Ever since I have been old enough to want more than to go fishing, play football or become a musician of note, I have had a “Star from Afar:” some inexpressibly mysterious beauty whose progress across the silver screen captured my imagination and heart.
Ingrid Bergman was the first, viewed when I was twenty- four and unaware that she was older than me by several decades. On the screen she was only twenty-seven, and still within reach of my imagination, if not my wallet or reality, but then my recognition of practical difficulties has never been a strong point.
Over the years the list of stars I admired has grown to infinite length, each woman loved without any sense of my being unfaithful to the last or the physical lady of the hour, if one applied for that vacancy. My most obscure addition to the list was Samantha Wheatley, somewhere near my age, who enjoyed a career under the radar, filling in small roles in a number of well-received films although that “Breakthrough moment” never graced her career. She vanished from the world of films and even the internet neglected her life story so that what happened to her, or where she was, remained a taunting mystery.
Most fetching were her eyes, full of gentle modesty and a voice which soothed away my fears: with her alone, I dreamt I might discover myself and open up the door to life beyond the commonplace, but that was not to be. I was an attic man, living in unremarkable isolation and freed from social expectation by a lack of means; but in my dreams I still walked the planet, head held high, and talked with souls whose heightened awareness brought beauty to my world.
What did I care about hardship when her radiance shone in every part she played and I longed for that moment when I might open a door for her or share a glance across the street. I had a dream where she walked across a room, entered by accident, and said with discrete simplicity, “You are my chosen man,” before kissing me softly on the lips.
So it may have remained until one day, by request, I attended the launch of a painter’s career, not known to me but her father was a friend. I walked through the gallery, admiring one work and then the next until a lady asked me if I had the time. I turned to speak to her and saw those eyes again, so full of acceptance and still with a beauty most of us forget, and heard a voice I recognised, but in real life.
Before I could stop myself I said, “Samantha Wheatley” and captured the moment of surprise which moved across her face. “I did not mean to startle you” I said, “But I have been a fan of yours since long before I can remember” and she just smiled. Older than me, but still with that quality of nervous courage, and reaching out to awareness so many creative people have, if only fleetingly: she filled me with awe of her sympathy and bravery. “Beauty of many kinds can light up life at any time, and you are full of it,” I said. She must have been slightly over sixty by that time, and might have thought me strange, but all she did was smile, reach out and touch my arm and thank me for my courtesy.
Most of life is mystery, mine is anyway, wasted on anxieties, or drowned by prosaic demands leaving wonder to another time, but suddenly, when she appeared, wonder seemed to be everywhere and without knowing anything about her I knew I could not let her go. “Come and lunch with me, somewhere safe where you cannot worry about being with a stranger and we can talk.” All she said was “Yes.”
“Yes” is what she said, and I cannot tell you why, but later we talked about our lives and the price of experience. She, like me, was lost and no stranger to catastrophe: we had both sought the ‘Promised Land’ without any sense of geography.
I learnt through her that life is never without the promise of wonder or recognition and somehow, I do not know how, she brought me home: she said the same of me. We are a married now, these six years, and her health is not what it might be, but we share our moment, and, side by side, find peace. I do not want to be safe, life must be more than that surely, but in her arms and by her side I live adventure without anxiety: my star came home.