you. Because my pride was punctured, I tried to shoot holes in yours. I sought respite from my pain in anger and an answer to all my tormenting questions in the vicious conspiracy of hindsight. Yet in the end, all these things simply added up to the fact that I loved you. At least in my own childish way.

So sorry for venting my inadequacies at you – for digging beneath your skin for what could only be found in my bloodstream. Sorry too that I prised apart your defences in order to bolster my own. I was a coward in the face of my own feelings and I sought to have you pay the price.

I do not say these things in order to appropriate your forgiveness – for perhaps I am undeserving of such grace – but I say them in order that you know. It may be of little consequence to you but if you will permit me one last act of vanity I will take back the sins that are mine and return to you the beauty and the kindness that are yours.

Love letter # 737

I gave you the chance – you didn’t take it. I sent you a personal message and you replied with something about work. If there is another way to interpret this, please let me know – but the way I read it, your message is as clear as mine. In light of this, no more messages from me, no more pressing, no more little sweetnesses.

Thank you for being lovely, for shining a beam of light into my days. I apologise for growing these feelings and for the awkwardness they have now created between us. They will fade over the next few weeks as I detach myself from you. Maybe we can still be friends – but that will have to happen later – when my heart stops drumming out the sound of your name. When my resolve is stronger than my desire.

Love letter # 280

How did I not notice the signs? The signs that I wanted so desperately to see. How was it that I pushed you so hard for exactly what it was you were already giving me? Because I did not believe.

It was not that you lied (which you did often), it was that my need was so unreasonable. The dark cavern inside me was like an echo chamber of every doubt I ever harboured. The cacophony it made drowned out the softer sounds of your loving – and in the blizzard of my unbelieving I walked right past the warmth that I craved. Our undoing was my doing more than yours. Perhaps you walked off with the blame … but I was left with the pain. And I owned it at last.

Please accept my long overdue apology.

Love letter # 174

I hate romance. It’s stupid.

I say that because I’m afraid. Scared of you, scared of how I feel. The truth is I think about you all the time. I think about you in ways I have never thought about anyone else. I am melted when you touch me. And I want you to think well of me.

If I have pushed you away, made you think I don’t care – I apologise. My pride is a veil for my terror. Suppose I let myself love you and I’m wrong about everything? What then?

Perhaps I will never have the guts to say this out loud but I can write it down: I love you. I don’t know exactly what that means but I know that those three little words have been waiting to burst out of me for quite some time now.

If I ever find the courage to kiss you – you will know that I mean it.

Love letter # 179

Like you I was a series of accidents, someone falling, filling up gaps by clutching at others. There was a space inside me – empty as it happens – with all the quiet power of gravity; and try as I might I could not escape its self-perpetuating drag. Even though my heart was soaring, I was weighed down with binds I could barely discern and eventually all my fitful thrashing became unbearable and the beautiful blinding love we conceived turned to habit and churning disbelief. I blamed you because I was a wounded animal – lashing, fearful.

But I loved you like wildfire.

Love letter # 152

Time having passed, things are clearer. You were running – from ghosts, from anything that reminded you – and I was the dumb bind holding you back. The more I loved you, the more you fought for what you took to be freedom. But now I understand – the freedom not to see is still freedom.

We are fools to judge others by our own private measure. If I took your evasiveness as a slight, that was my issue. Yours was just plain terror. You tried to hide it – but you wore it in your posture, drowned it in your drinking, scattered it on your faithless adventures.

On those nights when I never knew where you were – when the phone rang out again and again – I sat home bleeding. But that was self pity. I am ashamed of it now.

I tried to argue you into loving me and in so doing I trampled over the love you were offering. I did not do this out of greed; I did it out of fear. I was the anchor too feeble to hold the ship in place – a simple change of tide was enough to wrest you away – and I knew this all along.

Yet none of this washes away your constant dishonesty – your capricious toying – but I wasn’t in love with that part of you. I loved the original beauty – the very you that the lies were designed to protect.

I am lucky to have seen that light in your eyes, to have heard sweet yielding in your sighs. I remember when you took my hand unbidden, when your head rested on my chest, when your kiss was like a tear – so impossibly soft. As long as I have memory I shall have those treasures.

You should not think I am wallowing though. I am not. I have a new life now. This is not my way of reeling you back in – it’s me saying: go, be free, run as far and as long as you like. If indeed you have enough energy to go forever, do so – and I will cheer you to the line … beautiful athlete.

Love letter # 144

‘I was wrong’ doesn’t cut it. I was careless, I was blind, I was starving – none of these. They are but words piled on wounds, vain restitution. Yet what I will say is this: this I did not intend, nor foresee. You may not believe me – that I must accept. It is my part of the fall out. You thinking ill of me.

How vain is that? Me still wanting you to like me.

But that’s how it all started, right? My craving your tenderness – the wilful, irresistible delusion that a kiss will somehow cover up the cracks. I was hungry for that belief, aching for something external to salve the internal; and even though I knew it was just hormones and optimism to the rescue, I flung out a hand, took that life rope – pulled you into the sea.

I did not want you to drown with me. I hoped you would show me how to swim. I thought maybe you knew of a beach somewhere.

No I didn’t – I just loved that you loved me. I was flat out flattered. Eyes full of fire will warm even the most guarded heart, will disarm the surgeons of thought long enough to allow the patient to pretend a little longer. Bad for me. Even worse for you.

Ego puts a pretty spin on things. Looks for excuses. Writes shit like this. (Vanity is the author of its own self-loathing.) Yet even knowing this, I still have to say I’m sorry – because the one thing that is true is that you gave me joy and I gladly accepted it. For a while everything was sheer beauty.

I think I can handle you not liking me but what would be unthinkable is if our separate agonies conspired to rewrite our shared history. Hate me if you must – blame me for every goddam thing – but please don’t let your memory be trashed. It was good. Incredibly good. And it always will be. If you let it.

Love letter # 197

I know I hurt you. Even if I didn’t mean to. Things happened and … well, you know what happened next.

I’m sorry for the mess I made, for my carelessness. And my cruel tongue. For taking some of it out on you. You ended up paying for things that weren’t yours. But it cost me too; if that’s any consolation. Which I know it isn’t.

I just want you to know that you didn’t make it up. I did love you. And really, I still do. I just wasn’t brave enough for it.

Love letter # 64

Remember how it was before the war got going? Why can’t we get back to that? Things were better that way. Not like this.

I swear I don’t even know how we got here. By default? Design? Too little time? Oops.

A dimming of the gloss I can accept – but please not bitterness. Whatever stupid things I’ve done – there was never any malice. Selfishness? Stupidity? You bet. But I only ever loved you. Perhaps I just sucked at it. Sorry.

I don’t wish to fight; not you anyway. If you find this intolerable – just leave. I’ll survive. So will you. But things would be better together – and you know it. So let’s stop this contest, these acid bickers. Just look at what we’re trashing.

I should just love you. I should stop hoping you’ll conform to my whims. And punishing you when you don’t. These are ridiculous things I do. Silly territorial things. And the scraps of righteousness we fight over – are they worth it?

You still send a wave of light through me – let’s love it while it shines.

Love letter # 193

I gave you up for dreams – and what were those dreams? Just conceits I conceived. I see your smile in that old photograph and I am crushed by the simple weightlessness of it. And to think, I walked away for baubles. They are the rubble about me now. I cannot even remember what made them attractive … but you – you I never forgot. The memory of your tenderness puts me to shame. What a fucking arrogant prick I was.

Yes, I am sorry – for myself and also for you. I let you believe I was somehow different. You gave me your love and I mistook it for a toy. When it was inconvenient I simply discarded it. I know we are all free to come and go as we choose but freedom is a lie if its cost is cruelty.

I am old enough – bruised enough – humbled enough to know that every dream I ever dreamed is nought compared to waking up in the arms of love. You knew that all along. I was too busy with myself.

My own cuts I can bear, but not yours. I’m sorry you had to wear the cost of my folly and I pray that you can look at that same photo now and feel a whole lot better about it than I do.

Love letter # 108

Memory has its own geography. These streets we stumbled through, that place we used to meet, the corner where your eyes lit up. And on your doorstep; your tears, my determination.

I’m sure I had a reason – but even this familiar grid won’t bring it to mind. It must have been important though; to make me walk away from you.

It should be obvious now that I’m kicking myself. Not that I expect you to take me back – it’s far too late for that. I got what wanted – whatever it was – and it turned out to be nothing.

I am sorry I made you pay for my vanity. I took your love and made a prison out of it and after I escaped I realised that I was gaoler.

Whenever I find myself in the old neighbourhood of us I imagine the still loving ghosts of you and me. It may please you to know that they still dance in public. I hear their light footsteps, watch their shadows flitting … and I still love you.

A folly for which, once again, I offer humble apology.

Love letter # 107

Maybe you thought I was perfect once. I didn’t. A mask won’t fool a mirror.

All along, I was the one who judged. I was the arrogant reformer. You humbled me with your acceptance and I acted like I was the one being held down. You gave me treasure and I hid it in a drawer.

Did I think I could make you better? Was I that far up myself? Better than what, I now wonder. Better than someone who loved me?

When I said I didn’t deserve you maybe I was hoping you would let me off the hook; absolve me of my inability to care about anybody else. If only you’d woken up – then I could still be sleeping.

Now I can’t even apologise; because sorry is the ultimate vanity. I’m not really sad for you, I’m sick for myself. It’s my conceit I regret, not your wasted investment in me.

I feel awful just thinking it. Trapped. Unable even to make amends. Everything is stained with self. I am me – through and through – and there is no room for you.

Love letter # 125

Things understood slowly are all the more dreadful. The creeping dawn. The inescapable conclusion. The fact that I got away with it.

It wasn’t you, babe – it was me. I was the screw up. You told me who you werre but I pretended you were someone else. I was the deluded one – you were just crazy.

What a fire you were – but that was no excuse. I chose these burns. They were all I had of you.

But I’m here now – and I quite like it.

Love letter # 200

Better late than never; isn’t that what they say? Maybe – but there’s a part of me that wishes he’d never worked it out, because now I can’t even blame you.

I used to think – and all of our friends agreed – that it was you who put it to the sword. It was you who lied. You who cheated.

But I look at it now – and I know it wasn’t like that. I was the one who wanted to believe; you never said it was anything. For you, it was only ever a bunch of nights. Bottles of wine, songs we both loved, stars we used to stare at. A fling.

I remember you saying, “Whatever you do, don’t love me.”

I remember thinking, “Surely she’ll change.”

I guess you did – and when you did, you made that call. I told you I understood but all the while I prayed, I schemed – damn it, I even begged. And then I lost it … which is how we ended up here. Which is nowhere.

We might still be running wild if I hadn’t tried to tame you. You wanted someone who would let you fly. You trusted me to be that someone. And now I know I wasn’t.

Maybe it’s good that I know this; it just doesn’t feel like it tonight.

You made it clear, I made it muddy – and when I didn’t get what I wanted I behaved appallingly. So now the only thing left for me to say is sorry.

Anything else would be a lie.

Love letter # 135

Because you asked me not to – I have tried not to love you. I have failed.

It seems that whenever I am close to cutting you off, you sense it. You reel me in. Just as I’m convincing myself that you don’t care and that I am finally okay with that … your voice on the phone, you with whatever sweetness remains.

But I am not writing this to get you to stop. Those last minute saves are much better than the cold alternative. Even if the door is shut, it will never be locked. And even if it was, I’d cut you a key.

Because you sometimes smile – my love stays warm. Sorry.

The Letter I Cannot Send You

Knowing I was right all along is very little consolation. I remember how my instincts were screaming at me despite your denials, how I remained unconvinced even when you seemed to return to something like normal.

And today, confirmation is cutting me in half. Yet, the injustice cannot be undone, the water will never return to its place beneath the bridge. Even this awful impotence I feel is useless.

I’m not angry at you. I know you could never tell me. I know why you had to cut me off. Even back then I understood.

You had all the signs: the abrupt coldness, the shame, the physical withdrawal, the unexplained and lengthy disappearances, and the extraordinary bitterness. That night when you tore strips off me, when I was the stand-in for every damned man, when you spat bile and then cried in my arms …

I see the wounded girl in you; right there beside the fire brand woman. I sense the tenderness in you, sitting behind its now necessary mask. I almost believed I was imagining it – until last night.

This is no victory for me – even if that shamelessly vain part of me is satisfying himself with the idea that it wasn’t me you were rejecting.

Today my tears are made of blood but I will not make you see them. Nor will I play the role of valiant male protector, wrapping my wounds in self-righteous fury. I should have been your champion two years ago. But instead I was your needy lover, wondering why his girl had gone cold. Knowing why – but too afraid to give it breath.

I was useless to you then – but I will not be now. There will be no scenes. I will not ask. I will not even hint that I know. Instead, I will wring these words out and throw them into space. Maybe someone else will read them and maybe they will have more courage.

Love letter # 48

That space I said I wanted – it turned out to be emptiness. And what was it that I saw in that so-called freedom I insisted upon? Oh yeah, that was it: green grass.

More like astro-turf. Synthetic. Nothing like real.

So yeah, I trawled the bars, a dog sniffing out novelty. But I couldn’t do it. I just sat there in new jeans and awkwardness; and I slunk back to my flat in a fog of booze and hormones.

I looked into the bathroom mirror and wondered who the hell I was. What I saw was miles below perfection. So why did I expect it in you?

Am I just greedy for angels? Do I want the girl in the film – the impossible one? Fat chance, when I have so little to offer her.

You have been gracious enough to share your love with me – your sweat and sex – your messy morning moodiness. You have been good enough to forgive me my innumerable flaws.

And in return, I retreated into a fantasy of … what? I don’t even know. If I thought I could get ‘something better’ I was either a fool or an arsehole. Both really.

You know how much I loathe corny sayings – but ‘love the one you’re with’ springs to mind. What I wanted was right there beside me – was holding my hand all along.

Doubtless you will be saying: “Yeah well, you’re a little late, sunshine.” Doubtless I will deserve your now icy shoulder. I voted with my feet and you quite rightly walked away.

For what it’s worth, I pray that you will soon be with someone who loves you better. In the meantime, please accept these inept apologies. I’m sure they will ring hollow but, I swear to God …

Love letter # 80

From up above it is easy to see how small we are; and when I am ‘up’ here my ongoing folly is all too clear. From this vantage point I can laugh at myself. I can breathe.

I have read the books, imbibed the theories and come to accept that desire is a source of unhappiness. I understand that when we love another we are most often simply affirming something in ourselves.

When I am on the mountain, peering down into the valley below, I can see that the urgency of my love for you was fuelled by none too subtle demons. My sorrow at your disinterest, my outbreaks of naked jealousy, my shameful attempts at emotional blackmail – these all spring from grasping.

But we do not love because we are sensible.

Still, I make no excuse. I have been undone by longing. I have been childish. And my love is far from pure.

However – alpine detachment notwithstanding – I love you enough to know I was wrong, to say … yeah, no wonder she left.

I was a fool who chased you – now I am a fool who walks away.

Love letter # 44

Away from all the fuss and noise, all the vanity and bluster there is a simple, inescapable truth. I wish I’d known it sooner.

I put ego ahead of love. I let ‘me, me, me’ posture and preen. I mouthed the selfish mantras of the age – until my greed was all that was left to greet me.

You spoke of a world suffused with kindness and warmth and incredible beauty. I spoke about ambition. You filled the rooms with spirit and joy and dancing. I filled my time with reasons.

I am not looking for your forgiveness. Nor do I seek to play down the staggering breadth of my arrogance and folly. I fought for this empty palace, after all. Its hard walls make awful echoes now; a steely sound without your song around.

I know that I cannot buy back the time I stole from you and I accept that even this apology is scarcely more than an ill applied band aid – but I want you to know that I was the mad one and you were absolutely right.

Keep that beautiful heart. Treasure it. It’s what marks you out from the rest of us. It’s why you shine.

Love letter # 89

You said: ‘How did this all start?” I said: “In the usual way.”

Call it hope, call it plain old gravity – hell, you could even call it stupidity. We weren’t the first. Doesn’t everybody want to believe – if only just once? I for one loved the drink of star shine.

And no – I don’t regret it. Scars are the stripes of lovers. The unwounded heart is barely worth the name.

Of course I’d do it again – with equal abandon. No one ever flew without taking to the air.

My love, I would throw you out the aircraft if it would reignite that supernova smile of yours. These drab safe walls you live behind; they will only protect you from joy.

There is no guarantee – there never was. People are imperfect, promises break, lies get told. This is the world. Better to risk it killing you than to wither alone someplace else.

So take these dice in your perfect hands and throw them high; and when they land dance amongst the scatterings as you did when you were wonderful.

You will forget me then.

Love letter # 45

Why the drugs? They allow me to use the mirror, they paper over the obvious. I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I stopped to acknowledge.

Some people are stupid – they destroy what they love by oversight. More fool them. I was not so lucky. I torched the treasures with open eyes. It wasn’t malice – I could nearly live with that. It was selfishness.

Perhaps even this drama of apology is ego in a mask. Maybe sorry is the most self-seeking thing I could ever say.

Yet I cannot let this pass. This awful wreckage is not of your making, despite what I said. If you were once cruel I was twice vain. I understand that no one is truly blameless – not even you – but I was insatiable. Greedy. Feeding on you. No wonder you bit back.

I took your hope and made it arch. I put the kink in your once perfect smile. I was the one who said your love wasn’t good enough.

Why am I saying this? Partly I have a need to hurt myself but mostly I have a desire for you to know that there are much better worlds than this. Tonight is not the end of love even if it is the annihilation of us. There is no victory here, only loss … and the chance for you to be beautiful again.

I’m not sure I could ever make it up to you – except with goodbye. So goodbye. Delete my number as I have just deleted yours. Cut this bloody tie. Let this blood drain away.


Love letter # 13

When I look back now I can see how I made it hard for you. I didn’t mean to; but still.

You were telling me all along but I was deaf to everything except what I wanted. You warned me and I acted like a child in reply.

I know you weren’t perfect. I know you cheated. I know you lied – often. I understand how you played me for a lovesick fool – which was exactly what I was. But even taking all that on board, I was the one who fucked it up.

I hoped against hope that you would change, that you would want me in a way you never said you would. It wasn’t just foolish, it was arrogant. No wonder you junked me.

For all my fine words I was trying to control you with my so-called love, to wear you down with sheer, bloody minded affection. Sometimes, the poets are the tyrants.

I can say now that I didn’t love you. I just desired you. Not merely in body, but in spirit. I thought that if I could get you to love me that the awful space inside me would close up. I was shopping for security in your eyes. Suffice it to say, I never found it.

My friends think you broke my heart but I’m starting to believe I broke yours. You tried to have faith in me but I was a false idol. I turned out to be a man after all. Stupid, stupid man.

I’m not sure you ever felt guilty about the way it all broke down – but if you did – don’t. None of this is your fault.

And so today … today I pray for you; for if the angels pay attention to such tiny little voices, you will learn to fly and you will have the light.

Love letter # 99

My friends think I’m mad – but really I’m just stripped. All the bullshit layers have been blasted away. All the smug, self satisfied, middle class, male posturing has been shown to be a lie. My so called strength – it was just the bravado of weakness.

There was a castle wall; it is now rubble. There was a front; it is now last year’s comedy.

When you looked at me like that, when you sighed that sigh, I was weak. I was free. I was pitched out of the aircraft.

Yes, I was out of control. I apologise – but I had never cared so much. Never been so irrational. So immediate. So alive.

When you were in the room I was all electric. All my control mechanisms failed. I was like the river – bound for the sea.

I know it seemed ridiculous – how do you think I felt? I don’t blame you for leaving – but God I wish you hadn’t.

I miss you tonight. The space where you would have been is filled with silence – so loud. Sometimes I am deafened by your absence.

A little voice inside me says I shouldn’t be writing this. But it helps to say it. Please forgive me. I only loved you.

And maybe that’s what this is all about. I know that beautiful words won’t get you back – even if I wish they would – but I refuse to yield to the standard issue bitterness. Your leaving is not a disqualifier. I love you because there is a beauty inside you – not just because I wish you were my girl.

My friends can say what they like. I know they mean well. But I will say only this: for you my love, almost anything.

Including silence.

Love letter # 2

I saw you today – and I know you saw me. Your eyes gave you away.

I saw your shoulders turn to rock. I felt the blade of your contempt. I did not hide from it.

If you want your measure of blood, let me tell you – this floor is scarlet. I am not too proud – and I know what a broken heart is. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone – and you were never just anyone.

I know you won’t believe it – but I wish you would. I wasn’t cruel I was just stupid. Hurt maybe – scars leftover. Sorry that I passed them onto you.

But please don’t re-write history. It was real. I loved you. I wanted you. It was wonderful. I wasn’t lying when I said you were my angel.

I remember the tenderness in your eyes – the softness in you. I pray it’s still there. Walk away with the beautiful bits – leave the shit behind.

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