You could call it a meeting of minds: a moment when two souls found in each other’s company that a complex world could become simple, but that was all it was and everything. It was a holiday romance, a trick of circumstance where a lady taking a solitary vacation, “She needed a break to catch her breath,” and I, a cynical journalist who was trying to regain belief, collided through my enduring clumsiness: I spilled my coffee on her dress.
Away from there, we both had busy lives, lived out on different continents, and yet for much of the holiday “Paradise” seemed all there was. Nothing is permanent is it? Not in any life, moment or transient sense of tranquillity but for this brief time the everyday withdrew, granting us a glimpse of untouched majesties.
After our last evening meal and a couple of soothing drinks, as had become our habit, we moved to the front of the boat, stretching out beside each other so we could stare up at the sky and the amazing blanket of stars visible above us: everything was pristine, clear and deep. Like the sea beneath us, the sky above seemed infinite, and we, like innocents, lay beneath its stillness. News had ceased to matter and only the gentle rocking of the boat spoke of a moving world.
Beyond the reach of gossip we lay wrapped in this velvet and wondrous infinity and she moved and touched my hand. She shone for me then and I dared to think she might love me more openly: soon the warmth coaxed us to sleep awhile on the deck: our fingers played together like children, talking in unwritten code. It was the nearest I would get to being at peace with myself and my circumstance.
We were two people, freed to explore the whimsies of life in a place known only to ourselves, without anxiety and shielded from daily concerns by bonds of unspoken intensity. Silence was ours to treasure, only broken when she said “Do you have a photograph of yourself?” and I said “No” “OK. Let me take one then” she said and lifting up her camera.
Against the rules I asked her “Nothing to worry about is there. Nothing I can help you with,” and she said “No.” We drank some more in silence, tonic water mainly, she didn’t much like alcohol, and then she said. “Off to bed.”
“Before you go” I said, “May I take your picture; sometime in the future I might want company.” Some light came on within her as she waited for me to capture her image, then we went our separate ways. It was a romance built on the denial of intimacy, and yet for all that, as my head lay on the pillow, I fell into that special sleep which only happiness bestows. Even now she remains the spring of the simplest and most noble emotions I ever experienced.
Shortly after breakfast with the ship now moored in harbour, and as we finished a snack of toast and eggs a waiter arrived to say her taxi was waiting. She rose to leave: I knew she disliked drama and suppressed it as much as possible, though her eyes said everything, and so, as she stepped back from the table, she smiled and said, “Don’t break anything” which was our secret joke. She walked off then, as if it were the start of a normal day: I never saw or heard from her again. Did I mention she was married?