On my cold dark day I stumbled onto a good excuse to spend a few days in London, so I boarded the bus with a few hours notice and half a plan.
January sales on Oxford Street can look like the end of world came early with big discounts and sales banners. But from my top deck spot the bustling shoppers seemed strangely serene, black beetles wearing their winter woollens. After Dhaka, nothing much the UK has to offer looks intimidating enough to call itself a crowd.
The streets were still wearing their holiday best. Dangling snow flakes, shining through the drawing-in of night, had me wide-eyed, excited, as if Christmas and a younger world had found their way back to me just a little late.
London was where I last loved someone as if it would last forever. My happiness then was so strong I can almost believe it is still out there somewhere walking the streets, holding his hand. I cannot be here without wondering where he is, how he is.
There are some loves you know you will never quite, completely, put down. They are born of the best of you.
As the 73 trundled to King’s Cross, the back bus windows framed the light cast by days of laughter, a montage of memories flicking behind my eyes. There were the robber squirrels we used to visit in Hyde park, the little restaurant in Soho where I learned to use chopsticks, the summer spot where my ice-cream dropped as if to give him the chance to give me his.
I remembered his smile ending the day and waking me up in the morning. I remember reaching for him through fogs of sleep and having the perfect certainty my touch would always find him.
Even at five years distance, that love remembered has warmth enough to warm my hands on.
It was wonderful to remember who love made me, to feel the echo, the thrum, of something that felt so blessed. And yet it ended.
We were always wrong footed, always getting the story muddled, criss-crossed. I liked him first but my confidence frightened the life out of him. He thought I would eat him for breakfast, and of course he was entirely right.
My life did not wait. While he was still thinking it through and mustering courage, I moved on, moved a world away, got engaged to someone else. Time passed, that life broke and I came back, battered, swearing I would never take a chance again.
Somehow in that other broken-hearted after, he said he loved me. Always stubborn, I argued with him for hours, fought for days, told him he don’t know himself, never mind his heart. And yet there in my state of ‘I can’t love you because I’ll never love again’, I found I’d never really loved before.
I loved him sniffy snuffling sick. I loved him fallen asleep drunk on the toilet. I loved him fussing over the wrong kind of yoghurt. I loved him wrong, imperfect, goofy, frightened, messy, weak and it was as if I was remade by that act of loving everything I never really liked.
Years later our story finally tripped, paused and stopped with angry words in a hotel lobby. I waited for him to find some fight. He never did and now I know he never could have.
I have no anger, nothing to curse him with. He loved me a little less than I loved him and since I loved that man with all the strength I could muster, with all the ferocity I owned, that never really surprised me, although it always hurt. Or maybe it was that my love found action, expression, whilst his never did. I know our ending fell on him with all the same sudden weight that dropped on me.
I don’t miss him anymore but I miss the perfect faith I had in the happy ending.
As I looked out to the sliding lights of the city, I realised there was nothing of me lost in that story.
Loving well should not be regretted, not even on a cold winter night, at what feels like a lifetime lived in a few streets of distance.
Love is not numbered, not lessened in the living, however painful it might be, or how broken it seems to leave us. Each pulse of our hearts leaves us with more soul, more strength to give just a little more of ourselves than we could have done before.
I don’t need a lover to love like a lion..