It is a big, messy, wild love. It is moss and thicket, and forest floor. It is tangled vines and surviving light and the shocking red of a determined flower. It is a love that has always grown best in the dark.
It is not a polite love.
If the heart is a fist this is the punch it delivers. A love that sinks ships then trawls them for their treasures, a love that will search every room to find what lies beating deep in the chest. It is a love that never stops seeking a truth that is hidden.
It is a love that is tender and generous, still.
A love that reaches at five am, that finds its expression in the dusty light and drowsy touch of morning storms. A love made from the heaviest air and an opening sky. It is a love that rains down for days.
It is a love that will shed its skin a hundred times – and more.
It grows too large to be contained – by the shelter of gods and boxes and easier terms. This love that is mine and was yours and is now. It doesn’t know it’s time or place. And it bursts with life in its own conclusion.
(It is a love that you have never known).
You speak of my love like you have experienced love like mine before. But this – is not allowed …”
The Accordionist is playing Edith Piaf. Sat next to the Crepe stand he serenades the scent of salted caramel as red, white and blue bulbs pulse in time with his fingers. The night is balmy, a city made fresh by afternoon rain. I am struck by the memory of Paris but really it is just the idea of Paris because in truth I never heard a single accordion there and it was only the grey of snow and boots that marked the streets. This then is the Paris of dreams, the city I knew before we met. The idea of Paris as the busker smiles when I reach for a coin. The Paris I considered, stronger as fiction.
In this way some people imagine entire cities, entire lives before they’ve ever lived them. Fragrant, coloured lives with songs that fit and play in a certain light, giving off a certain shadow when they close their eyes. It is how we think we know a place before we get there, how we cast our truths to fit our fiction. To a disciplined mind they’re actually one and the same. Truth bears silent witness to an idea that’s held tight.
Idea has its root in form, in pattern. The images we make of the things we have seen. For sure and entrenched, the image outlasts – in fact the ideal comes long before. You named me for this very idea. Eidyia – so close it’s pronounced just the same. The idea of me that preceded. How from the very first you said – it wouldn’t work, I feel no connection. Because the idea of me walked first through the door. Your Magdalene of lore found in the flesh. The one to whom you should not connect. Even as your head slid carefully down between my thighs. You knew that Mary was for other temples.
The idea of me. No less or more than my imagined city. The experience never quite matching the want. The want never quite what you thought. Women like me don’t make for good lives, am I right? Not the ones you live out in your head. You were bound to like this reality less when I refused to stay within your bounds. I must confess you finally said, I’ve let the gap between reality and fiction widen. At first I thought you had misspoken but now I know what you meant was this:
I have an idea of you. A frame within which you fit. One I’d imagined before you came, the idea of my good god and men. An image to use then I’ll box you up, put you high on a shelf when I’m silently through. I’ll set you down in the dust and dirt of separate lives because you’re not the kind to whom one connects, not the kind to whom one consents.
I have an idea of life and of you. You may never hear an accordion in Paris, Eidyia. But it will speak of the city just the same.
Well my city reminds me of Paris tonight – but only for a second. It is far more beautiful on its own, the streets wide with contradiction as I look up for the stars. No idea could ever be more compelling than this reality. If you let it go and let it in, the city and night can still surprise you. Still un-teach you what you thought you knew, or remind you to keep asking. Because you think you know, but you’ve got no idea.
“Writing — has self-respect in it. You’re working. You’re trying. You’re not lying down on the ground, having given up. And one thing I love about writing is that we can speak to the absent, the dead, the estranged and the longed-for — all the people we’re separated from. We can see them again, understand them more, even say goodbye …” – Sharon Olds
Every word I wrote. Every.Fucking.Word was for you. Trying to draw us out through a hundred memories, trying to tell you a little something about my life. And yeah, I still think about that song. Hey, I even drank from the fountain and you know something? It tasted like an anchor, all salt and metal and something heavy in my throat. Safety nearly sank us both in the end, how about that? I went to a temple (me, I know!) and that is what I heard. Something assured in the banging drums and incensed air, like a hand that settled on my lowered head. It told me that it was only safety that could hold me back, that it was security that would drown me. I knew this hand from its place at my back, the one I trusted a lifetime ago – and I cried another river right there. To think of just how close I came (to someone else’s idea of fine).
Every word I wrote. Every.Fucking.Word was for you.
It will be somebody else’s turn to offer pieces of herself that you can fashion into a new suit, a way of sliding the virtues of another on to your skin, moulding yourself to borrowed hands. It will be somebody else’s turn to reflect you like light off water, a somebody else who stays perfectly still to return the image you crave. It will be somebody else with a surface that wilfully deceives you.
It will be somebody else’s turn to falter and start when you collect their essential parts, when you leave them tilting toward what was taken. It will be somebody else hung on the wall, fragments framed and set enough apart for you to enjoy because she fits better in your palm in pieces.
It will be somebody else.
It will be somebody else who probably looks like me, how I probably look like her, the her who probably came before, and she, and I, and we … are nothing more than somebody else when you slide under covers at night – some somebody else you diminish to increase your size, to compensate for some essential lack she told you was fine at the start.
It will be somebody else’s turn to lie about that as well, you know.