On the mantelpiece, under a thick copy of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, I waited for three days. I could hear them, the woman, with her children I assume, living their lives in the house, murmurs of their conversations, of parties, of trips, of other nonsensical things – My God, it was boring.
One would assume having the weight of the supposed father of English literature on me would be more entertaining than hearing what was happening in that house. But it was equally painful. I would have preferred something lighter to be pressed on me. A Russian extraction – perhaps Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, maybe even someone French? Hugo I’m fond of, though his lack of humour always bothered me – ah irony, wicked irony! Why couldn’t I have an intelligent woman whispering taught vernacular full of wit and wickedness without cruelty. I want to feel Austen’s embrace! Not this Chaucer with his heavy verse and prose whose winding rhythm bored me. Though I do like the Wife of Bath . . . but no it all bores me. Boredom is dangerous you see. It forces one to remember all the things they want to forget.
I couldn’t help but think of Shakespeare then. More than anyone, I want to be buried under his words. How comforting, how true, how timeless they are. For some reason, I continuously recall, like a prayer, the words of Tatiana Queen of the fairies and her speech on the forgeries of jealousy. Then in the same way unrelated thoughts connect together, transform one another, I thought also of the beautiful Portia and her words on the quality of mercy. Why should those words come to me now? It doesn’t matter, because there he was. The man had returned to claim me.
I could feel anticipation surging through him, as he pulled me out from under that book. He unfolded me and I arched towards him. At close inspection, I saw that he was older than he seemed. From a small twitch, to the flare of his nose and the tip of his tongue circling the inner edge of his lips, his mannerisms took me through the journey that brought him here, to a fear that he was turning to stone from the inside out. Through me he saw what was supposed to have been and what actually was. In that moment, I fulfilled my real purpose and became the voice of the woman who marked me and I said,
While I’m writing this, I can still smell you on my skin. I don’t know where to start. They say it’s good to start at the beginning. So cliché.
My heart was broken before you. I was lonely before you. I was afraid. Fear kept me safe, alive but undead. I can actually say now, without a doubt, that I’m cured of that fear. The answer was in me the whole time. Like Dorothy and those fucking ruby slippers. I’m sure I’m not the first to discover this, but it’s the first time for me. The antidote to the fear of love is love itself. Dramatic, I know.
This realization gave me more than peace. Who knew bumping into you outside a bookshop while it was raining and then dropping my books on your foot would have changed my life forever? Do you remember what you said to me when I told you how sorry I was? You said, ‘that’s OK, you dropped them quite gracefully actually, what’s your name?’ And then we laughed when I told you my name, didn’t we? It was that easy. I wish it could still be easy. I saw your wedding ring and despite that I couldn’t help what was happening. Next thing I know, it’s five years later.
I’m sorry that I’m writing this but if I saw you, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I had an epiphany when you left a few minutes ago. The words you said weren’t supposed to hurt, I know. You said them without thinking, a manner all truths are delivered in before they destroy everything.
‘I have to go. They’re waiting for me.’
I stayed in bed after we made love and started to hate them. Who am I to hate them though? Who are you to betray those who have been good to you despite what we share?
Our love is ours, not an excuse for us to hate others, for others to hate themselves and us.
I could stay and you could have everything but we would lose our pride. Love without pride is a disease. I read that somewhere, I can’t remember where but it makes sense right now. Love without pride is a disease and before we become ill we have to leave each other.
Don’t be mad. Don’t hate me. Don’t look for me. I’m gone. I’m a memory. I’ll never see you again. I think, no matter what happens now we’ll always be inside each other. Please, remember me as what I am to you not as what I’m doing now. Please, don’t be sad. Don’t cry. Our love is greater than heartbreak.
The man was not man anymore. Nothing made him feel as small and as great then the sublime understanding that he was lucky enough to understand, to have experienced the words she wrote him. He wept. His heart writhed. He died, like I did, like she did. Was it a good death? I realized that it doesn’t matter. Death is subjective.
The man then placed me carefully into the great big book of Chaucer’s words and left the room. His visits were frequent at first but with time they decreased until one day they stopped all together. Time might have forgotten me but it didn’t leave him alone. The last time I saw him his hair was white and his skin a web of lines but in his eyes nothing had changed.
She was wrong, the woman called Grace. Love isn’t greater than heartbreak, they are equals, one of the same thing, living in a balance. It’s a thought that occupies me along with memories of those days. But thoughts aren’t what preserve my sanity, my self worth and vanity. I wait pressed within the heart of literature, content because I know that no weapon can kill as swiftly, no death sweeter, no truth can be truer than a letter filled with words.