And here we are again. The old man and me, nowhere near the sea. He’s not old, but sometimes he seems that way. And yet on other days, he seems much younger than me. This conversation would not be an easy one.
“How do you tell the person you love you don’t want to be with her?” His words had a quiet desperation in them, pleading with me for an answer.
I didn’t know; I had no clue. Any words I could have given were safely locked up in my head. They would have given no comfort.
“It’s been a long time now, but I still think of her often.”
What do you think about?
“I remember the moment we met. I was with my closest friends. And she was different. I knew it then at that very moment. I would always know it with every moment since.”
That sounds poetic, even if a bit unrealistic. What was it about her that was so different?
“I couldn’t put my finger on it then like I would later come to find out. She had a way of really paying attention to you, like you were the only person in the room. She had a serious quality to her. Life was not easy; and she knew it more than most, even back then. And because of that, or maybe in spite of it, she always listened, so intently that I felt like what I was saying could be the most important thing in the world. Admittedly, it also made me feel a little uncomfortable too. I was not used to someone caring about what I said, or at the very least, caring as much as she did, in the way she did.
We talked about literature that first time.”
So what happened?
We became friends. We were friends for a long time. We lived in cities three thousand miles away. I eventually did move, but only got as close as four hundred miles. It was then when we fell in love.”
That’s a good thing, right?
“It most certainly was. While it may have been long distance, it was the most real I ever felt up until that point. I adored her kids. And I adored her. We communicated often throughout the day, every day. And we would visit each other. Each moment we spent, felt like an eternity of love. It was one of those feelings that you always wanted to feel, that you thought would never go away.”
It went away?
“No. I still keep it with me. That feeling.
Ever seen the movie ’Stardust’? It’s a great movie. There’s a soliloquy towards the end of the movie about love, that I love.
‘You know when I said I knew little about love? That wasn’t true. I know a lot about love. I’ve seen it, centuries and centuries of it, and it was the only thing that made watching your world bearable. All those wars. Pain, lies, hate… It made me want to turn away and never look down again. But when I see the way that mankind loves… You could search to the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful. So yes, I know that love is unconditional. But I also know that it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing, and… What I’m trying to say, Tristan is… I think I love you. Is this love, Tristan? I never imagined I’d know it for myself. My heart… It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it’s trying to escape because it doesn’t belong to me any more. It belongs to you. And if you wanted it, I’d wish for nothing in exchange – no gifts. No goods. No demonstrations of devotion. Nothing but knowing you loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine.’
I think about that quote when I think about her.”
So why are you not together?
“Cos I loved her. But she was not happy. And I knew I couldn’t make her happy. At least not at that point in her life. Instead of lifting her up, her sadness was bringing me down. Perhaps I was not strong enough to carry the weight of that sadness. And so I did the selfish thing. I walked away. That was a tough Thanksgiving weekend.”
That is selfish. Maybe you should have tried harder? Maybe you should have stuck around?
“I think about that all the time.”
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