Spring is upon us. I step outside the door and jasmine is on the breeze. Despite myself I feel optimistic – caught up in this season’s air of hope and renewal. I had made a vow the day you left us to not be happy – it is after all a state of mind and my resistance to it was my own personal attack on losing you. I felt that I could somehow spite whoever saw fit to take you from me – but instead I did myself in. It hasn’t been easy to laugh – sometimes joy creeps up on me and I feel guilty and then I feel angry because I want to share it with you and you are gone. I have become obsessed with this mortality business – I would far rather pretend that I will live forever but we know the lie in that than grapple with the reality of it all. One day you are here and the next you are gone. Kudos to you if you make it to eighty at least then you had a good innings but if it’s sooner than that…well then life is just cruel. People told me everything happens for a reason – I sat in the bath thinking about what possible reason there was in losing the love of my life – how your death could ever be justified, reduced, legitimized by a reason. It would have to be a bloody good reason – it would have to be apocalyptic stuff – beyond my comprehension even. Nope. Try as I might there was no reason to it and believing that there is doesn’t really help because I am here and you are not and I can’t get you back. It’s somewhat surreal – death? If you think about it? That people are lost to us – that they depart the living – discard it like an old (or new) shoe. That we cease to BE – that we vanish and all that is left of us is the memories we created in other peoples minds. Unhinged fragments drifting about brain matter – dream like synopsis of our time recounted by those who knew us or who thought they knew us – because does anyone really ever know someone?
Teddy – I still have this longing for you that won’t go away. This perpetual ache in my solar plexus. I have these vivid dreams of us and the last holiday we took. London in the winter – the tickets were cheap! We stayed in that swanky hotel in Earls Court. It was right after the second tube bombings and people were afraid to stay in the heart of the city. Hence the rates were ridiculously low. We bought new coats and scarves and splashed out in ways we never had before. My coat was scarlet and I felt like a princess in it. You said that you loved to see me in red and I delighted in the way your eyes danced when I wore it. I felt like someone else in that coat – someone more beautiful and intelligent. I felt like an artist or a muse – or some west end actress with a brilliant career and stars in her eyes. I was everything I longed to be in that coat. And you? My gorgeous Ted? You were a poet in black. You wore those glasses that made you look well –read and dignified and your eyes were as blue as sapphires and I fell in love with you all over again. I loved the way your dark hair had become tinged by grey way too early – I loved the way you delighted in this premature aging – you always lived a decade beyond where you actually were. We joked remember? That you must have had many past lives – the strange kinship you had to people and places you had never seen or visited – the dreams you had of Eastern European buildings and steam trains carting Jews to Dachau. Those were your lives – converging upon you – burning within you their sad embers of memory.
I loved you late Ted. I wasted so much time on other men – men who were unkind but read philosophy, men who were obsessed with frivolity and hedonism, men who spoke French, men who danced the tango, men who molded me into their own desires and then tiring of it discarded me like yesterdays news…but not you my darling. You were the exception. Your love was without limit or reason; your love was an open window. Your love was the deepest end of the ocean, the eighth wonder of the world, the respite I craved, the home I belonged, the alpha and the omega. Your love was mythical. You did not read Kafka or Tolstoy and you could not speak French. You dropped out of school when you were sixteen to care for your mom and you learnt a trade. Your hands were rough and you smelt clean, like rain or snow. You were not an intellectual – you didn’t read Sartre but you loved poetry. Poetry was your heart. Poetry was the wings of your soul. Poetry was some intrinsic piece of you that surprised and delighted me. You read Browning and Donne, Keats and Yeats, Heaney and Hughes. You devoured the words with an insatiable hunger and recited them back to me in the bath. I loved your poet soul. I loved the way you read them and rejoiced in them. I loved your contradictions and most of all I loved you. Past tense. Present tense. Future tense the flicking cursor on this screen…I love you still. I love you because you loved me. The most charitable thing you ever did was to love me despite myself. Despite my tantrums and tears, despite my depression, despite my dreams and failings, despite my double chin, despite my mistakes, despite my pessimism and silence, despite my love of the darkness, internal depths you tried to follow but could never go. All my life I waited for that love. I was born for this purpose Ted and then you found me and loved me because. Because you could. And that was enough. Your love was bigger than us both – your love was the soothing balm on all my wounds, the blessing that found me – how lucky was I – in this great world, amongst billions of people – all waiting and all deserving and you gave it to me. That gift was the greatest – I know that is a cliché – but it’s true. We found ourselves in London. We found ourselves in Covent Garden and Leicester square. In London we were who we were meant to be – anonymous and recognized. We were tourists in the prime of our lives in a foreign country. We were making the memories we would tell our children. These photographs our unspoken history – the lithograph of our longing and love captured on celluloid and skin. We abandoned our petty neurosis in London; we went to art galleries and saw Rodin’s ‘Kiss’ in the flesh. We went to museums and looked at ancient Egyptian artifacts; we visited old cathedrals and pressed our hands against moss-covered stone. We were dreamers and the dream was real. We stood overlooking the Thames – even the grey could not defeat our inherent blue. The sun shone down on us – behind that veil of cloud – she found us. We. The blessed union. We. The meant to be. The everything.
In Covent Garden I spotted an antique ring – its heart an emerald. It was the most beautiful ring I had ever seen and you decided I should have it. I would not let you buy it. It was too expensive. It was a luxury beyond our means. So we left. That night was as wonderful as it could be. We went to the theatre and dinner – we drank too much wine and we laughed all the way back to our hotel. Oh Teddy, I miss your humour. I miss the way it lit up a room. Your laugh was contagious. Thinking back I wondered if I had known it was to be our last night together would I have changed anything? Truth be told – not at all. We nestled into each other in that bed with its Egyptian cotton and down duvet. We found ourselves a refuge and island far from the city and our lives. We were newlyweds abroad and impossibly in love. Drifting to sleep your arms wrapped tight around me you whispered Thank you. The last words you spoke to me. I heard you in that place between. When I woke the room felt strange. Like someone had left it. Like it was empty. There was a lack. You lay on your stomach. I watched you and loved you more than I could tell you. Wake up Teddy bear. IT’s our last day in London. You were still. I thought you were playing so I sat astride you and kissed your cheek. Your skin was cold. I will never recover from that moment. I will never be able to forget the way it felt. The way my heart pounded like a sledgehammer in my chest. The blinding panic. The cold sweat. The grief. The grief like a knife, or an axe stabbing into me.
They called the paramedics. It was too late. I must have looked a sight, half-naked in the cold grey light. It’s funny the things you notice in those moments. The hotel manager had a scar on his right hand and he smelt of ginger. They covered you with the sheet. I was wailing like a banshee. He is going to be ok I yelled. Don’t touch him. Your right foot was exposed. It looked vulnerable. The foot of a tiny boy. They came to fetch you. They wheeled you out of that room and down the elevator. I couldn’t catch my breath. I wanted to be with you. I wanted to push a rewind button. I wanted to wake up from the nightmare. I lay on the bed for a time. I lay with my head on your pillow and tried to find comfort in your smell. I wanted sleep to take me away – but it would not come. So I folded your clothes and there in your pocket a small brown box and in it that Emerald ring. Teddy, how did you get it without me knowing you magician you?
There was no reason to your dying just as there is no reason for the living. This terminal disease. This big fat lie. You were 34. You were vibrant and funny, tender and kind. You loved animals and children and you gave to the poor. You wore your heart on your sleeve like a glowing red beacon; you asked for little but gave a lot. You were truthful to a fault. You cried openly. You told me you loved me every single day. You loved your life and cherished each day. You communed with nature and you went to mass. You were faithful and glorious. You were the best thing in my whole life. When you died Teddy – the lights went out in my heart. They drew the curtains on us. Took away my happy ending. The Power failure, eternal black out from that day on. My heart a life support system. I function on autopilot. I live. Beyond that my pledge to give up joy – for Lent and for life. Funny thing is – it doesn’t quite work like that. It finds you. Like some ridiculous heat seeking missile.
Joy found me. Despite it all, she is a persistent visitor to this reluctant host. She is the stray cat meowing at the door to come in from the rain. She is the beggar at the stop street who makes your heart ache. She is respite. Sanity. Hope. Small but necessary things. It is my first spring without you. It is just one more thing on the list of endless firsts without you. I went for a walk today. I traced the route we walked so often. I imagined that your footprints were etched in the dirt and that somehow made me feel closer to you. I fed the ducks at the pond and I scratched your initials out in the bark of an old jacaranda in a heart alongside mine. I breathed in and out deeply. I swallowed the lump in my throat and I looked to the sky. IF you are watching me Teddy send me a sign – and you did. A pigeon crapped on my shoulder. And I laughed. For the first time in a very long time I laughed.
I gave that red coat to the Salvation Army. Along with yours too. I thought it would be harder to part with it – but it wasn’t - because I realized something. I didn’t need that coat to feel special – I just needed you. Everyday something new will find me. The laughter comes in warm crashing waves and my heart feels somehow lighter. I reckon it’s what you would want. I hope wherever you are you are happy my Ted. I hope that poetry surrounds you and people you missed and I hope you don’t miss me too much. I hope we meet again. I hope we get another shot at being a ‘we’. In the mean time – I’m going to see this thing out. I’m going to try to do some of the things we never got round to and in doing it I am going to celebrate you.
I think of you every day. I long for you most of the time. I am always going to love and want you. But for now all I can do is this – to quote my favourite writer A.L Kennedy - “all I can do is write you words you cannot read and feel them between us”.