When I met her she felt her beauty was a recollection: her power to attract, she feared, long since gone and she was defenceless against the scrutiny of those less charitable than herself. She was a drunk in a bar at some place I had never visited but had stopped at in search of shelter. I don’t know how old she was but I’m guessing she thought her sixties seemed like youth and she was now alone with her incongruous health: drunk and smoking like a wild thing: she could still stand and dance and become the abandoned hippie she might have been fifty years before.
I joined her at the bar, and later in her bed, because she dreamed she could still connect in a way her age had no sense of. “Youth has judgement on its side but little else” she said to me as we got undressed and then she started giggling: her accent and the way she spoke hinted at a forgotten education and her movements of her youth. After a pause she reached up to kiss me as if physical was the only language left with meaning. She had travelled life, mostly alone, sometimes beautifully, often lost and seldom comforted and I determined that in my arms, if nothing else, she would find a kind of peace. Out here in the social wilderness there is little left of etiquette, credible gestures or sermons for the meek. All we have is kindness and the hope that beauty and tolerance might still be related.
She was the wisest, loneliest, poorest and most beautiful person I have ever met, who sought a night of abandoned celebration. In her heart and soul she would never be old. Every sentence she spoke was marked by a quality of pathos drenched in whisky and every weakness by a movement of her hand. She talked as if we were both still young and careless of the consequence, and yet we both knew life will challenge your dreams and leave most of them exhausted.
Somehow, despite the madness, disappointments, and that hard knowledge carved out of experience; something in the way I held her brought her home and, before she fell to slumber, I saw light fill her cautious eyes. I love heroes and heroines, and she will always be a bit like that to me: the lady who died in my arms just after she found herself. The wise sometimes find value in the worthless and she saw something precious in my life. Love was a drink late to her table but I was honoured to bring that chalice to her lips. I too can drink, I can’t say otherwise, but the way she looked at me restored fragments of my dignity.