No matter what, the love bounced back every time. Sometimes he tried to stop that being so – tried to keep the love pinioned to the ground where it lay knocked down – but it was no good. Each and every time it escaped his efforts. Junot Díaz wrote that ‘The half-life of love is forever’, and he was right; his would never decay.
He hated the gaps in his knowledge of her, because of all the days which had passed since they had parted; just as he also wanted to be able to chart all the missing elements in his knowledge of her past life, the one before him. He wanted to know everything about her. Despite her periodic attempts to resist him, despite everything that had happened, he felt sure that it was so for her too.
Together in the same place for once, she might have learnt about love from him, seen at first hand the strength and depth of it, that there’s nothing he would not have done for her. Except that you cannot learn love; you either feel it how you feel it, or you do not. And there was always the danger that his love would be no less overwhelming for being in the same room with her, even in altered circumstances. He had to face the fact that he might always be too much for her.
The outward signs of histories can be erased, but they cannot be erased from the hearts and the minds of those who lived through those histories; at least, not until dementia or death takes those hearts and minds for good.
It wasn’t so much that he took her skies as that he responded to them, and wanted the pair of them to make something together, from combining their images, their words, to see how they overlapped and reflected one another. Instead or in addition to their involuntary exchange, it was the urge to initiate and achieve the joint enterprise they had often talked about.
He resisted the urge to look at his phone, but he couldn’t stop thinking about her. It came to him suddenly that although she often missed him badly when he was gone, perhaps she didn’t know quite what this was like, what it was to ache with this level emotional need for someone, as much as sexually long for them. Because he suspected that all those times when she had sent him away, and then came back for him, it was that she missed him fiercely, not that she needed him fiercely. He missed her and he needed her, and with her gone, to compensate for her having gone, it seemed that again he was going to have to reinvent his life, and that was something which over the last five years he had only ever envisaged having to do with her.
In part it must be that he loved as hard as he did to compensate for the distance, because he could so rarely relax into the physical warmth of her arms. That lightness was denied him.
He feared that the greatest irony of all ironies might befall her, equivalent to the deathbed conversion to Catholicism of an atheist. That finally she would fall in love with someone incapable of loving her back. Someone who did not want to ride in on a white charger and scoop her up.
There was no point in loving if he did not love anyone he thought he might be able to love as much as he loved her.
She could never decide who she was, while he always had a strong sense of his own identity.
They may each have started with a lack, but that lack was driven out and away. He wanted to say to her, think rather that you were a fullness to me, as I was to you.
The obsessive part of love is necessarily unhealthy, the part which drives the yearning and the anxiety, but it is indivisible from the good parts, the deliriously happy parts. At least, that’s how it was for him, the way he loved. It was at one and the same time merciful and merciless both to love and to be loved like that.
Sometimes he felt so overcome by her absence that he forgot how hard it had been for her, how low it must have persistently brought her, and it was then that he wished, why couldn’t you have had the force of mind that I do, why can’t you sweep everything else aside and just be with me the way I want to be with you? And in those moments of blinkered frustration, it still made no sense to him that they were not together. No sense at all.
Just as he couldn’t talk or write her into marrying him, she couldn’t talk or write him into giving her up. There in his head, there in his heart, there in every fibre and firing neurone of his being, she was his to hang onto, if he wanted to. Not that it had ever been a matter of choice.