It’s really only once you sit and look back upon your life; once you ponder the decisions and events that have lead to this point in time, that you realise how much you’re truly grateful for, and how much you truly regret. Day by day, nothing changes, everything feels the same, yet when we reflect, we realise how different everything really is. How much things have changed, all without us realising. We’re none the wiser, and that mostly comes down to the constant turbulent nature of life. I was never one for fond memories, never one for euphoric feelings of nostalgia, of looking back at my life through rose-tinted glasses and pretending I’m happy with myself and what I, and in turn, my life have become. However, that cynicism is no more than a facade in reality. This certainly is not how I expected my life to be when I was a teenager, when I was still young and reckless; throwing myself to the wind without a care in the world – but to say that I’m unhappy, would be a complete, and utter lie. You were both the best, and worst thing to ever happen to me.
I came, originally, from a place far, far away from here. Life was very different in this place – the people were always in such a rush, for what, no one knew; I’m not even sure they themselves knew. The hustle and bustle of a sonorous metropolis was all around you, there was no escaping its deafening cacophony. It was far too easy to get caught up in it all. When the world around you is moving so quickly, where everything happens at such a rapid pace with absolutely no indication or inclination of slowing down, let alone stopping – it was so simple to just let go. The winds of change were blowing, and I wasn’t about to fight it. You simply let it drag you down and away with it. A hurricane of emotions. Of bad decisions. Of fading memories.
Once you walked into my life, nothing was ever the same. From that day onwards, everything in my world was forever changed. For better or for worse. Whilst I threw myself into the wind with absolute reckless abandon, you were there to make the storm even stronger, to make the ground seem even further away, to make the future even hazier than it already was. It’d be decades from now before I found an anchor strong enough to hold me down, but it could not cover the scars that storm, that you, left me with. From the moment I first laid eyes on you, I was in love. Enigmatic, charismatic, drop-dead gorgeous, with a hint of mystery, and menace. A deadly, and yet bizarrely romantic combination. If my life was moving fast before, we were now going at break-neck speed, the two of us intertwined, a force of utter chaos and self destruction, an almost unstoppable force combining with a near immovable object. We were meant for another, you and me; but at the same time, I can’t help but think how terrible a pairing we were. I loved you, or rather, I still do love you with every fibre of my being, but you broke me. You left me a shell. A shadow. I am lost without you.
Looking back, I’m not entirely sure just how much time you and I spent together. It felt like only a matter of weeks, with how quickly everything was going, in my mind, in my heart, and in our lives. At the same time however, if you were to tell me it was years, I’d believe you in an instant. I felt like I’d known you all my life, as if you were more than just a fragment of it, a part of it; you were it. You were my everything. When all that fell apart, when the storm had reached its climax, I couldn’t stand to live in that place any longer. Everything reminded me of you. The blaring sounds, the bright lights; I began to feel numb, desensitised, vacant, and empty. It’s as if someone had pressed mute on all the noise, as though someone had drained all the colour from the world, leaving only shades of grey. You did this to me, and the worst part is, I don’t think you even realised, or, even worse, you did know and didn’t care.
I had to get out, and I didn’t care where. Making “adult” decisions was never my strong suit. Then again, I’m not sure anything was my strong suit. The child inside of me who had never learnt what it meant to grow up dealt with the situation, the only way he knew how. I ran away. From you, from that place, from myself. I ran away from it all. I didn’t know where I was going, and I didn’t care, all that mattered, is that you weren’t there. But you were though, weren’t you? You never left me. Never left my side. A stain I could never wash away. A scar I could never cover. A memory that refused to fade. I began a new life, under a new name, in a new and foreign place; but you, no matter how hard I tried, would never leave me alone.
Sat by the fireplace, in the little wooden home I never thought I’d build, stroking a beard I never thought I’d grow, living on the farm I never thought I’d own, watching the children, whom I never thought I’d raise, playing outside in the snow; I wonder how anyone could ever want for more than the simple pleasures which life has to offer. This wasn’t how I’d imagined my life would be as a young man; my life was very different then – I didn’t even know if I’d be alive to see such an age. Life wasn’t perfect, it was not a dream, but it was alright – good, even. The wife, whom I never thought I’d marry stands in the kitchen, cooking something wonderful, something proper and homemade. The kind of meals I could only have dreamt of as a child. The alluring smells of fresh herbs, and simmering meat waft throughout the home I built on this cold Winter’s day.
Life may not be perfect, but I’m content, maybe even happy. She isn’t you, and she never will be. Deep down, in her heart, I think she knows this, but she’s content all the same, maybe even happy. She’s tended my wounds and helped me carve a piece of the world out for myself. And if you asked me, maybe I would tell you that I’m content. I ran away from happiness long ago, but this life isn’t so bad.
My only consolation is that she’ll never know of the part of you living always in me: the glimpse of your spirit that I bottled and swallowed, which resides ever with me. She’ll never see the hand that rests upon mine as I clean, nor the arms about my shoulders as I rest in my chair. When we sing together, she hears only my voice. When she holds me at night, she doesn’t see that she wears your arms, that your lips forever separate hers from mine. I hope, when I am gone, she will convince herself that I loved her. “In his own way,” she’ll think. She’s always deserved more than what I am, more than what I could give. Let her believe that she received it. I pray that she makes me a better man in death than I could be in life.
She wipes a lock of sweat-matted hair from my forehead, and begins to trace fingers lightly over my face. Memories surface of others doing the same. My father, when I was young, brushing my face to help me fall asleep. Eventually, you; tracing my features with love at your fingertips, and deep in your eyes. The few people I truly loved in my life, truly cared for; they all stand over me now. The son who’s turned into a man, but still thinks just like his mother. He believes we’re all just lovers, he sees hope in everyone. The daughter, who has eyes just like her father. Just like me, she never stops, and never takes the day for granted. The wife whom I cared for greatly, but could never truly love; no matter how much she loved me. And of course, there was you. You were always there, always with me by my side, no matter how many years went by, for better or for worse. She takes my hand and holds it tightly, my daughter unable to bear the scene unfolding in front of her leaves the room, my son, being the man he is, leaves to comfort her. My wife, a woman who gave her absolute everything for me, a man who gave her so little in return; she looks into my eyes, and I close mine, to look into yours for the very last time.