love is thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail…
– ee cummings
Since we are past All That now, I recently worked up the courage to ask when it all began for him. I have an old steamer trunk in my front hall, and I lose and find things in the depths of it all the time. This time, I had been putting away a blanket and found my folios of old business cards. Our old business cards; the one he gave me on the day that I met him.
If you come to work for us, you can come in my office any time. My door is always open. Except if I’m arguing with my wife.
I remember the moment so clearly; so vividly, as if it were yesterday and not almost seven years ago. I was drinking too-hot green tea that I desperately wanted to rid myself of; I was wearing a blue suit that I still have.
He smiled at me and raised his eyebrows, and I thought: This man and I could make each other very miserable one day.
(I am usually right about things like that.)
I knew the moment I met you, I explained to him. I am a Knower.
(More on that another time.)
I didn’t, he said, It was some time after that. You were leaning over my desk, and your shirt had ridden up. I could see the lines of your back; your pants had slipped down; I could see your thong. I thought it was on purpose.
I was on the phone when he said it; I was blushing. I have always taken care to cover up; it took years for people to realise how sick I was because I was always swathed in layers and layers of fabric.
I am not like that, I replied.
How strange to be an Object of Desire! How odd that he had ever lusted after me for anything but my brain; my words! Until that moment, I’d never known when he’d taken the turn. We had begun as peculiar master and dutiful pupil. Before he became a lawyer, he’d been a scholar of literature. And I was the sort of woman who left wet towels on the floor and talked about Baudrillard and Foucault in bed.
After we’d finish our uninteresting work, we made our way through the canon and the criticism. Then one day, he bought a map and I’d stand before him as he’d point to tiny specs of islands. Now what is this? he’d say. I wouldn’t know.
And later, when he’d call me, he’d query: Where is this archipelago? Where is that set of islands? I’d laugh and say the South Pacific. But it would be the South Atlantic, or the Indian Ocean. Or some other far-flung place we’d imagine going together.
It would never happen.
The point is: It is funny when someone breaks your heart — breaks it right out from under your nose. It is weird to feel that sinking feeling when you realise that you were The Means and not The End. And the feeling never really goes away — particularly because even after you’ve soothed the Hurting Self, and you’ve steeled your wobbly soul — he comes back. Every six months or so, the susurrations of feeling and doubt whoosh in through that drafty window in your heart (everybody sees you’re blown apart/everybody sees the wind blow.)
It happens every six months or so because, like clockwork, he calls and he says he misses something; or you open a drawer and find the poems you used to write. You wonder if anyone will ever play your heartstrings in such a way as to produce such music.
Will I ever write poetry again?
And so semi-annually, you write and you call and you beg each other: Please let us always remember! You promise that it won’t ever be forgotten.
But then he calls and for the first time in three quarters of a decade, you don’t recognise the voice you thought you’d know forever.
Life, as it turns out, goes on.
As if a leaky faucet has stopped dripping in the night, there is silence. But you became so inured to the sound of the drip that it had become white noise. And when it stopped, you never noticed.
When I noticed the silence, I was far away from here. The rain was beating down around the yoga shala — so fiercely and loud that the waves, just steps away, could not be heard over the din.
I finally don’t think about him…
I didn’t know how long he had been gone.
Love, of course, is thicker than forget. It is stranger than the Moment of Knowing; more powerful and peculiar than being Objectified. It is a bramble bush of beginnings and ends; a wave of feelings and a shipwreck of words.
But sometimes, perhaps the time must come when love needs to be thinner than recall.