Last morning gave way to a charming evening. There was no afternoon. It is as if the day has been wiped out in parts to give the bits that remain adequate space in memory. One of the clearest remnants is the sound of a voice well loved and known, still close in its brutal honesty, loved all the more for its calm in explaining that life would not work the way I wished it to, no matter how strongly. I understood, there was no arguing here, just a facing up to facts. One’s life is of one’s own making, and it is up to me to live with that voice and change the reasons for all that it said.
It didn’t stop, all through the evening till night. Not during a game of Scrabble, nor when all appetite for dinner fled from me. It made sense, I agreed, and it was all I had ever hoped against. Yes, there was a need for space, to step aside from intimacy, to let go of a closeness all too often taken for granted. Even as I spoke, lying in bed with the dear little person who had been with me since life began but whom I could not tell in so many words of the plague I had earned, it was my own clarity that saw I needed to be alone too.
Sometimes the same thing can be the easier and the tougher. As I clung to my blanket against a bitter cold that was settling down almost from within me, I knew it was only the reason that makes all the difference. Here, living alone did not mean walking away, though it would have been easier to fool myself and forget, to bury and smile. Staying and intruding was easy too, for it meant imposing my will, not living with its consequences but heaping them on the other.
It came home harder with every pulsating bang in my head, everything that love meant, the responsibility that came with it. Life isn’t a cakewalk when you’ve cut the pieces all wrong – you have to jump and skip and take detours and retrace steps – but never crawl. Walking tall, there is nothing beyond you. For me, now, it means hanging in there, but not getting in the way. It means sticking it out, but not in a way that sticks out. It means living with myself and making myself a complete person, being strong, not insensitive; alone, not lonely.
There are often times we cling to what is known, even when it has gone to pieces, because we have little courage to let go and step into something we haven’t quite figured out. But the captain who goes down with the ship can never help bring it up again, nor can he be there for the crew. I must not try to possess, must not be insecure in something which is all the good I have known. I must, simply, grow. There is only so much that one brings to a relationship, as does the other, and thereafter both grow together, learning all that each hasn’t before. But when we stumble, when neither can help the other, it is still each one’s responsibility to learn, to grow, to move on.
This moving on is not a moving away, it is a moving towards a time when sharing together is meaningful once more. The ideal is permanence, a togetherness that is unquestionable, sharing that is unbroken, learning that is never painful, growth that is mutual and ever-joyous. But we are not inanimate toys, we are not perfectly modeled dolls. Thank heavens for that! What little pleasure we would know if life were but a pre-written script, leaving us with naught but the job of playing out our parts, to delight in happiness not of our own making.
I must go it alone, not in defense, not as a reaction to pain or disappointment, not as a rejection of what life holds for me today. I have made it what it is, though at a time when my understanding was not as great, when my perspective was less well-rounded. It is to myself, to the other and to who we have been together, that I owe it to become a better person in action, to live in a more aware and sensitive manner, so that being ‘us’ is a worthwhile thing once more. Nor is it a switch one flicks on and off whenever one feels like, so it is ever an open question both of us determine together. Even in being away from each other, if we base it in the understanding that this is what we have let circumstances bring us to, there is no break in our caring, only in what we share awhile.
I am afraid, today, when I think of the possibility that we will never be as open again, that the pastures once so green have not dried up only till a change of season but for an endless winter. But such withering can only happen if roots die out, and I must take upon myself the role of the eternal gardener, to water the soil when there is no grass to be seen. After all, there is no difference between mud and grass. All we lack is imagination and faith. And such shortcomings are as nothing when faced with a will born of love.
Sometimes I feel something with the same symptoms as restlessness, though it is of an entirely different nature. It is, as feelings go, nobler. It tells me it is time for a change to scene, but not (unlike restlessness) because I can’t stand it where I am any more; rather, since some other place beckons. I feel it now, unmistakably. Hence I depart on a drive, because what calls me now is not any particular place, but placelessness. The home we had in each other has left us for a vacation, and I know I must fathom the nature of this homelessness if I am to come upon my home within myself.
When that home has been found, I can invite you to visit, and possibly you will be my neighbour and let me come to yours. In the world we know people make a big deal of living together under the same roof, but we have always shared the same big sky above, you and I. I cannot be too distanced while you still look at the moon and the stars, nor if you sit in fields that can be reached only by those who walk off un-trafficked roads in little-known places fearlessly.
I’m glad we lived so much in the lap of nature in our time together, for if some day I am in doubt of ever having you by my side again, or if it seems to be taking forever (and I’m going to be there for you at least that long), I’ll do what I know best – run… run through bush and bramble and stream and grove… and when I do that I won’t be running away from you, because I’ll find you in every yellowing autumn leaf, every tender green sprig spring births, the kiss of the wintry breeze over my hair, the feel of the summer sun on my face – you will be with me as much when I pause, fatigued, as familiar as the body fluids encasing me and those I encase, running over and through me, mobilising me in mind as its liquid mobilises the snail, enabling it to carry on as I must then do as well.
I am not a poet who merely writes prettily. The person who knew me best most of my life, who cares choicelessly, once gave me a Kahlil Gibran with the inscription ‘to he who is a dreamer and a poet’ and another time a mention of being wise of mien. There was something about the heart as well, but never as well as in Zorba the Greek, which she had never read, but only liked through the film soundtrack. The cover of that one says that everyone needs a little madness. I have lived mine, I have even lived through it, and I am back in calm waters. When they lap gently around me, I cannot but wish that their caress is yours, and though I will not rave with the fever only you can quiet with your cool touch nor writhe with the pain that only the warmth of your cuddling can simmer to ecstasy that was once unbearable but which can now be my only safeguard from numbness, I am my own man (just as I once was long ago) as much as yours.