Tag Archives: Nostalgia

Letter to the lighter of 500 fires

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Love letter # 409

There is always a certain moment in the changing of the seasons, when the first soft afternoon of spring fills the air with scent and beautiful light, when I am once again the young and hopeful fool who sat beside you in the dappled sunshine. I breathe in and my body remembers the electric shiver of your nearness. I close my eyes and I see you turning your face towards me; and for a moment I am awash and you are the promise of flowers.

Love letter # 403

In my fantasy this is how it goes: I post this and somehow you read it – and of course you know right away. After all, what else could it be? Who but you? Who but me? Because we were both there when there was nothing else. When the whole of existence seemed to pivot on our touch. When we found ourselves at the centre of everything and the wave we made rippled outwards, washing the whole world with our loving. Or whatever else people chose to call that holy flood.

You could argue that it wasn’t love – you could even say there is no such thing. In the end, it might just be a word. A sound we make when we refer to that particular form of longing, that sense of connection, of seeing the other and being truly visible in return. To a universe without semantic distinction. Or the walls that normally stand between us. From this vantage, it matters not what language we wrap around it – only that it was. That it was forged by us. Made of an electricity that overwhelmed us both. That made us high. Brought us low.

The details of the drama don’t matter either. Time has scrubbed them back to a lustre. Distance has rendered them tiny. But oh my love … how the light still moves every atom in my body. Even when the darkness is pitch. And how the vision remains – its colours like crystal. Yes, I breathe in and you are next to me. I shiver, and it is the buzz of instant recognition. No, not even memory – but presence.

Who knows what kind of fire we started. Perhaps it makes no difference to know one way or the other. Maybe it was the star of our unknowing. A flower opening just beyond our conscious understanding. The benign and terrible mystery of a realm beyond the I. The pulsing, beating signal of our ultimate unbecoming. The great and impassive ocean in which we are all dissolved.

I have no neat answers – no pre-packaged wisdom to declare or meme friendly inspiration to share. All I have to say today is that something has travelled across the years, outlasted disenchantment, survived the erosion of faulty recall, and it has reached me intact. Alive. Sublime. Can you feel it still? Is it there with you too?

Something we create – or encounter – when we love each other as we did does not founder upon the reef of human flaw. For it is standing my hairs on end right now. It is why I am writing this. So that wherever you are and whatever may ail you, you can know without a beat of doubt that the love I helped you conjure from thin air is always there with you. Barely even a thought away. Here. Now.

Love letter # 344

On a short break, lingering at the café I usually go to, and all I can think of is you. The colour of the sky, the edges of chill in the pools of shade, the goldening of leaves. Just like the autumn of our wanting all over again. The promise not quite realised. The moment having passed.

Why did we never walk across that space? How did the gravity between us fail to pull us into collision? What manner of terror kept us from having what we both desired?

I used to shatter awake, bursting out of dreams straight into thoughts of you. I could smell you in the air. In those days you were all around me. That glorious fall of our longing. The very nearly season. The almost hour.

And right now, in this hour – the blue of afternoon so deep and rich, the remains of summer ever paler and cooler – I am in your sway once more. As though you were across from me, smiling that smile of yours; and all I can feel is the tremor of ancient madness. The dammed up distemper of almost touching you.

I drink my black coffee in your honour and look at the empty seat opposite.

Later, I will reflect on this, ask myself why this ghost still hovers. It’s not as though the years have not been filled with other loves, with all kinds of distraction. But I already know the reason. For I have tasted many things, ‘cept the sweetness of your limbs.

Love letter # 329

Facebook told me it was your birthday, so I posted the usual blurb on your Timeline – but

it really said nothing about how seeing your name and remembering you triggered me.

With a thought I was seventeen and seeing you again in the gold autumn light after school. You were so close to me but you may as well have been on the other side of the universe. I was paralysed. Your beauty, my desire – how they conspired to strike me dumb.

I think now about why I never said anything back then. I guess I was so utterly afraid you’d say no. I just couldn’t stand the idea that someone I adored might think nothing of me; or at any rate not enough of me.

The funny thing is I don’t regret it – because even now you are an angel in my estimation. You still hover like the promise of indescribable ecstasy. A girl undiminished by the mundane erosion of relationship. A dream not woken by uglier realities. I can think of you and still hear the bell ring. It vibrates the cells in my body. The memory electric.

I do not know if you ever thought fondly or romantically of me, yet what a treasure you have given me. With your terrifying beauty. With the distance you so perfectly maintained.

Love letter # 318

Looking out over the glassy sheen of the bay earlier – people walking along the shore, the air as soft as it’s been for months – and there you were. In the crack between seasons. Through a window in a wall of time. Winter verging on spring. Afternoon fading into evening. Cool blue light to mellow gold. Love on the fringes of despair.

Has it really been so long?

It was this time of year. You like the promise of flowers. An angel in the pale, warm light.  Your eyes like a fire – burning me up. Your kiss like the heavenly flood. Me gone to water.

Tonight, I swear, you are with me. I am inhaling you like incense. My memory electric. Tiny shivers on my forearms. Wondering where you are. Knowing that all this is merely the visitation of an edited ghost – a narcotic trail of heady vapour stripped of all its contradictory detail – but swooning in it anyway. Just like my first sight of you. That moment when we both knew something that no one else had ever dreamed of. When we made the whole world new with our intemperate love.

And now … here it comes. The inevitable night. With its veil of emptiness.