For every woman who carries a secret in the deepest corner of her heart.
“You only live once…but if you do it right once is enough”…or is it? It’s midnight and I am sitting in my favourite chair in front of the fire place…a second glass of Merlot slowly romancing my mood as a bouquet of soft berries flirt with my tongue…the words of Mae West echoing over and over in my mind…You only live once…and with that the unspoken truth I had dare not admit to myself until recently…you love only once.
And as acknowledgement finally makes way for acceptance I look back on years of building a white picket fence marriage all the while longing for a man I did not know but to whom I was somehow connected…unknowingly caught in a web that time had spun…slowly and ever so delicately placing us on separate journeys and as the years passed by would sling shot us into each other’s path …never quite understanding the pull of gravity until finally we had reached the right place at the right time.
As I stare deeper and deeper into the flames I go back twenty six years …to 1985 and the school dance…and as the veil of fogginess slowly subsides …I see the 15 year old brunette with the hazel eyes …dancing with a boy…unconsciously moving to a rhythm not dictated by music…but by a passion that in its infancy would consume and destroy if destiny had not set its plan in place.
And destiny that night had turned out to be a red necked teacher with quite a bit of a temper and reputation for being difficult and most certainly not to be crossed. Keeping an eye on the activities it seemed to him the teenage boy and girl still intimately swaying together after several dances had no regard for the acceptable space allowed between partners as the rules required and even less regard for the boy’s long-time recognised steady but now suddenly abandoned and fuming girlfriend standing waiting in the wings.
Letting go of the emotions and desire that the boy had stirred in me I watched as he reluctantly pulled away from me and made his way to the other side of the room where trouble was waiting to greet him. The look on his face suggesting that he feared nothing and regretted even less. And in that moment I saw his spirit…I saw a fire that would burn my soul and it scared me. Never one to fit in with social norms, I sought comfort in the knowledge that I was seen as being different and by that meaning that I was not really his type…too snobbish by his standards…which again seem to be destiny changing course.
As the days turned into weeks and weeks tuned into months with not a word spoken about that night the boy would pass me in the hallways…and while not staring at him directly I was always aware of his blue eyes burning on me. But I kept my distance and so did he and when he arrived at my house one night with a group of friends I was more than just a little surprised. And although the night was filled with promise we both seem to not have the courage to approach each other and follow up on whatever unfinished business we had from our previous encounter. And as I closed my eyes that night I told myself it was simply not meant to be and that I should close the chapter and move on.
Paracelsus wrote…“Time is a brisk wind, for each hour it brings something new, but who can understand and measure its sharp breath, its mystery and its design”. And by some design of fate I ran into the boy a few years later in a convenience store just around the corner from my house. I say design of fate because I had left my home town many years before and was now living in another town 1500 km away. And there he stood, no longer a boy but a very attractive man. I cannot recall the conversation, thinking about it now I probably stumbled over my words. But what I do remember is that he still had the same affect on me and I could not shake the feeling that somehow we still had unresolved business between us. But I was married and so was he and we were both building a life, committed to the choices we had made that had shaped our now twenty-something day to day existence. And again I walked away from him, not allowing myself to think what if.
But fate it seemed had other plans and on a Wednesday morning I received a phone call that would ignite the flame I thought I had extinguished many years ago. Twenty years had passed since I had left school and it was time for the class of ’86 to reunite. I accepted the invitation with a great amount of fear and anticipation…my thoughts immediately fixated on the boy whose blue eyes I still seem to feel burning on me. A boy who’s face had haunted me for years even though I have crushed the memory of him time and time again. But fate was holding the cards and did not quite like the hand I was dealt for a few weeks before the reunion destiny decided to put a wild card in play. And so the boy made his presence know by sending me an email.
I remember reading the content over and over again looking for hidden meaning between the lines. We were both searching for that certain something that had connected us so many years ago…and in an instant the lines seem to be blurred for we had not an inkling of an understanding what had been rekindled and the magnitude of what was to come. And although the exchange of emails between us was mostly catching up on what we have achieved with our lives, it was also filled with what was not said…filled with unanswered questions and unspoken longing. Being thirty something adults now one would think that it would be easier to behave as such…that experience would bring maturity and with that fulfilment in our relationships. But we were being held captive by a time in our life that would constantly remind us that something was missing. And as the reunion drew closer, I found myself building up an expectation to finally be able to deal with the significance the boy had in my life. I was completely convinced that the infatuation I had felt for him would finally be put to bed once we stood face to face. I was wrong.
Staring into space I found myself sitting in a rented car outside the venue of the reunion. Not quite myself, my mind had been occupied for most of the flight to such a degree that my husband had given up trying to make conversation. I had purposefully refrained from any exchange regarding the event that no doubt in his mind must have posed some questions about old flames. And now I was there and uncertain of what the evening would reveal. Getting out of the car I suddenly wondered if I had made the right decision to come because if I was honest with myself, I had everything, I had success, I had a beautiful family…I had a loving husband. And with that I felt anticipation make way for guilt as I walked down the pathway to the entrance of the venue. It did not take long before I noticed his presence. The boy was even more of a man now…his appearance more rugged, the lines on his face had deepened…he had aged well like a good red wine.
There is a quote by Peter McWilliams that says “Guilt is anger directed at ourselves’. And never was it truer for me than that night. I had successfully averted any physical contact with the boy and a few sideways glances indicated to me that he was completely immerged in conversation with the boys which if one is already predisposed to feeling guilty would suffice as proof that whatever expectations I may have had was utterly foolish. Feeling completely out of place and out of touch I left that evening, driving along the coastline. Overwhelmed by a sense of loss I cried for something I had longed for for such a long time, something I never had although I never even understood what it was. And as I rolled down the window and smelled the salty breeze I told myself that it was time for closure…that it was clear that whatever unresolved feelings there may have been would remain unsaid and that I should close the chapter on the boy…but more importantly on a time in my life that now belonged to the past. You cannot change what you do not acknowledge and admitting the truth was hard. The foolish trip down memory lane was nothing more than an attempt to try and rekindle my lost youth. And so I made a decision not to entertain any more emails from the boy. Complex things are easy to do, its simplicity that is the real challenge. The simplest thing was to walk way but not without allowing myself a moment to embrace the memory of seeing him again that night and I am reminded about a line in one of my favourite movies “The Bridges of Madison County”…” The old dreams were good dreams, they didn’t work out but I am glad I had them”…
But fate was still holding the wild card…in fact this time destiny had joined the game and they seem to be on the same side. Five years had passed since the reunion. Convinced that I had it all life was good. It wasn’t perfect…but whose life is right?
Completely now settled in to suburbia with all the other forty something friends and acquaintances I was surfing the wave of whatever flavour was going down…three years ago it was big screen TV’s and surround sound…two years ago it was Blue Ray…a year ago it was the latest Sony compact digital camera. And now it was Blackberry. It had become my favourite past time to connect with friends and family. So much so that I would often neglect accessing messages that would from time to time still come through on my other old phone…to such a degree that if the battery ran out I would not notice and leave the old phone lying in my handbag for weeks. I reasoned that all of my important contacts had my new number so there was no significance in keeping the old. But the contract had not quite expired and it would be stupid not to use the airtime and free sms’s that was still available.
It had been a long and hectic day. I was glad to finally sit in my favourite chair in front of the fire place. Closing my eyes for a few minutes I tried to leave the office behind. Timing is everything. Just as I was starting to relax, my son the opportunist presented me with a glass of my favourite red wine and immediately dove right into the pressing matter at hand. His phone had broken and it would be the end of his world as such if he could not be in contact with his girlfriend. Did I say timing is everything? The things we do for love. And in that moment of weakness I reached for my handbag to hand over my old phone in the final act of moving on and to be honest to get a bit of peace and quiet that would follow getting him off my back.
But it was not time for peace and quiet… it was not time for anything…..and yet it was time.
Staring at the phone in my hand I decided to clean out the emails and messages before handing it over to junior. Scrolling through the messages I suddenly felt a jolt through my heart. There it was…little more than a day old…the boy had left a message…
Up until that moment I had lived in a world of choice… I had regarded my life as a product of my own decisions and I was in control. But this was something else, this was destiny. And if you believe in destiny, you suspect there are greater forces defining your life’s story. Even if we are each part of some great master plan, our unique journey has more personal meaning when we choose it for ourselves. You make many choices every day. Whenever possible you choose the life you want. We are the choices we make… And in that moment I made the most selfish choice of all. I chose him.
Love will never obey an expectation; its mystery is pure and absolute. Twenty six years later I find myself waiting at a secluded table in a restaurant…nervously anticipating the moment the boy would appear. It had been five years since the reunion however it seemed like eternity. And as a million thoughts were racing through my head…I perched myself from the chair towards the entrance…and there he was walking towards me. I trembled for a second and fell back in my chair. The emotion of fear often works overtime. Even when there is no immediate threat, our body may remain tight and on guard, our mind narrowed to focus on what might go wrong. When this happens, fear is no longer functioning to secure our survival. We are caught in the trance of fear and our moment-to-moment experience becomes bound in reactivity. We spend our time and energy defending our life rather than living it fully.
Realising that we both got caught trying to catch a glimpse of each other suddenly made me smile. And with that I stood out of my chair and walked towards him…no longer afraid or holding back anything I greeted him with a kiss on the lips, not wanting to let go of his warm embrace.
My heart was pounding wildly. He was seated across the table from me and as I looked at him, I could not help but feel that I have known him all my life. It was not anything specific that he said or did, yet it was everything about him…it was just a sense of knowing. It was in the easy conversation that just seemed to keep on flowing… it was in the way he held his glass… it was in the way his eyes would search mine and we both would seem to be hanging on to the same thought…26 years to get to this moment…
The man sitting across from me was no longer the boy I had idolised…not only had he become a man…he had become the man that I had dreamt of all my life. And it is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts. He was the one. My heart only ever had one thought. One want. One need. Despite all, in spite of all…all my heart ever wanted was him.
Most people can look back over the years and identify a time and place at which their lives changed significantly. Whether by accident or design, these are the moments when, because of a readiness within us and collaboration with events occurring around us, we are forced to seriously reappraise ourselves and the conditions under which we live and to make certain choices that will affect the rest of our lives. That moment was defined when he stood up and sat next to me. Fully aware of his presence so intimately close to me I was amazed at how comfortable we seem to be with each other…our bodies now touching ever so slightly, his leg brushing against mine. It came naturally and it felt familiar..it felt right…
The heart never forgets, never gives up, the territory marked off for those who came before. And when he suddenly leaned forward mid sentence and parted my lips fate and destiny had concluded our twenty six year journey. It seems that all we have ever done in our life was make our way to each other…for in that kiss we had found our destination…we had found one another. I realised that till that moment I wasn’t alive’…that I had longed for him like the moon pulls the tide. And like Meryl Streep in the Bridges of Madison County in that moment everything I knew to be true about myself up until then was gone. I was acting like another woman, yet I was more myself than ever before. This kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime.
“You are, and always have been, my dream”…his every word folding like a blanket around my soul. He is every reason, every hope, and every longing I have ever had. My restless soul has found its harbour.
And herein lies the irony for as much as we have found each other and are bound together in another space and time, we will forever remain separated in this life. Vows made to a loving wife and devoted husband are printed like headers and footers on every page of the remaining chapters of your life. You cannot simply change the storyline of the book, or the title. Commitment negates you finish the story you had started though it may not have the happy ending you had wanted.
I have had one life but I have lived it as two completely different women. I have existed in two separate universes. Like night and day I am dusk and dawn, forever floating between darkness and light.
In the light of day my defences are up, my life is a series of controlled actions and purpose. I am safe. But as night falls, like a hungry predator he haunts me and I surrender my soul to be devoured by the darkness where he lives. I call his name and he answers with a flutter in the deepest core of my being. His name is written on my soul and no matter how I try, I can’t erase it.
In the darkness of night there is no escape. There is no distinction between reality and fantasy, I taste him. I drown in him. And as the light of morning falls he exits my dreams like a dagger ripping through flesh and swallow the silent screams of his brutal torture.
And as the morning breaks I cling to hope and sanity like the last remaining life jacket on the Titanic, knowing that just like Rose never let go of Jack, so I will too never let go of him. I shall for eternity run to that place in in my dreams and nightmares where he waits for me.