I am old enough to know that the voyage of life is something I will never understand. Most of the things which happened to me are becoming sensible only in retrospect and clearer with the passage of time. I am one of those men who raise their arm in the street or shake their heads as they finally realise what they should have said or done some years before, while they still had the opportunity to do so.
You left as silently as you came, and it was only later in the day, or year, or maybe the decade that I realised you had offered yourself to me in a manner which was all but unknown to one not used to being noted by others. Those words of yours. “Could you love me” speak to me now. Perhaps you saw in me something I did not notice in myself, but my unconscious rejection of your offer, sparked by shock and embarrassment, was enough to make you leave the room and then my life.
You never came to work again, our place of meeting, and I was left only with the sense of what might have been and my own stupidity. Life offers few friendships which survive our changing circumstances, and I, who have never felt that “Living Life” is a metaphor for surviving it, have thrust myself into each new lane and experience without thought, until there is no one I can raise my eyes to and say, “We were there” because moving on, for me, is a way of life, and friendships which grow over time require some stability of ground in which to flourish: I never offered that.
I am tired now, a pauper in fact and reputation, and reflect on what I left behind, and wonder about that girl who smiled at me without guile and spoke my name with a warmth few others have mustered. Your name escapes me, and only a sense of your shape and the colour of your hair recall your presence in my life. Love means caring about others more than yourself, or so I’ve heard: I’ve little personal experience of it. It touches many lives perhaps, but passed by mine. I have attracted little more than a glance from that emotion apart from that moment when you touched my face and frightened me with your powerful understanding.
Perhaps you were its messenger. A suggestion, sadly ignored out of my clumsy awkwardness. You told me that life might offer more to me than routine and the preparation of solitary meals but I failed to believe you. No doubt you moved on as I did, but hopefully to a more rewarding pasture. To be recognised is a rare pleasure. I mean to be really recognised and understood, and then be loved for what another sees, and, for that brief instant you offered me that. I had lived for so long in emotional darkness that your light blinded me, and then you were gone before I could explain myself, and now I can’t recall your name.
That glance you gave me is what I live on now, sitting awkwardly in cafe’s scratching at crosswords in the daily papers: I do not bother with the news. A clerk in shapeless clothes I may be, but for that instant, a girl offered me her love: a chance to be extraordinary and now I cannot recall her name. That gentle touch and my cowardice in its presence define me but still I get comfort from you after all this time. That is extraordinary is it not. The glance you gave me was extraordinary.