24 Hours.

We kissed for the first time at a floating bar at midnight in a busy city neither of us lived in. She put her hand on the top part of my thigh, where my leg met my hip as I leaned in to press my lips against hers. I remember exactly what that hand felt like on my hip and how sweet and soft her mouth was. That gentle pressure; a confident possessive touch; that warm, enveloping kiss. I loved it.

There were 100s of people around but in that moment, I honestly understood what people meant when they said the object of their affection was the only person in the room. These people around us were furniture to me. She was radiant against the flickering lights on the water behind her. I drank in how she looked at that moment, tried to commit it to memory, attempted not to rush things even though I wanted to fall into her immediately, as completely as I could.

I wanted to stay there for hours even though it was freezing and I clearly had not dressed for the weather. I had hoped that she would be content spending the entire night with that hand on my hip and her face close to mine like I had dreamt about for months.

Instead we walked through the city, keeping warm with her arm around my shoulders and my hot breath on her neck. We kissed in the line at the cinema and I caressed her knee as she jumped during the scary part of the movie. We sat on the curb outside a bar after we decided it wasn’t worth the cover charge. I followed behind her, hand in hand through the casino trying to find somewhere to eat so late at night. Catching the early morning train home, we dozed on each other’s laps and held each other so fiercely you’d think it was the last chance we’d have to be together.

It turned out it was the last chance we’d have to be together.

In the morning, I attempted to show her just what she meant to me. I wanted my touch to show her just how beautiful I found her, inside and out. I hoped that my kisses would let her see how important she’d become to me. Maybe I succeeded in making her see how I felt about her — I’ll never know. I guess it doesn’t matter.

When I asked “are you ok?” she said no. Of course at that moment, I stopped what I was doing. When I asked “what’s going on?” she said I wasn’t her ex. Of course, in that moment, that broke my heart.

She left after kissing me hard on the cheek. No hand on hip, no warm, soft mouth on mine. I spent the next two days in that bed before flying home, crying the entire way.

I remember the rain came down hard on the windscreen on the drive from the airport to my house. I remember thinking of course. Of course she could not love me. Of course I was foolish to think she could. Of course the rain welcomes me now. 

It may have been just 24 hours that we spent together but it was the loveliest 24 hours. It may have been the most heartbreak I’ve ever felt, but it was the most joy I’ve felt before a fall.

I am still grateful.

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Juxtaposition.

I took a picture of the floor of his room when I woke up. He didn’t hear, of course, health issues and all. The click was heard by me alone. My smile hidden from his sleepy eyes.

It was perfectly set there on the ground underneath his ironing board, upon which the towel I used to cover myself while I scurried like a mouse to the bathroom late at night.

The image: of workboots; covered in plaster and paint and the ugg boots; cosy and warm. Two sides of him that I’ve seen and have come to love on their own and as a package. Sitting side by side, I found them comforting and illuminating, like an early morning epiphany.

He worked hard and he was soft. I found this in the way he touched my body and kissed my lips. I found this in the way he listened to me speak about how I felt and what I thought and what I longed for. I found this in the way he turned towards the discomfort of talking of his feelings. I found this in his actions and I found this in his words.

I found this in myself. I’d always hoped to find it in someone else.

Mother.

This month things were different –

there was blood and pain

on a scale I’d never felt

So I saw the doctor as you should

and he prodded with words

and with fingers

And later on the phone

I relayed the possible diagnoses

She sobbed in response to one word:

I hadn’t realised the gravity of what I’d lost

Until my Mother had

Two lovers.

 

If, for example, you had two lovers;

one who needed, always, to be needed,

searching, palms up, requesting reassurance,

begging for intimacy and affection,

and another:

one who walked, straight and tall, alone,

good — no, great — at boundaries.

Self sufficient, safe on their own.

Time alone: rejuvenating.

Would you think, these two lovers were

the most tragic of couples?

The first always empty,

never satisfied, ever insecure.

No fault of the other.

Always offering in order to receive.

The other heavy and burdened

with demands upon them,

always reacting, never satisfying,

desperately wanting space

and understanding.

No fault of the other.

Both cannot provide what the other requires.

How did they get here?

Did they arrive, because one saw

the relationship as transactional?

Is there another destination available to them?

Please. Tell me there is.

 

Listening.

I lightly scratched my nails down her back. She winced and asked me to stop. I’ve never had that reaction to my touch before.

I asked her why. She said she didn’t like it. Obviously. My physical response to her words was dramatic. My heart fell into my stomach, my skin prickled, a gasp caught in my throat. I tried to hide my surprise; disappointment; hurt.

I said I didn’t know how to touch her. I told her that scared me. I made it her problem when it was mine. I know that now, but I did not see it then. I was everything I’d always tried to avoid; a selfish lover.

I’m good at responding to feedback. I’m good adjusting my behaviour in response to moans, groans and indifference. I am not good at responding to direct shut down. I’ve never encountered it before.

Have I been blissfully unaware of my sexual inadequacies with previous partners who were too shy to tell me what I did that they didn’t like? Maybe I’m really no good at listening.

So long.

It had been so long. Maybe 7 years, since we’d seen each other. About as long as we were together. I’d fantasised about this meeting every now and then throughout the years. I wondered if it would ever happen. I wondered if we’d both die before seeing each other again. I wondered how he’d feel about that. I never really thought about how I’d feel. What do people think about their first deep loves when their lives are ending? Anything at all? Regret, probably. Happiness, maybe.

He texted and said he was in town. I said hey, welcome. We talked about the things that you should do when you visit this town. I asked if he were free to catch up. It just came out. I pressed send before I really thought about the enormity of that idea. He said it would be great to get a drink; it had been so long. I agreed. It had been so long.

So then, there we were, sitting in a bar together, new partners by our sides, trying to make all the awkwardness less awkward. I was glad to not be alone, but I wish we could have been honest like you can when you’re in the dark, or when you’re alone. All the things that were never said seemed to hang in the air. They could not be said here either.

I don’t know what he wanted to achieve by meeting up. I don’t know what I wanted. To satisfy curiosity? To make it all OK? To make sure we were both fine? To tie up loose ends? Simply because we were in the same city? I don’t know.

I could tell that she was uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. The New Girl, the New Girl who had been around for years now, with him. The New Girl that obviously fit in his life, long term; his forever girl. I’d seen her on his social media for years now and I was and am genuinely happy for them both. She seems smart and funny and obviously kind and understanding – she came along to the 7-years-later-catch-up-with-the-ex after all. That takes some serious love and understanding and support. I was impressed and thankful for her confidence. I felt bad for her discomfort. I tried my best to make things open and light. I don’t know whether it helped at all.

We talked about our families and filled each other in on what all the brothers and sisters and Mothers and Fathers were doing these days. It felt like the two of us were performing in front of a small crowd. It was clear that we were completely different people now. We didn’t talk about the lies and we didn’t talk about the fights or the falling outs and the distance. We didn’t talk about love. We didn’t talk about the ring. I guess we didn’t really talk about much. Then he was gone. Again.

Afterwards, a text message told me he was sorry. I asked if it was about the night or our relationship and he said maybe both.

I said me too. It had been so long.