Last week you sent me a ‘friend’ request on Facebook. Seriously? After five years?
We were lovers in your little apartment, sex and alcohol our rocket fuel. Perhaps we were in love a little for a time and then we weren’t and I flew home.
You sent me a ‘fuck you’ email six months later saying you were married; was that number 3 or 4? I forget.
I did not answer, there was nothing to say.
I moved on, as they say.
Now you want to ‘friend’ me? We were never ‘friends’; I loved you, not sure I ever liked you.
I was reluctant, but my friends kept telling me that I had to get out there, get in the game, join the million other hopefuls. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? So I agreed to give it a try despite my anxieties that I was too old for this sort of thing and had been to the trough a few too many times; better to put on my slippers and night cap, get a dog and close the blinds. But that has never been my style and, recalling the old adage that you should never die wondering and that remorse is better than regret, I let myself be persuaded.
It was scary and it was exciting getting to know each other; the familiar tingle, the anticipation of our meetings, the world suddenly a brighter and happier place of colour, aromas, sound and sensation. A special connection with another! Sigh. Every poetic cliché of every trashy romantic novel.
She seemed to feel the same and that was wonderful.
After a couple of months, however, I could feel our connection slipping away. Sure, we liked each other, missed each other when we could not meet, but there was something lacking – the age old cry of lovers, no?
In the middle of the year we travelled together for two months and we had the closeness I craved. It did not last. Back in Australia I was ready to give up and she felt the same. It was simply not working and in my heart I knew it was my fault because I was withholding and not being my true self with her. I was playing a role and felt paralysed from acting differently. Nor was it all my fault; there was a guardedness in her, a core of secrets which she was not showing me.
I was losing her and I hated it. Hated my own inadequacies.
Knowing I had to change, I began to reveal more of myself: my hopes and fears, wants and needs, wounds and scars – the usual stuff. I began to find my own voice, becoming recognisable to myself and thus to others. Although she is cautious, I can feel her responding to me as I learn to trust and to share and to be ‘authentic’ [I know, all very new age]. Others do it, so why not me? How hard can it be? Don’t answer that, we know how hard it is to stop pretending and role playing and going through the motions and instead to be truly present and honest.
Early days and I have much left to learn. It is getting better.
Yes, it is our first anniversary.
One year since I began on WordPress in utter naivety. It has taken me a year to get a feel for what I want to do here and what I want to say; in short, to find my voice. Next I must take another deep breath and interact with the blogging community and not be only a passive reader and receiver; I could not do this unless I first found what I wanted to do with my blog.
She has been patient and accepting and you know, I think we’ll make it to our second anniversary!
Wish us luck!
Friends of mine have just split up with no chance of reconciliation and I have conflicting emotions. Part of me is shocked that the ending came abruptly and with such finality and a smaller part of me says ‘that was always going to happen, I saw it coming’.
More accurately, I should say that I was surprised and then began to think about the no-longer-a-couple and understood that I had registered the signs, grown accustomed to them and assumed they would continue together neither truly happy nor miserable, fearful of being alone.
When did the process begin? At what point was the end of the relationship unavoidable and needing only one final pebble – an unkind word, a look, an impatient sigh or a miniscule act of bad faith – to trigger the landslide of recrimination and the decision from which there is no going back?
Those tiny pebbles of hurt or neglect, unconscious perhaps at first and later consciously, maybe deliberately hurtful, uncaring at least, which unearth other pebbles and soon there is a tumble, small and then bigger and finally an avalanche and then silence when the words are over and there is nothing left to be said.
Not always of course, not every day. Rather an accumulation of grit like an axle on a baggage-laden cart rolling along dusty roads day after day in good times and bad and it is not noticeable and anyway it does not matter or we believe it can be rectified ‘later’ [fateful, lazy word] when we have more time or are under less pressure or the kids are grown up or a myriad of other reasons until later is replaced by ‘too late’.
Looking back we puzzle when the pebble became an avalanche and we let it happen.
And yet –
And yet. Is the feeling of the inevitability of the end itself merely an excuse for our self-absorption in the trivia of the narcissistic culture in which we live, a world obsessed with individual rights [happiness, freedom, success, self-expression].
He woke and saw her standing by the bed, staring down at him. What did she want from him? She had been dead ten years and still she came and watched and waited.
Her gaze was steady; he yearned to reach out and take her hand, yet knew instinctively that to do so would be his own death. Nor did he dare to close his eyes.
Why did she visit him every night? What was she seeking from him or trying to tell him? He had done his best. Nobody blamed him, not to his face at least. What else could he have done? The alternative had been unthinkable and what would it have changed?
Would she have lived if things had been different between them that day?
She gazed at him, unwavering, expressionless, the dark eyes he could never forget. The room grew cold. he wanted to reach out and hold her, it was ten years too late.
She faded away, to reappear the next night and every night until finally, in the pre-dawn light, he did what he had long known was the only way out.
No, I am not talking on this post directly about my novel, though precisely this does happen to Tom on the Camino, nor about Gone Girl which is a neat re-working of the theme. In the so-called real world, the non-literary world let us call it, what would you do if you become suspicious and then convinced that your lover is a killer?
Infidelity leaves love a twitching corpse, but there is expectation of a full recovery [in time, as they say]. With murder, dead is dead.
Do you confront your lover? Well, you had better be right in your suspicions because if you are wrong you can kiss that relationship good bye.
Do you empathise and understand? Maybe the victim ‘deserved it’ or you convince yourself it is so; maybe it happened a long time ago, maybe you can find extenuating circumstances.
Do you simply love them and accept it – ‘love conquers all’
What is your moral responsibility?
Do you turn a blind eye because it is all too hard and horrible?
Do you watch and hope to learn more,sleeping with one eye open?
Do you ‘do your duty’ and turn them over to the law though it tears your heart apart?
And what if you are wrong?
Tom and Anika meet again in Conques in France exactly one year after they parted and exactly as they had promised. Their love has withstood its first test and it would be easy now to write a story where they stay together and live happily ever after; how boring would that be? As Tolstoy famously wrote [I paraphrase here] – all happy families are the same, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own distinct way.
The genre demands that our two lovers must suffer for their love as we do in the so called real world. They must be separated before they can consummate [delightfully old fashioned word, no?] their love and in Jane Austen’s world they must be kept apart until the very end through circumstance or that favourite device, ‘the misunderstanding’. Think Persuasion in particular where red blooded readers will be shouting ‘come on guys, get it together!’ but the resolution is deferred repeatedly.
So it comes to pass that Tom and Anika must be plucked apart; as luck would have it, Anika receive news that her father in England has had a heart attack and she must leave Conques and fly to England that very day.
Mere hours after being reunited, Anika is in a taxi to Rodez airport and Tom is left bereft in the village.
Will they never be together?
And how is their romance linked with the mystery of the pilgrim deaths?