Do you ever wonder where the thoughts in your head come from? What prompts the memories that re-visit you seemingly from nowhere?
Recently I’ve had a lot of memories enter my mind. Mostly they relate to the women I’ve known and been with. I’m not particularly sentimental as I recollect these moments, but I find myself closely observing them, as if seeing them from a different perspective all these years later. There are no regrets, but there are things I realise I could have done differently, and the knowledge that my life could easily have been much different to what it is today.
In the course of this nostalgia I recalled, naturally, B. Of all the women I’ve known she was the most fundamental to my life I think. That was the most intense relationship of my life, and when it ended I was a changed man. I’ve written elsewhere of her, so go back and read that if you want the full and exhaustive story.
Anyway in the trail of these various memories it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps I had let myself off easily. You see B ultimately killed herself, years after we parted. When I discovered that I was devastated. One winter’s day I actually took myself off to visit her grave in the country (also described in these pages) as both penance and tribute to her. I had loved her with all my heart once. I could not let her go.
I don’t really think I thought about it, but out of nowhere the other day I thought I was not as innocent of this as I had thought. She had been a troubled soul in the days I knew her, but from the day I last saw her to the day she died was 8 years. Enough time, I had presumed unconsciously, to absolve me of any responsibility. That had been the unconsidered party line.
Suddenly it was not so simple to me. You see we had worked together and she left work because of me. She went home to be with her parents and for all I know – and I presume – never really left there. Then one day she took her own life.
I was not the cause, nor the reason, at least I doubt I am, of her decision to commit suicide – but what if she had continued working rather than leaving? What if I hadn’t forced her to go? Would things have turned out as they did?
I always assumed that if ever I ran into her family then it would be a sad occasion of shared memories. Was I deluding myself? For all I know they hold me at least partly responsible for B’s death – without me perhaps this train of events would never have begun.
On the one hand I have to accept the reality of this. Yes, had things been even a little different between us then this might never have happened. I don’t want to shirk that knowledge. At the same time I know that life flows, where it begins is hard to say. I was part of a continuum that began long before she knew of my existence and continued after she had seen the last of me. It’s the butterfly effect, you don’t know how even the most minor of changes might change the story. I was part of that, and a big part of her story, but only a part of it. I accept that without me she might today be alive and happy. That’s always what I wished for her, and if I could go back and change something to make it so I would – but I can’t.
After all of this a very simple memory came back to me. We had split up dramatically and acrimoniously. I was angry, but soon that passed and I realised I loved her still. And that in her own way still had feeling for me. I tried to manoeuvre things so that we could be together, that perhaps we could get together again. History tells us that we had these moments repeatedly, and that just when I thought it was about to happen she would pull back again and I’d slide down a snake.
History is something that has happened. Past tense. When you’re in the middle of it history has not been made yet. That’s in your hands, or so you figure. Could it have been different? Yes, of course, and in many ways.
And so my mind went back to that simple moment a month or so after we have officially split. Somehow I am with her one night after work. It’s a sunny day, we’re in Central Park in Malvern, near where she lived> We’re lying on our stomach on the grass, head to head. B had studied botany, and is playfully plucking different varieties of horticulture from the lawn and giving me the Latin term for them. I watch fondly. I like her like this, seemingly happy, relaxed, playful. I want this to go on, to lead to other things, back to where we were before, and then beyond that. I’m wary though. I’ve had my fingers burnt. I know how things can change.
Because I am wary I don’t push anything. I’m happy to be easy, to mould myself to her desires. I won’t pressure her, and won’t ask anything of her. We live in moments that pass, one moment to the next. These moments are fine.
Those moments passed, and we know how things ended. About a year after that she left, and that was that.
I wondered as the memory replayed itself to me whether I should have done more. I could tell her I love her, but think that might be too much. I could have told her how much she meant to me perhaps. Could have told her how I wanted to be her friend, now and for always. I could have tried to turn those moments into something more, but I didn’t.
It’s a memory only, come to me from I don’t know where or for what reason. It’s history. But in remembering I know that if I had done something different then it could not have turned out any worse than it history tells us it did.