There’s never a perfect time to fall in love.
You always get sober too late, you always wonder why you didn’t do it years ago. All that wasted time.
And the reality is that time is not on my side. I chose a solitary life almost two decades ago, chose to turn away from men, chose befriending over passion, chose to ignore my body’s demands for intimacy, chose to die a little rather than risk trauma again, rather than deal with the aftermath of sexual violence. Alcohol was the perfect little destroyer of worlds.
Then I sobered up and I fell in love. Time is not on my side. I am physically ill and tired, about to be rudely catapulted into the desert of menopause, wary and distrustful of myself, an innocent who feels ridiculous at moments, less experienced than any 21st-century schoolgirl. A difficult, not particularly lovable woman, in love and, incredibly, finding herself loved back.
Where to go next? Roethke’s line of poetry echoing in my mind: ‘We learn by going/where we have to go.’
So I close my eyes, lying sleepless and painfilled in the dark, knowing I will trust the reality of this love and follow it into unknown places. Stepping out of character into the welcoming darkness. One day at a time, the way I learned to get sober, to trust the intuition of beginning the world again and reaching out for a stranger’s hand in the darkness. Saying again those old threadbare words to do with need and tenderness and fidelity and feeling them come alive in my mouth with new meaning. Taking a lover into my ageing body and inexperienced heart. Feeling I have so little to offer, but it will have to do.
Outside my window there are swallows wheeling and looping figures-of-eight between field and garden, over the young olive trees, the flowering dombeya or wild pears, the red hyacinth and the pin oak on the corner, swallows obscured a moment in flight by the cobalt-blue shadow of mountains. Unself-conscious and at one with the journey. We learn by going where we have to go.