I thought about you last night.
In particular, that night on the day we met. I’m not sure why. Is it because I’m thinking about the end of things. The turning of leaves, new chapters, starting again…
My memories were coloured in with feelings, smells, sights and sounds.
Remember the jazz music the taxi driver had on in the taxi? It was urbane and somehow sexy. Though any music playing as you are driven around Paris late at night snuggling in the arms of your lover is sexy. Remember the lights? So many lights pinprick my memories. We walked under the street lamps alongside the Seine, arm in arm, and I was surprised when you asked gallantly if I’d walked too far. I wanted to keep walking, arm in arm forever. But I couldn’t say that then, it would have completely freaked you out.
It was light on the Champs Elysée too, but we found the one remnant of darkness. And in that pocket of discretion in the middle of the median strip, you pulled me close and kissed me.
You surprised me, then. As you often do now. Still.
And the smell of the food in the restaurant was divine. Do you remember? Where you ordered in French and I was impressed and charmed by the way you took my hand across the damask tablecloth and held it softly within yours as if it were a fragile bird.
Could you feel my heart beating fast?
The men at the table behind, with much jollity and guffawing all raised their glasses in a toast to us, and we both blushed. They could already see us the couple. Isn’t it funny how complete strangers can see the truth with such clarity.
But we weren’t so clear, if I recall. We were bumbling on through. No idea how it would work. You lived here in the UK, I lived in New Zealand, it seemed at first we would have to accept that we would not be together, but for that one long first and last night in Paris.
I remember I didn’t get much sleep, but when I did, I woke to you curled around me in the single bed, in a sleeping embrace. I had to carefully lift your arm to creep out to the loo, and as I looked back at your sleeping baby face I fretted a little about how old you really were. And how badly I’d robbed the cradle.
Of course I needn’t have worried. Your youthful looks are the product of good living in a country where the sun doesn’t shine strongly, when it shines at all. As you told me about the Yorkshire of your youth with that dopey smile on your face, I still couldn’t imagine living here. What about the beach? And the summer? And the weeks in the sun at Whangapoua beach with evening BBQ rituals and victuals of wine and steak?
“You’ll miss the beach,” the friend from Halifax now living in Auckland had told me, in reply to my outlined plans. She was right. I did.
“England is terribly expensive,” my mother warned. She was right. It is.
Was I crazy?
Not love-crazy, just proper looney tunes nutso? I wondered, as I packed the boxes for the shipping container. Would it be a mistake? I panicked, as I sealed them with brown tape. What the hell was I doing? I rebuked myself, as I sat at Auckland airport with all three kids looking brave but nervous as we waited for our flight. When the plane finally took off at five minutes to midnight I felt like a tearful Cinderella fleeing the ball.
And now as I once again contemplate the long plane flights, the packing of boxes, the removal of a family’s life from one hemisphere to another, I am overwhelmed with memories. Of the past five years. Of love and tears. Of anguished Skype calls and passionate ‘hellos’ in the Heathrow arrivals hall. Of ‘good night, I love you xx’ In late night text messages.
I don’t want to live apart, not even for a moment, let alone a week, or month, six months, or a year. I don’t want you to be here, and me there. Whenever I think about it I’m overwhelmed with fear.
Can you feel my heart beating fast?
When you took my hand in Paris, I didn’t think you were ever going to let it go. And all these years later, whenever the dark shadow of this fear passes over me, I’m comforted by this quiet knowledge. This is only the end of a chapter, not the end of the story.
You may let me fly away, but I know you won’t let me go.