We speak a lot of love – but what is it? There are many things that factor into our ways of loving and partnering, and in this section we endeavour to investigate the delicious complexities of our capacity for love. The ten letters below are some of our favourites in this regard.
Love letter # 100
How do you cram into mere words the things that are oceans inside you?
Will this letter sound mad? Unreasonable? Will you think I’ve lost it? Probably – but there is always a reason for these things; they never come out of the blue. We all live in a world that is both real and imagined; and although I do not pretend to know precisely where the line between them is drawn I do know how I feel – and what I must now do.
Until recently the fear of seeming overly emotional – of scaring you off – has kept the lid on. That and the ridiculous hope…
But you said something the other day … and I knew for sure. In a way, it was almost a relief. After nearly three years of being patient, of being optimistic, it came down to something sharp and undeniable – and no amount of wishing it otherwise would make it go away. The world I have imagined since we first danced together in 2008 has yielded to the real.
I know that I could let this pass and things would just roll on between us; you keeping me at arm’s length, me putting up it – but it would be a lie.
You will say: why can’t we just be friends? But what is a friend? Is a friend someone who sits on his hands, who chokes down his feelings, who looks the other way? Maybe – but I am not that kind of friend. Not anymore.
You will say: why can’t you just get over it? Well, here is your wish coming true. This is me having the guts to get over it. I know that you cannot – will not – give me what I want; but so too I cannot – will not – live on what you give. Yes, it would be a whole lot better if I didn’t love you (obviously) … but look at me.
And you – what use have you for a man who is not man enough to do what he knows is right?
It’s not that I’ve stopped wanting you. My love for you fills up every corner of my being. I think you are wonderful. But I know you do not feel the same; and you never will – and hanging in your shadow with baleful eyes certainly won’t change that. No one ever loved a beggar.
Of course it is my ardent wish that today was not today – that tonight we could dance like we used to. But like the song says: wishing never helps, wishing never changed a thing.
I get that you have reasons for your choices, that you must do what is best for you, that you can only love who you love – or not, as the case maybe. I have no quarrel with that.
But what kind of fool would I be to keep hanging on? Surely there is a point at which optimism becomes delusion? And if I’m brutally honest – and I add up all the positive signs … honey, they amount to nothing.
Yet there is no acrimony in this. Sadness? Yes, of course (I will not pretend) – but bitterness? – not a jot. I honour the beauty you have brought into my life. I thank you for the lessons you have accidently taught me, for the things you have inspired me to write. I am much the better man for knowing you.
So why am I doing this? Why can’t I just accept things the way they are? Well, that’s just it, I do accept things – it‘s just that I absolutely hate them. It has become intolerable for me to sit at your side and pretend that we are ‘just friends’. We are anything but ‘just’ – it’s always been deeper than that.
You will probably think I have overstated things, that I’m being too dramatic. You might even think that I’m drunk. Nonetheless, I would rather put up with the hurtful hearsay that will doubtless come back to me through the grapevine than spend another night locked in distant orbit around a beautiful star that will never shine for me.
I am prepared to accept your scorn and/or complete silence for having sent you this letter. Think me stupid, selfish, immature, needy, irrational, whatever – for even if all this be true, tis nought compared to not being with you.
Each of us wants something in life (even if some people pretend not to) and I want you…No, I want us.
But no matter how much I want it, it will not be – and so, in order that I might live on more than crumbs, I must have the courage to move on. I must also be honest with you. I cannot keep this fire hidden. I would rather it went out. For even the darkest night must kneel before the dawn.
If you are still reading this, please forgive me. My love is eternal, my pain threshold is not. I have tried but at long last I have failed. If the sound of your voice didn’t melt me completely, if the promise of seeing you didn’t keep me awake at night, if I could somehow not love you; maybe I wouldn’t be writing this.
But here I am typing, crying, trembling. Need I say more?
The door is always open for you but you must walk through it, not simply knock and run away. I cannot answer the bell to emptiness anymore.
Perhaps more than anything I want this letter to flick some deep switch in you, to be the thing that finally makes you realise – but even I’m not that stupid. I have prayed too often for miracles to have any faith left.
At the end of the day I have all this love and it wants to be given – but ultimately it is yours to accept, not mine to force.
And so, in its place…absence – getting over it. Just as you would have wished.
Love letter # 114
You can say it often as you like – I still won’t buy it – because the fear of pain is the fear of joy.
Okay, so you don’t want to get hurt. Who does? It’s just that we don’t get a choice. Every lover has a broken heart. Every lover has open veins. Only the bloodless never gush. And that’s not you. I can sense the yearning in your hands. Even your breathing gives you away. There’s a fire inside you, cold actor. It’s a flame in your eyes.
But sure – keep up the pretence. Talk yourself into loneliness. Like that’s not gonna kill you. When you’re sitting in your silent room satisfying yourself that you never got cut, look around you. You hear that emptiness? What you gonna fill it with? Victory?
I will spill every drop of crimson to see just a pearl of yours. Throw the doors wide. Unfurl the flags. Are you hearing me?
Love is like the ecstasy of surrender. Please don’t fight it. The fort you build to keep it out will only lock you in. And then I’ll never have you…And that just won’t do.
Love letter # 296
I am not a linear narrative, nor a hero on a journey. I am simply living. Messily and haphazardly. I am neither a robot of destiny, nor an avatar of God. I am but human. Flesh and genes. An example of passion and folly – but with an eye for something called beauty. And even though it will come to nothing in the end, I choose to love you still.
Love letter # 321
I recognised you in the gaps – the tiny spaces left between busyness, bubbliness and booze. Your dark heart, shining like a beautiful star. The one who yearns, who dips and soars, who wants something more. I saw her in the silences, in the way her eyes sometimes pierced the innumerable distances. Lonely, wondering, full of extraordinary fire.
She is the one I have not stopped thinking about. She is the one I would fly across the sea to meet again. To dance with her, slow and soft. To let her know. That love is the way – dangerous and dazzling – to heal the wounds of self in the mirror of the other.
Love letter # 369
Please do not be fooled by my hesitation, or by any apparent coolness. I do like you. Actually, a little bit more than like you. It’s just that, until now, I have stopped short of obvious display; preferring the safety of hints. It’s not that I don’t want you to know, it’s that I don’t want to hear no.
You might think this weak – perhaps it is – but lately I have decided not to lay myself bare in the way I once did. The reasons for this won’t surprise you. Serial rejections, of course, but also manipulation. My feelings used against me.
But that’s not all. I have become content like this; by which I mean single. It is cleaner, easier; and while it may be less colourful, less urgent, it is also less dishonest, less compromised. More than that though, I have abandoned the dysfunctional delusions of need and romance. So however much I like you, want you, I will not sell my soul to stand at your side. I will not beg. Neither shall I submit to games or tests of valour. The lies of courting would insult us both, so let’s not go there.
Basically, I’m too tired and old and jaded for games – and maybe I am too bruised for the battle of pursuit. I just want it to happen or not happen. I know I could have written you a more poetic letter, made a more classical gesture, but if I’m honest I would much prefer it if you turned out to be the kind of person who responded to a letter like this. And this is the best way for me to find out.
Love letter # 373
This is for all of us – the great unremembered. The ones who shall end in dust.
In this universe of time we are but sub-atomic flickers. In the crush of history, we are the buried empires – the nameless bones – the unrecorded particulars. Less than forgotten. Barely distinguishable from the great nothing.
And when we have all vanished, the world will turn without us – its epic circles bigger than anything we could ever fashion. And it will turn as though we never were.
For we are but the small and lonely watchers. Lonely but for you.
In the shimmering sea of everything, we the tiny swimmers gasp for life – trapped in the cell of the self – looking out to the void – somehow knowing that we too shall be seen. And by that very act of seeing, created.
Just as it was in the beginning – when The Oneness became The Twoness – when The One made The Other in order to make itself.
Because down here in the dirt – in the almost infinitely minute world of you and me – the same great symmetries apply. I am nought without you.
Though it may well be true that eternity moves as it will – unruffled by the arrogant bluster of my striving, deaf to all my self-seeking noise, thankless in the face of all my apparent wisdom – the quiet and graceful mathematics of the universe will be rendered nigh divine by my overwhelming love for you.
Because of you there is music. And boundless beauty. All the nuanced strains of joy and despair. Every exquisite detail imaginable. You, my grain of sand, I shall adore – for in your fragile hands absolutely everything shall be held.
Though I may gaze into a cold infinity of stars it is when I wake in the night – you by my side – that I sense the splendour of things. That I truly am.
When even all of this is ash and silence and we are not even scratches on the skin of time, at least I will have loved you – and by my love I will have apprehended the fathomless beauty. That single, sustained, everlasting note of music which – when heard – becomes the song of being. To which I will have danced with you.
For if ever I am – so too are you.
Love letter # 407
I hereby acknowledge the downside to my capacity for and desire to give and receive love. It has led me into serious misjudgement and involved me in psychologically damaging relationships. Furthermore, it has allowed poisonous opportunists to manipulate and abuse me. My affections have been toyed with and my openness and availability have made me vulnerable to users and liars.
For most of my adult life I have been repeating a relationship pattern that has been unfulfilling and ruinous. This is entirely my doing. My fault, my issue, my addiction. Indeed, much of what I have called love has in fact been neediness and approval seeking. A band aid for a pain lodged deep in my history and enshrined in my self-talk.
So now the time has come for me to write a love letter to myself. To take back the love I have offered to so many undeserving others and return it to the core. Not in a vain or protective way – not as armour or self-serving bias – but as nurture. As recognition. As a form of dignity.
There is no bitterness or reproach in this gesture – simply an honest appraisal. It is time to flip the dynamic. Instead of making myself struggle uphill to earn a little self-honouring and giving my heart away too easily to others, I’m moving the goal posts. From this day forth I shall make it my goal to love myself more easily – more compassionately – and to make others prove their worth.
If my love has been a cheap trinket until today, from now it shall be a jewel. Precious and of inestimable value – and not lightly or reflexively given away.
Love letter # 412
I write this to have it said. To give it the shape of language. Tomorrow I may think it mere venting but today I am impelled. Emboldened by your absence; or rather, by the ways in which I have lately been reminded of you. The circles around me, the orbiting others, the noises they make, the poses they strike.
They are not you – perhaps this is the nub of it. They don’t have your eyes. Your truthful voice, your subtle knowing. Theirs is a show, something they don’t mean. Words are just that – sounds with no follow through. Their spectacle of kindness is an act of violence in disguise. They approximate the rituals of understanding, but it is little more than pity, or worse, control.
I speak with them, nod and smile, raise my glass and wonder where you are. Knowing you’re not anywhere. And that I am truly nowhere with you. For here is a shell of a place.
So I walk with the marionettes, acting in their drama. The empty performance of time filling. Motion as distraction. The gestures, the lies, the denial. And so it goes. On and on. Thinking impossible things. Knowing it could have gone another way…but it didn’t.
This then, the outcome. Result of our choosing. We thought we knew better. Turns out not. Yes, this is why I write. The intolerable scourge of mirrors. No, these are not angel wings, just the dust of costume. The plain mask of skin, obscuring the reality of blood.
Love letter # 808
It was so simple, and because of that, altering. Sitting across from you, the space between us an ordinary distance, feeling as though an entire ocean was moving. An immensity contained within the easy reach of a hand. The unspectacular fact of two people at a table…a canvas, upon which our imaginings are thrown. The invention of us.
You sat there. Still. Quiet. Only your eyes, the atoms of your scent, the whispered circle of your breathing. Presence on the verge of absence. You were a blank slate, and I duly projected. Onto the surface of your silence I smeared the ramblings of my desire. Because the emptiness will always be filled, most often with the migrated self.
Now I see the love I created with the lush cinematography of my longing. You were the beautiful mirror – reflect, refract – and I the willing believer of lovely mirages. Is this the truth of our vaunted love? The other, filtered through self, such that in our ardour we consumed the analgesic staples of fiction. Are we the lovers of a romantic graffiti?
Perhaps, stripped of cliché and poetry, this union of ours collapses to empire. As though, by some expansion of territory, we Romanised the tramontane wilds. Our question is whether, suspecting this, we desist. Can love recover from the habit of dominion, or does it wither at the first cry of revolt?
Let us sit without ceremony and peer into the void of the other/lover; and from there, endeavour to see what, if anything, lives beyond the citadel of self.
For the anniversary of stars
A glance at the screen, a date in the corner; and just like that: thirty years. The gap between waking and dreaming. A space hollowed of promises. The tender hook, still fast. Timeless.
Remember how it rained that afternoon. How the evening was soft; lambent as the rings changed hands and the waterfall sang nearby. Honey in the afterglow. The whole world was ours…except it wasn’t. Yet, what matter that we knew so little when we had it all? For even in the dryness of hindsight, the desert remains in flower. I give thanks at the gate of its immensity.
I wonder – who were those lovely figments, can they really have been us? A mattress on the floor, milk crates for chairs, the part-time wages of young belief. Four walls and forever. The sanctuary of twin desire.
Now, in the unimagined future, the banality of distance. Wounds grown over. Fissures cleansed by time. The neat separation of adults from the bloodied whorl of sweethearts. We wipe the dust from the memory of temples, that we may regard them as rooms. Everything still in place – transfigured. How beautiful is the landscape of eternal stillness and ceaseless journey?
That we may have nothing more of our troth than reminders has not put out the stars. I see them in the blackness and they are my compass. May they guide you likewise. And in another thirty years let us look upon these cool, faraway fires and see aglow the still wondrous light that once sparked in the gaze of lovers.