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  • Writer's pictureCrone

The one about love

Yesterday afternoon, wanting to fill some time before I allowed myself a glass of wine, I decided to clear out my desk. As it happens, I didn't throw much away. Highlighter markers went. No use on a lap top. A few miscellaneous bits related to old phones and cameras. A pair of sunglasses that really were unpleasant. I found that my old prescription reading glasses do improve the vision of my one eye that sees and figured maybe I'd give them a few outings. Might not have to squint so much for the teeny print on labels.

Then I went through my sentimental folder. The get well cards after my accident. The good luck cards when I left one job for another. Old love letters from my Oxford boyfriend and my one time fiancé (we weren't actually officially engaged, but we did live together briefly and he was and is lovely and witty and charming and clever). Pictures of the two of us together. That unfeignable happiness. Flirtatious cards from a friend who enjoyed the game of it. Valentines from random strangers received when, as a local TV reporter, I asked for them on air as I was single and lonely. Incredibly unprofessional but it was a joke and the responses were in a similar vein - affectionate and humorous. Letters and cards from my sister. Including a poem she wrote out for me by Louise Glück which I can't find online.

Then letters and cards from my mother, dead now these 25 years. Heart breaking in their love and in their missing of me. She thought so highly of me, of my 'kind heart' and tenderness. She didn't judge me for the times I railed against her, for my failures of empathy, for my desire to leave home. Her diary from the year she died. On one day, just 'Tired.' On another, 'Swollen legs.' Then, 'Isabella leaving.' Followed a little later by, 'Left.'

And letters and cards from the love of my life. Stating that he would always feel the same passion and connection. That he'd never felt that way before. That I was the love of his life. That... oh, all of the things you'd expect. Most wonderful, most caring, most glorious me. Some were written after we parted the first time. Some in the thralls of the early days. A whirlwind lifts me and I'm not in Kansas any more. No Covid-19, no lockdown. My heart has flown to that realm of the precious. Where the colours are bright and the wicked witch is waiting to be killed and I can skip, skip, dance and sing all the way to Emerald City. No, no, I don't want your ruby slippers. There's nothing back here for me.

Oh yes, the dog nuzzles my nose. His whine predicts my wine. He eats, I drink and then he sleeps and I write.

Apparently, shared trauma causes a rise in oxytocin - that's the hormone that encourages pair bonding, parental love and, thus, communal relations (among other things - also labour contractions and out-group antipathy, but never mind about that). No wonder all those NHS volunteers and the people collecting shopping and prescriptions for vulnerable people. A friend told me that one of her friends and his neighbours all had bar-be-ques in their gardens last Saturday night, talking over the fences, sharing the scorched food smells and the laughter. People 'meet for coffee' via Skype; have aperitifs together via Zoom. I've Skyped, I've Zoomed, I've talked over the garden wall. I take food to a couple up the road. I smile and speak to the dog-walkers and joggers, the bikers and pedestrians, the mail man and the bin man. I can't catch the eyes of the ambulance drivers. Their flashing lights make me weep and their service makes me humble.

And it's all so emotional. The love for these - all of them - these anxious or dedicated or terrified or complacent or generous or unwilling or busy or bored or all of these things or some of these things citizens is like, oh, not like that whirlwind of wonder, more of a flood-tide of feeling.

My mother, who praised my tenderness and yet knew my confusion, my fragility, my dreams, she said, independence is the thing. You must be able to pay your bills, have a room of your own and the freedom to choose. Love and ambition and family and education, all that, do in your own good time, but be able to hold yourself together, be able to survive.

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