finding A Second Chance

“There are no second chances in life, except to feel remorse.”
(“The Shadow of the Wind”, Carlos Ruiz Zafon)

Never a good idea, of course. Going back.  But she was the world’s worst at letting go, and if there was the slightest chance that she could salvage her dreams, then she didn’t hesitate to take it.  It was as if, by diving head on into that dark pool of emotional turmoil, she would know for sure if there was any hope, or if indeed it was just a dark black pool that, in all likelihood, would pull her down and down until she ran out of air and had no choice but to rise to the surface towards the light. But still, she had to know for sure.

So, when he finally, after 3 months, responded to a message, her heart skipped and hope shone its faintest light.  She had got so used to hearing nothing from him, that when her phone pinged in the darkness of her car, she consciously told herself it would not be him, to protect her still fragile heart from the disappointment that had gone before.  But it was him.  He said, simply, “Same here, for me, never stopped caring”.

He was abroad now, a flight away, but a flight which he would never take back to her, and would always have a reason why she should not fly to him.  But she hung on to his messages, empty promises of a future together. He still had a hold over her heart, so she tucked these promises away like a warm glow inside, rarely shared with anyone – because she was too afraid they would not come true, and because, in her heart of hearts, she knew they never would.  But they were hope, and hope was all she had.

Maybe he believed it himself.  Maybe he was just stringing her along.  She wanted to believe him … but she would never know if, to him, she became a daily ego-flattering text message.  Though anyone looking in would say she was the fool, knowing him as she did, in the end, she believed he was a troubled soul who really didn’t know what he wanted. And she needed him to want her.  He could not or would not ever commit to that, and true love is not forcing someone to feel something they do not.  He did not want her … enough.  

So, in the end, she had no choice but to swim for the surface, gulp in the life-giving air that was her future without him, and so begin the long journey of letting him go … again. But at least this time, she knew. 

 

finding Change

“My feet will want to walk to where you are sleeping but I shall go on living.”
( Pablo Neruda)

There was a shift.  So subtle, had it not been her very mindset at that very moment, she wouldn’t have noticed it at all .. but there was a shift nevertheless.  

Records would show it was the hottest September day for a century.  The pair of black awnings outside the pavement cafe she had of late favoured for a lunchtime snack, did little to protect her, the midday heat piercing through the gap between with such intensity that her bare legs reddened in minutes.  Moving the table and chair closer to the frontage helped a little, and she envied the clientele outside the Italian opposite, who had had the sense to sit on the shady side of the street.

The couple on the next table taking a moment to rest from trying to shop with the tiniest of newborns snuggled to the mother, barely an adult herself.  They looked so young to be a family, to have the responsibility of such a precious new life. She marvelled how relaxed they were, with each other, with the baby and remembered those early days with hers, and she was heartened to see them pause, to see them savour this precious time.

On the other side of the street, a ridiculous attempt at parking a silver run-around in a lorry- sized gap.  A woman driver of course, who even asked a man waiting in the next space if he could move back to allow her to manoeuvre, while everyone sitting outside the cafe could see it wasn’t needed.  She watched fascinated as the driver to-ed and fro-ed, knowing of course that, if it had been her, she would have just driven past, rather than face the embarrassment of an audience!  Funny how it’s never a man struggling to fit a parking space.  Are they genetically engineered to be able to park a car?  Just as they seem to be genetically engineered to be unable to stay faithful to one woman.  She wondered if the biker casually sitting by the side of the road in his leathers, was waiting for the driver, a clandestine lunchtime meeting, since she had appeared to wave at him.  Rather too public to be clandestine!  On hindsight, the wave was probably just to warn biker man of her appalling parking skills and the vulnerability of his Harley.  They seemed an unlikely match anyway, and so it was, for as she turned to sip her coffee, he was gone.  

This treating herself to lunch was all part of the looking after herself, of being strong, of moving on. It was still a conscious thing, living life out of curiosity, without fear.  Perusing the menu as leisurely as an hour’s lunch break would allow, she had chosen the “special”, just because she always ordered their ploughman’s sandwich and wasn’t about to become predictable, even in a coffee shop.  How ironic therefore that the owner, a lovely man whose passion for the blend and commitment to his customers’ individual coffee foibles fascinated her, being basically a non-coffee drinker herself …. how ironic that the owner should mishear her and order her the “usual” anyway.  

The heat. The world felt slower, languid, indifferent to the lunchtime rush. Trees lining this old part of the town, perfectly still, dappling the pavement and holding on to their green as if they knew this summer’s day was still to come, when everyone else thought autumn must surely be here.   

She felt calm.  She felt the world around her and was thankful.  For all the hurt and the sadness, just a dull ache now and which she knew from experience only time could heal, she felt glad to be alive and the shift came imperceptibly.  It was the clarity of light, the intensity of the heat, and the sudden realisation that right there, right then, she was exactly where she needed to be.

 

finding Crete

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What better for a broken heart than the kind of love that would never let her down … the love of her oldest and dearest friend. Where better for a broken heart than the kind of place that would breathe life and warmth back into her fragile, battered soul.

And so, a month after he’d left, she and said oldest and dearest friend, stepped off a morning flight into the blistering heat that is Crete in late Summer.

It felt as though the tiny family-run hotel just east of Rethymno, had been sent to take her in and mend her.  Somehow, on a Greek island saturated with tourists at peak season, they had managed to find a oasis of calm. Right next to the beach, she could, within minutes of leaving her room, feel the fine warm sand between her toes and breathe in the salty air.  It was perfect.

They fell into the island’s welcoming embrace, whiling away their days under the bluest skies, discovered that Greek salad tastes three times as wonderful when you are actually there, that sometimes it’s fine to seek out foreign lands and in the end do nothing at all, and that red wine and lazy sun-kissed days can soothe a restless mind to sleep. She talked and cried out her hurt while her friend listened, then listened some more, like good friends do.

In the end,  she could talk and cry no more. She would rise early every day to sit at water’s edge.  The tears she’d determined she would not cry for him, fell in rivers onto the sand as she searched for him where the sea met the sky … he was not there, and finally, as Crete’s magic worked its Aegean charm,  she felt her heart starting to let him go.

finding Heartbreak, Again

“Perhaps this is what the stories meant when they called somebody heartsick. Your heart and your stomach and your whole insides felt empty and hollow and aching.”
(Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

He was gone.

She always knew, of course, that he would leave to follow his dream – he’d told her that right from the start.  He never said he’d stay because of her … and even if he had, she would have told him to go anyway.  This was something he had to do, and though they’d talked of her following him one day, for now he had to do this alone, to find himself, to find his path.  It was a difficult time, an emotional time, when he needed space to prepare for the journey ahead. She found herself caught in the no-mans-land between the life he had and the life he was going to, and as her vulnerability grew, so did the distance between them.

She knew how it would end … yet she loved him anyway. The waiting game moved to a new chapter, one where she did not know if she would ever see him again. His leaving broke her heart.

The difference this time, she reasoned,  was that she knew she would be fine, she had survived this before. She knew how it would play out, the journey from loss to hope.  She was stronger now. She would not let it pull her down to the depths of despair, fear, longing and sadness she had felt before. She would not give it the head space.  She would be kind to her soul, her very essence of being, and laugh again.  She would accept that he had gone, and live her life to the full, without him.  That was her plan.

But her heart did not hear. There is no short cut from loss to hope.  Days of despair and fear cannot be shortened to just one day, sadness and longing do not give in to hope without a fight.  He had taken a piece of her with him, and so, like before, heartbreak wrapped its icy fingers round her soul, and she lived her life as best she knew how, while she waited for the thaw.

 

 

 

finding 445 Days

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Day 444. His message read, “I’m leaving with the morning tide”.

A lifetime before, it was his freedom of spirit that had called to her soul. Those impenetrable eyes that would always seem to hide his darkest secrets, sparkling then, as he told her of his plans to sail the world, of being brave enough to dream impossible dreams.

So how it would end, was written from the start.  A cautious heart with any sense of self preservation would have wished him well and moved on.  Hers was neither, and in that moment as she fell under his spell, the pendulum set in motion, marking their days.  

The other lady in his life had stood proud and tall at the marina’s edge when at last they were introduced, and later, as the three of them glided out into the heady blue, the wind caught the mainsail,  and their spirits soared as one.  Anchored under the stars that night, time, it seemed, stood still.

The months passed. She waited and watched in awe, while he poured over tidal charts, swathes of blue surrounding tiny dots of paradise, and lavished his every waking hour on resolutely fettling his dream into a reality. She breathed his salty air as it seeped into her very core, and, for all the voices that told her she was crazy to give up everything she knew for his dream, she believed him when he said “meet me on the other side”.  

The last day. He silently slipped the ropes, a morning fog wrapping its icy fingers around the bow, stealing her heart and the promise of their tomorrows. She held her breath as the pendulum caught the final whisper of the prevailing breeze, it’s heartbeat faltered, and stopped.  

He took with him a piece of her, lost to the heady blue and the whim of the salty skies ….. and was gone.

First published by Reflex Fiction (Spring 2017)

 

finding the Other Lady in his Life

so serene at rest
calm and self-assured

as the sparkling dance
on the tips of the waves
fades with the setting sun

gone
only to reappear above
in the darkened sky
like magic
one by one

the gentle lap on her bow
as she wraps her arms around you
her hypnotic caress
a slow, lingering kiss
your bodies as one as
she whispers sweet nothings

“I am here, trust me, I am yours”

with the waking day,
she sleepily stirs
the breeze catches her breath
her sun-kissed limbs
languidly stretch
as she turns her face to the sun
calling her
an intoxicating desire engulfing her

“take me”

she arches her back
and groans with longing
as she strains to the call
of the heady blue

your powerful arms hold her tight
guide her
reassure her
as you take control
as she bends to your will

and you conquer the world

as one

 

finding The Algarve

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“The more places you see and the more people you meet,
The greater your curiosity grows.
The greater your curiosity, the more you will wander.
The more you wander, the greater the wonder.”

(from “Rise Up & Salute The Sun”, Suzy Kassem)

Travel means different things to different people.

For many, it is the opportunity to rest and unwind in sunnier climes, without stepping too far out of comfort zone, somewhere that is a home from home, which is what package holidaying first gave us in the 70s, and what owning a property abroad offers us today.

For others, travel is the opportunity to explore, challenge and discover … and whilst they would probably veer towards the later, none of us would pass on the offer to spend some time luxuriating in a beautiful apartment in Portugal’s Algarve.

Despite its name translating literally to “Moorish Town”, there is very little in terms of history in Vilamoura – in fact it didn’t exist until about 30 years ago,  when a Portuguese banker saw an opportunity to redevelop the local harbour into an opulent marina complex of harbourside restaurants and bars, with avenues of pristine holiday homes around exquisitely manicured golf course. Today it is an expat and summer tourist heaven … a man-made escape from reality.  Nothing wrong with that, and to escape from reality with him, just for a while, was like living a dream.

But it is not Portugal ….

There is a road that runs from Faro airport to Lagos, a main artery running along Portugal’s southernmost coastline. Take any turning to the left, towards the sea, to find communities like Vilamoura, white-washed villas surrounded by opulent green.

Take any turning to the right, to find a land baked to a parched, dry crisp in the Mediterranean heat … mile upon mile of wild and rugged barrenness.  All roads wind up through Serra de Monchique, a rolling mountain range offering breathtaking views towards the Algarve and west to the Atlantic and Cape St Vincent.  Careworn villages scatter alongside dusty tracks, stark reminders of the fact that Portugal is one of the poorest countries in Western Europe.  Up and up, winding towards Monchique, an irresistible and charming hamlet, cooler in climate and cooler in vibe than it’s coastal neighbours. They wandered the seemingly deserted streets looking for shade in the midday heat, enchanted by its faded tile-clad buildings and seduced by the heady aroma of the surrounding eucalyptus groves. It felt real … and it took her breath away.

Two faces of the Portugal … one saying “look how beautiful you’ve made me”, and the other, “I already am.”

finding Long-Distance Love

 

Love reckons hours for months, and days for years; and every little absence is an age.”  (John Dryden)

There is no good reason to embark on a long distance relationship.  It is far from easy. It requires strength, belief, trust, commitment, honesty and willpower.  It is not for the fainthearted …

But, when does the heart listen to reason?  Hers certainly didn’t.

As was her way, she fell in love from the moment she saw him, and the fact that he lived six hours away, and that the number of days they would be together was destined to be vastly outnumbered by the number of days they would be apart, mattered not.

The freedom to pursue her own life, whilst at the same time being in a relationship, would seem, on paper, to be an ideal scenario for the strong, independent woman she liked to believe she had become.  She had a good life, a really good life.  But, no matter what anyone says, deep down, right deep down, there is a place inside of us all that can only be filled by loving and being loved by someone special.  And when it is, there is no other feeling like it in the world.

That is how he made her feel.

So, all the while she was living that really good life, she was waiting … to hear his voice, to look into his eyes, to feel his lips, to let her heart drown in his love.  She looked to it for her strength, exhausted as she was by having to be brave alone, and in doing so, vulnerability suffocated her independent spirit, and she fell victim to the highs and lows of the long waiting game.

In love, she would not of course have changed a thing.  She counted the days, the hours, the minutes until she jumped down from the train and ran into his arms at the end of the platform. It was all so tragically romantic. The times they were together hit those heart-soaring, live-for-the-moment, sexually-charged, adrenaline-soaked emotional highs that made all the waiting worthwhile.

And all the while, there was an unspoken pressure to make the most of the time, not to let a single moment pass to love, to talk, to touch, to look into his eyes and know that he felt the same, to make memories to sustain them during the waiting game. Absence, they say, makes the heart grow fonder … but it was never about loving more – it was about waiting, longing, and unwittingly putting him on a pedestal so high that there was always the danger of a fall.

The clock was always ticking – too slowly while they were apart, too quickly when they were together.  They became experts, by necessity, at matter-of-fact goodbyes, no dramas, just a wave … and he was gone.  The sanctuary of his embrace fading in an instant to the chill of his absence and the longing to see him again.

But she loved him, so very loved him.  So she waited until the next time. Always, until the next time.

 

 

finding Summer

I love you
I love you
I love you

No need to say it back

I tell you
because it’s how you make me feel
because somewhere in the depths of
this bruised heart of mine

is a feeling that is
for you alone
and I will shower you with it
like confetti

because it makes every day
feel

like Summer