You saved me a seat in the lecture hall, knowing my bus was always late. You cheered louder than anyone when I got the prize for the highest marks in our year. You persuaded the corner shop to stock gluten-free croissants, so you could serve me breakfast in bed. You held me tight when the memories overwhelmed me, despite knowing no amount of holding could undo the past. You wore top hat and tails at our wedding, though more at home in jumpers and jeans. You did it all with perfect grace. You did it gladly, unthinkingly, for me.
The story I want to write in full is a bit darker, but the essence of being loved remains.
My boyfriend, I thought, as I scrubbed dried-on smears of rabbit stew from Marmaduke’s bowl. My boyfriend, I thought, as hail machine-gunned my face and the wheels of my bicycle splattered my shoes with gutter sludge. My boyfriend, as the laptop in the downstairs lecture theatre of the Skinner building refused to recognise my memory stick. My boyfriend.
It was childish, but childishness was hardly a crime. I used to envy my sister popping round to her boyfriend’s on Sunday afternoons, where they’d lounge on beanbags, listening to records while doing their homework. If I’d missed out on that stage of innocent intimacy, why shouldn’t I grab it now?
I could have it all without betraying the rest of me: my friends; my work; my own private space. My boyfriend didn’t snatch the time and energy I needed, didn’t deplete my reserves. On the contrary, he stretched and magnified what I had already, so that each moment, however ordinary or mundane, seemed twice as precious and twice as long. In giving myself to another I didn’t lose myself.
This was the game I’d played with Geraldine, until life showed me it was false. Now, when I’d all but given up, I’d found a genuine Romeo.
But perhaps more important is her discovery of love in a wider sense, with herself, and with her friends. Does that make it a different type of love story to a romance? While I’m thinking this through, I’ll share some descriptions of love which I’ve gleaned from my reading over the past year or so. I’m hoping they’ll inspire me to better writing in this important area of human experience.
A woman, newly in love, finds love permeates everything:
that happy inner blaze, the passion that let her breathe fully, and gave a shimmer to each hour. She would never have believed that she could love like this, where the whole world seemed divided in two: on the one side, away from him, the tiresome and gloomy city; on the other, where he was, all intensity and life, vividness and humor, and fascination in the littlest things. (Richard Bausch, Before, During, After, p226)
as does a young man:
For me, it’s in everything. Everything I hear. The map of the under, the shape of the river. This journey, the sound of it, it’s you. And that sound is better than any other in my life. To understand? I can’t keep it separate. (Anna Smaill, The Chimes, p218)
Then there’s love that evolves from the new and unexpected to the familiar:
‘Loving someone is like moving into a house,’ Sonja used to say. ‘At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed every morning that all this belongs to you, as if fearing that someone would suddenly come rushing in through the door to explain that a terrible mistake has been made, you weren’t actually supposed to live in a wonderful place like this. Then over the years the walls become weathered, the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love that house not so much because of all of its perfection, but rather its imperfections. You get to know all the nooks and crannies. How to avoid getting the key caught in the lock when it’s cold outside. Which of the floorboards flex slightly when one steps on them or exactly how to open the wardrobe doors without their creaking. These are the little secrets that make it your home.’ (Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove, p266)
Which of these extracts sums up love best for you?