(For background listening: Jeff Beck, ‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers’)
In bed one night, I tried to remember an old girlfriend’s mobile number and could not. There had been a time when her entry in my address book had extra ‘a’s to make it easier to find in my phone, when I would dial her number out of habit when I had been intending to order pizza. Then we had ended – what had been us had come to an end. I didn’t realise I had forgotten her number until I tried and failed to recall it. It was eerie to think that somebody could be so much a part of my life – occupy so much of my time and thoughts, inhabit even my dreams – for a time, and then, some time afterwards, be almost wholly absent.
The other day I was looking for a song, Eartha Kitt’s ‘My Heart Belongs to Daddy’, so I opened my hotmail account and went back in time, looking for the email sent to me in 2006 by a then-ladyfriend, with it attached. I didn’t find it but found another one from her. It was eerie then, too, to read the hopeful flirtation, to see how I had bantered and been so eager: how the prospect of this nascent relationship had excited me so much. In hindsight, I was almost mournful at how far it had fallen short of my dreams. Things went sour with this girl when she, noting my juniority in years, suggested I come back to her when I was older. I’m older now, and I see her around uni. I’ve sat with her on the lawns and admired her attractiveness, marvelling at the unique confluence of circumstances that brought us together and so cognisant now of the unimaginability of our having lasted for longer than we did.
What strikes me about my limited and completely narrow set of experiences is the sensation, in hindsight, of having been on my own trajectory, and of having intersected with others on their own life trajectory. So while I and somebody else could intersect for a time, and delight in creating music together, we are each continuing on our own path, largely independent of our influence upon one another. Not because of what is happening in our present, but simply because of what has happened in our past and how that has shaped each of us and each of our futures, we, as time passes, are drawn further apart. Then we separate, perhaps a little like two pizza slices tied previously together with mozzarella cheese.
Thus, when I look back over the surrealist landscape of my past (I definitely picture it as a painting by Dali), I can see the tracks where I spent time trekking hand-in-hand with another, as well as decrepit structures once were considered home. While my own path through this landscape was always determined, the people I met had an infinity of paths available to them, so the fact that they had a different path is no surprise. It’s pleasant enough to re-encounter such people and witness the path they have taken, all the while struck by how our togetherness, which is relatively fleeting when compared with our apartness, could have happened under no other circumstances. “What is actual”, in the words of T.S. Eliot, “is actual only for one time. And only for one place.”
This certainly doesn’t make a relationship fruitless or something to be regretted – while an end is sad thing and, as Deep Blue Something reminds us, “so much is left undone”, it can’t go back in time and diminish from the joyousness of a relationship in its prime. For me, it is not so much sad to know of my relationships that have ended, but to think of the endings themselves, which have often been sad. The memory, however, of the distant times, the once-forgotten emails, the ease with which I dialled someone’s number, how hearing somebody’s voice could make me smile, how the touch of a person’s hand could thrill me, is gladdening.
Kundera wrote that, for a love to be unforgettable, fortuities must immediately start fluttering down to it “like birds to Francis of Assissi’s shoulders”. What’s being acknowledged here is that a love is a chance occurrence, something that depends upon a myriad of variables and can be thwarted by something as insignificant as a poorly-considered joke. It’s no surprise then, that along the pathway of my life are strewn false hopes and unrealised dreams. A ‘love’ can spring into being as fluidly as co-dancing to Benny Goodman’s ‘Sing Sing Sing’. Sustaining such a love, on the other hand, against what Shakespeare calls, “reckoning Time, whose million’d accidents | Creep in ‘twixt vows, and change decrees of kings” is a feat indeed.