Thursday, 20 December 2012

True Love

I want to tell you a story. A true one, like all my other stories on this blog. But first I need to get something off my chest, so bear with me for a moment.
Take the time to listen to some pop songs from the 50s and 60s. Listen to the lyrics. Note the innocent passion with which the word love is used. The immense importance given to love as being something meaningful and desirable above all else. Nowadays, however, its meaning is vague---the very word has become devalued; I love chocolate ice cream. I love that song. Loved that book. Love your wallpaper. Love that car. Love your new dress. Love your new hairdo. Worst of all over the 'phone, "love you lots, 'bye." How fake. How shallow.
So yes, the word is still used. But so guardedly, so hesitantly, so reluctantly in any romantic sense when describing that powerful emotion for someone, that feeling that transcends every other kind of worthwhile feeling. 
What am I on about, you are wondering by now. I'll tell you. I think love has fallen out of fashion. It's not believed in, really. Come on, be honest. People talk about relationships now. Not about love. They wonder and estimate how long a relationship is going to last. Because every relationship nowadays is time limited. Like a loaf of bread on a supermarket shelf. And it can be entered into in the same casual way that you would reach for that loaf of bread which is needed to satisfy your hunger. And once that hunger is satisfied,'s time to "move on", isn't it. To pastures new. To other "partners". How I hate that word. As if we have entered into a mutually beneficial business association with someone. 
     Well, isn't that what all relationships are about now? Sooner or later someone else will come along. One or the other of us will simply get bored. The habits of our "partner" will begin to rankle. We'll begin snapping at each other. The Magic's gone. Was there any magic in the first place, we start asking ourselves. Call it a day. Done well to last the time it did. Never mind the children. They will survive and grew up to be just like us. How sad. How very sad. 
     How depressed it makes me, this all-embracing cynicism when it comes to the possibility of any likelihood of a deep attraction, a passion that goes beyond the physical and up onto a plane that makes us dizzy with joy every time we look upon or even think about that someone whom we love. No, we've lost faith in love. Romantic love. It's a temporary feeling, like standing close to a fire to warm your hands for a few seconds. We don't really believe in it, because we've come to believe that it never lasts. And that's a mistake. An absolute tragedy.
Is it because we simply have, so readily available, far too much of everything else to satisfy our needs nowadays? It seems as if all it takes to make us happy are the miserable little faces of our mobile 'phones and iPads, which we sit hunched over for hours on end like succubi. If so, then we can no longer call ourselves human beings.
Now for the story.
Some time ago I was commissioning editor for a publishing company. I went to visit a couple of authors up north about the new edition of a book that they had jointly written. Let's call one of them Dr Sam Hudson and the other Prof Luke Martin, because names don't matter. Only love does, whatever you might think. But back to my story.
Sam and Luke were two of the most wonderfully charming guys I have ever been fortunate enough to meet in my life. They put me at ease instantly, and we had an enjoyable meal amidst much talk and laughter at a local restaurant. 
     I noted that occasionally Luke would look up and out of a nearby window, into the distance, as if searching for something, and his expression would change so swiftly and so briefly that in the beginning I was convinced it was only a trick of the light. For in that instant he seemed to be looking into a dark and bottomless abyss into which he was about to tumble with no hope of rescue or last-minute deliverance. A sheer horror that made dark pools of his eyes.
But then he'd turn back to us. Warmth would flood his eyes. A smile would reappear. This happened several times.
Towards the end of the meal, which to be honest we had hardly noticed having been enjoying each other's company so much, Luke excused himself to go to the washroom. Sam and I were left alone.
'Going through a rough patch, is Luke,' I heard Sam mutter.
 Yes, I was really concerned. I'd got to like these guys very much.
'His wife's very ill. She's only got a little time left.' 
It was as if someone had come up to our table and upended a bucket of cold water over us. I didn't know what to say. Sam looked very sad and began fidgeting with the cutlery. 'They've been together a long time. Practically worship each other,' he added quietly.
And then Luke was back with us again and Sam and I hurriedly re-composed our expressions to mirror the former enjoyment that we had been deriving from each other's company.
Talk turned to business. This was good, because I sensed that neither Sam nor I were comfortable going back to the former atmosphere of social enjoyment. Luke didn't seem to notice anything amiss. He went on being a jovial lunch companion. The perfect gentleman in every way. Hiding his terrible secret because he wanted our brief time together to continue in a happy tone.
Six months later I went to see Sam and Luke again. Sam had warned me that Luke's wife had died.
There was a different atmosphere, as was to be expected. I still didn't know the right words to say to Luke, because I did not think any words could mean anything at a time of such devastating and mind numbing grief of the kind that Luke was going through. A wan smile. The life washed out of his eyes. A pale blankness and a strange kind of withdrawal from the world around himself--- no other way to describe it. 
     Well, since I couldn't---no, it's more a case of I wouldn't---say any words of condolence, we rapidly moved on to discussing the new edition again. And there we sat, in a quiet corner of the university library, at a round table, discussing business and nothing else.
Luke's grief was so huge and awesome in its intensity that I was scared. It shocked me just to look upon it. I felt bad about this as I so wanted to say something.
We got into my company car and went to the restaurant for another meal. The conversation was subdued and mainly to do with work. Then, with the meal over, I drove both Sam and Luke back to the university.
And then suddenly, out of nowhere, Luke began reciting funny lines from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass.
"The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things; of shoes and ships and sealing wax. Of cabbages and kings.
And why the sea is boiling hot. And whether pigs have wings."
(Almost without a pause Luke went on,)
"You are old, Father William," the young man said. "And your hair has become very white; And yet you incessantly stand on your head---do you think at your age, it is right?"
"In my youth," Father William replied to his son, "I feared it might injure the brain; but now that I'm perfectly sure I have none, why, I do it again and again."
It was back, that warm buzz which we three had felt at our first meeting! His face wreathed in smiles, Luke had said the lines so perfectly, in such a comic tone, that both Sam and I were laughing our heads off like maniacs. It was so well done, such a neat delivery. Sam and I had tears rolling down our cheeks. Lots of them. Sure, tears of laughter to begin with. Then tears of grief for Luke, because we could show them freely now and make believe to each other that we were still laughing at Luke's performance.
Back at the university Luke wanted to get dropped off at the library, saying he didn't wish to go home yet. Goodbyes were said. For the first time I rather belatedly noticed an air of neglect about Luke. His hair was too long and unkept. There were little red nicks where he had cut himself shaving. A button was missing off his shirt. He didn't look me in the eye when we said goodbye. I suppose he didn't want me to see the darkness he was slipping back into.
I dropped Sam off a little further on. He wouldn't look at me either. I understood that. We didn't want to end up crying for Luke again. Couldn't have that. We were professionals. This was meant to be a business meeting.
I went up again, a year later. In my hands I had a copy of the new edition, hot off the press. But this time it was only Sam I was meeting. Luke had died. No surprise to either Sam or I. We'd both known it was coming. So did Luke. For Sam, Luke and I were men together; we knew about love. And Luke had loved his wife too much to survive without her......
Forget finding someone else. That doesn't happen with true love. Forget getting over it and moving on. That doesn't happen either with true love...... 
......there is no future. There is no life. Nothing matters any more. It's the end in every way. No? Am I being silly? If so, then you, dear reader, have never experienced true love. You have no idea what it is like. Which is just as well, isn't it. Because there is so much in this world for you to enjoy---good books, good food and wine, lovely holidays, fine clothes, fast cars. And don't forget your fancy electronic gadgets. Yeah. Who would want to stop you enjoying all that just for the sake of true love! Go find yourself a time-limited "partner". It's what you understand.

                                         WSWTEndings Vol 1 Kindle and paperback editions  (click)

                                         WSWTEndings Vol 2 Kindle and paperback editions  (click)

                                         WSWTEndings Vol 3 Kindle and paperback editions  (click)

                                         WSWTEndings Vol 4 Kindle and paperback editions  (click)

                                        SSWTEndings Vol 1 Kindle and paperback editions  (click)

                                        SSWTEndings Vol 2 Kindle and paperback editions  (click)
                                    Longer Wacky Stories With Twist Endings (Kindle and paperback editions) (click)
                                  Look Out...Mum's Gone Crackers (Kindle and paperback editions)  (click)                                                   

                                       Hunting The Beast (Kindle and paperback editions)  (click)

                                       May Never The Dead Return (Kindle and paperback editions)  (click)                                                     

                                       Running With Zombies (Kindle and paperback editions)  (click)                                                                               

                                 Wacky Stories For Grown Up Kids (Kindle and paperback editions) (click)


                                       An Unlawful Act In Libya (Kindle and paperback editions) (click)

                                            A Layman's Guide To The Meaning Of Life And Death (click)   

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