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Love

I had an aunt named Rose.

She was lively and determined. She hated people who were fake, in fact, anything that was fake. She, like me, had no filter, and if she’d ever thought twice before she spoke, she would never have said anything at all. She was brutally honest, and if she thought it or felt it, she said it. I’m sure you’ll agree that this kind of honesty doesn’t always go down well. As human beings, we ask for the truth but are often angered when we get what it is we asked for. However, this never daunted Rose. In fact it’s her words that I remember most.

My aunt Rose loved fiercely. She loved her friends, and her family with a fire that burnt strong and true. I remember she once told me, with a mischievous little smile, that if I married for love, I’d be materially poor. If I married for money, I’d be emotionally poor. And if I married a man with a foot fetish, I’d have the best in footwear that money could buy. The final bit was a fact she’d learnt from first hand experience, and a memory which always left us in a fit of giggles. But I know Rose married for love, and spent thirty years of married life filled with happiness as a result of it. And I know that I, too, could never marry for anything other than love – because Rose got it, and made me see, that if you found love – the real long lasting stuff – there’s a lot of other things you can do without.

My aunt Rose wasn’t happy all of the time. She had a life that wavered tempestuously and often found ways of kicking her when she was down. But I don’t have a single memory of her in which that sparkle in her eye didn’t grow to become a grin on her face, as she cooked up some new form of mischief with which to astound people. Whilst her body, as all our bodies, changed with age, her heart remained as youthful as ever. My aunt Rose never found herself out of place with young people, because the one thing she was always up for was fun!

I had an aunt named Rose, who passed away yesterday. I prayed for those she’d left behind, and I prayed for her – but some part of me knew she’d already found her way up to the angels in Heaven. She’d been reunited with her own mother, and her daughter, and was already causing havoc with the celestial beings around her. In my heart I knew she had begun to look down on each of us with the wisdom and love she’d always shared with me during each of our meetings. And I knew she’d always find a way to ensure her presence was still felt – in the final rays of the sun as it sets, and the ever-rolling waves of the ocean against the shore. 

I had an aunt named Rose, who I am blessed and proud to say I knew.
I will carry her heart in mine. I will renew my zest for life, and resolve to live as lovingly and honestly as Rose did, never growing too old for a little fun and a good giggle. 
I will never forget the words that she gave me on every occasion that we shared.
And I will never forget Rose, and her mischievous smile, and the twinkle in her youthful eyes…

On Monday, I’m going away. I don’t know how long for. I mean, I do actually have to come back – I’m unfortunately tied to various commitments that begin again in July, so disappearing into the wide world isn’t an option, just yet. But on Monday, I’ll go and I may come back after a week. Or I may not. Perhaps I’ll come back in a month. Who knows. And whilst I don’t know how long I’m going away for, or even where I may end up on my journey, I can tell you why I’m going…

I’m going away because if you asked me to stay, I would. I’d cancel my flight, get into your car, drive to your house, snuggle up on the couch with you, and stay. I would give up my adventure for you. And that’s the best reason I can think of not to. Whilst this may not make much sense, there is a point. Somewhere.. In all of my past relationships, I’ve given. I’ve given up things; I’ve given up myself; and my time and my dreams. I’ve given and given and given. And when it ended, I discovered, to my horror, I’d given so much that I had nothing left. I had given up pieces of my heart, my ‘ness’. So, I had to rebuild everything from scratch. And when I began this process of rebuilding, eight months ago, I decided never to deny myself something I wanted, for someone else who can’t give you a good enough reason to do. So, what I want right now, is to go on my adventure. But I can’t pretend that I don’t want you to want me to stay, either.

I’m going because if I stay, I will break us. I have never been very good at the whole relationships thing. It takes me a long time to love, yet when I do, I do so with a love that transcends gaps in distance, and lifestyle, and even logic. When I love, I am dedicated and hopeful. Every sign you give me – whether it’s intended or not – is one more sign for me to fall even more for you. And I know we said we’d just be friends and see where things went, but you didn’t help me when you kissed me. I mean, I have quite a few friends and you’re the only one that kisses me… So, naturally, I believed it meant more than it did. And when you didn’t make an effort to see me, in the build up to my leaving, well, it didn’t make sense to my head, or my heart. So, instead of ruining us by asking you a thousand questions so I can know exactly where I stand, I’m leaving.

I wish I felt as strong and brave as some people say I’m being. To walk away from someone you care about, and not only to walk away, but to hop on a plane and end up on the other side of the country… Well, apparently that takes some guts. But if I’m honest, and I do try to be, it doesn’t feel like bravery. Because when I get off of the train at the airport, I’ll hope you’re standing there. When I line up to check-in for my flight, I’ll listen out for your voice speaking my name, asking me to turn around and stay with you. And when I go through the gates, a hundred Romantic Comedy airport scenes will inspire my heart to beat faster as I walk slowly to the metal bird that promises to take me away from you, and any hope that I still might have…

Once I’ve gone, I’ll still think of you. I’ll hope that maybe you’ll think of me, too. Maybe, once I’ve gone, you’ll miss me. Maybe you’ll see who I am, and what I mean to you… Or maybe you won’t. And we’ll just grow further apart, until one day we’re nothing but the odd Facebook status update chanced upon on a normal Thursday afternoon. A flicker of recognition will cross your face as my name registers something to your brain; and a skipped heartbeat will jolt my heart as it recalls the feelings I felt for you…

So, I’m going away. But, dammit, I wish you’d ask me to stay.

Think about it.

When I was at school, I remember learning about a poem in English entitled “My Blue Umbrella”. The poem was about a child’s acquisition of language, learning the names of things. But as the child learnt the proper names for things, it lost its ability to creatively express itself. The title itself, My Blue Umbrella, was not in reference to a blue umbrella at all, but a peacock. The child, not yet acquanted with the name of the creature, had had to come up with a way of expressing itself. So, whilst we require language to effectively communicate with others, we lose something in the acquisition of this language. We lose an innocence and brazen creativity that we’re blessed with from the moment we’re born.

However, even once we’ve acquired this language and the words of the language to – presumably – express ourselves, our feelings and thoughts, to others without difficulty, this is often not the case. I read a quote once that states “language is the source of all misunderstanding”. And part of me has begun to believe this is absolutely true.

When we’re learning a language, be it for the first time or the tenth, we’re given words. But what we aren’t necessarily given is the meaning, to us as individuals, behind those words. Think about it. How do we know what nausea means? No one sat us down as stated that for us, individually, when we feel queasy, as if we’re going to throw up, then we will be feeling what is referred to as nausea. To complicate matters, look up nausea and it’ll define it as when you feel queasy; look up quesy and it’ll define it as when you feel nauseous. There are no hard and fast rules that what a word means to one person, it will mean the same to another. And it is this that really messes things up.

How can relationships end when people make vows to love and cherish one another, until death do them part? To all intensive purposes, to love one another forever? Well, because of the language. What forever means to one person, doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll mean the same to another. The same with love. I tend to shy away from using the word unless it is absolutely the word for the feeling that I have, and it is for this reason that I’ve used it sparingly. But luckily, due to this over-cautious nature surrounding the word, everytime that I have used it, I have meant it.

I think we all need to make an effort to say exactly what we mean, and mean exactly what we say. If you don’t mean forever, don’t say it. Don’t love someone, don’t say it. Rather hurt someone with the truth, than protect them with a lie. We could all do to be a bit kinder to one another when it comes to our words. And maybe we need to start listening with a little more critical analysis of what it is we hear. I’m guilty party number one when it comes to dissecting every little statement a man makes in the hope that his “I don’t like you,” actually means “I will love you”. Talk about wishful thinking.

Let’s make a mid-year resolution. Let’s be honest with one another. Let’s listen and really hear what it is that’s being said. And let’s not waste time any longer on those who can’t tell us what it we want, and deserve, to hear. To a world where creativity thrives, and words mean what they say! Hear, hear!

There are a myriad of reasons why I can’t do this. I don’t really believe that I even know where to begin. But I can’t do this. And I’ll try my very best to tell you why.

I can’t do this because when you tell me that I’m beautiful, I believe you. And I can’t have that. I can’t have someone convincing me that they see beauty in me. If I believe you – and sometimes I do – then what’ll happen when you leave? Because you will leave.

That’s another one. I can’t do this because you’ll leave. You won’t know it yet, but I do. I’ll ignore the fact, however. A sort of emotional masochistic endeavor. But I won’t be entirely ignorant. I’ll convince myself that this time it’ll be different. This time I’ll be loved. This time you will stay and I can feel safe. This time…

What else? Well, for one thing, you have soft pillows. There. I said it. You want to know why I can’t do this, and that’s a perfectly viable reason. The pillows on your bed are so soft it feels as if I’m sleeping on a marshmallow – which actually isn’t as pleasant as it sounds.

I can’t do this because when you look at me, I can’t breathe for a second. And if you were to look at me for longer, with the meaning in your eyes that I hope to find, I’d die. Just keel over. You may not know this, but breathing is necessary for living. Yup. And your taking my breath away is for one thing, decidedly rude, and for another, impeding the efficiency of my living processes.

I can’t do this because you make me laugh – even when I’ve had the worst day. Your eyes captivate me. Your voice enthralls me so that I just want you to tell me stories all day long. I can’t do this because you have made me forget about the other 3,456,782,396 men on the planet. I can’t do this because if I did, I’d never want to not do it. I can’t do this because you hesitate when I tell you how I feel. You hesitate when I ask you to kiss me. And you’ll hesitate when I ask you to love me.

I can’t do this, us, love, because… Well, if I’m honest – completely 100% honest – I can do this.
And I want to. But if I need to find reasons not to, to protect myself, then I will.
Even if the only reason I can find is those damn pillows!

Reconnect with an old friend, or an old flame, a lost chance. Chat one day on Facebook. Comment on how many years it’s been. Accept when he suggests you meet up for a drink. Know it’ll be a once off. Put it out of your mind until the day arrives. Be nervous whilst you fret over what to wear. Don’t understand why. Eventually settle for the outfit you first chose. Go.

Smile when you see him. He hasn’t changed a bit, and yet there’s something different about him. Talk over one another at first, in the rush to catch up. Resolve to let one another take turns. Laugh at the things he remembers about you, and the one and only date you ever had. Smile slightly when he tells you that he’s recently single. Say good night eventually realising that six hours have passed and you didn’t even know it.

Be thrilled when he messages you to say how good it was to see you. Tell him the same. Say yes when he suggests you do it again. Go out drinking together almost every night for a month. Find yourself, on every one of those nights, in a drunken haze of happiness. Wonder why he hasn’t tried to kiss you yet. Try to grin when he tells you time and time again how happy he is to have found a friend like you.

Pluck up the courage one night after another drink-filled night out and ask him to kiss you. Sit with your heart pounding in your chest. Wonder if he can hear it as loudly as you can. Listen out for the beat of his heart, too. Wait for him to do or say something. Practically faint when he finally leans in and your lips touch. Lose yourself in the 3, 4, 5 seconds that you kiss. Hide the disappointment you feel when he pulls away again. Search for a sign of emotion; a sign that it meant to him what it meant to you. Ignore the awkward silence that’s settled in between you. Say good night without seeing a sign of anything at all.

Wait to hear from him all the next day. Jump out of your chair every time your phone goes off. Ignore the pit in your stomach each time you realise it’s not him. Hang around on Facebook on the off chance that he’ll log on. Get butterflies when he does log on. Ignore the sinking feeling in your gut when he doesn’t message you and then logs back off.

Regain hope when he eventually messages you. Ignore that he calls you ‘dude’, ‘bud’ and ‘friend’. Make plans to go out with his group of friends.

Spend the whole night checking his face and body language for a sign. When you say good night, notice that there’s something he wants to say to you, something that’s been on his mind. Hold your breath. Keep a straight face when he tells you how glad he is that the drunken kiss didn’t ruin the friendship. Try smile even. Say goodbye. Cry as you drive home.

Find yourself waiting for him to realise how he feels about you. Go on dates to makes him see. Feel confused at how he seems genuinely disappointed for you when the dates don’t work out. “You’ll find someone,” he says, trying to reassure you. Hate him in that moment because you have found someone.

Try not to let him hear your heart break when he tells you he’s met someone. Feign excitement at the chance to meet her. Hate her before you’ve done so. Hate that you like her from the moment you meet her. Hate how beautiful, intelligent and funny she is – love that she’s the exact type of woman he deserves. Hate the way he looks at her; the way he places his hand on the small of her back; the way he leans in and whispers in her ear. Hate that they have eyes for no one but each other. Hate that you have eyes only for him. Hate yourself. Love him even more.

When it’s good, it’ll be right. And when it’s right, you’ll know. You won’t have known all the time, but there’ll be moments when everything is suddenly so clear that you can’t understand why you’d ever considered doing things any other way. When it’s good, it’ll be so right that to behave, think, speak or feel any other way, will be wrong. And when it’s wrong, it’ll be the worst.

When it’s good, it’ll be the best. And this doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be perfect. No one ever said that perfection was naturally the best. And whilst it may not be perfect, it’ll still be good. In a life where so very many things can go wrong, be wrong, feel wrong, the ability to recognise and hold onto what’s good may get a little lost. We’re so busy concerning ourselves with how the people and “traditions” of the world dictate us to feel, and who we ought to be, and what is or isn’t acceptable, that we lose sight of the most important fact: you get one life. One. And you’re the one who has to live it, everyday. So why would you choose anything other than what’s good, what’s right?

When it’s right, you’ll know. You can have faith in that. And when it’s wrong, you’ll know, too. The only thing that ever gets in the way in the pursuit of what’s right, is ourselves. We sit, and worry, and think, and wait. Instead of wondering who you are to have so much good, ask yourself who you are not to?

When I wonder who the people I have respect for are, my answers are probably somewhat unorthodox. It’s the man or woman who says “I don’t” when standing at the alter – arguably one of the most unacceptable places at which to be completely honest about how you feel. It’s the young rape victim who, pregnant with the rapist’s child, brings the child up to be the very antithesis of all of the evil of the man who caused his conception. It’s the mothers who love their children through the terrible two’s, teenage angst, drug addictions and worse. It’s the man who follows his heart in pursuit of the woman he loves, because even though his friends may tease him for being “whipped,” he’d rather sacrifice a man card or two, than ever risk losing her.

When it’s good, it won’t always be good, but it’ll be right. And you’ll know it. With every part of you. Once you know it, the times it isn’t so good will be okay. Because no one ever promised you that it would be easy, just that it’d be worth it. So, let go of the past. Let go of the fear. Start again. And this time, give more. Trust more. Love more.  Find what’s good. Find what’s right.

Kiss me, stupid. And you’ll wonder why it took you so long to do so in the first place. You’ll blink when we finally stop, before kissing me again. Just because you can.

Kiss me, and you’ll wonder what it was you ever saw in using your mouth to eat, or drink, or talk. Such superfluous activities, that do nothing but take time away from the minutes, hours, and days that could be spent locking our lips.
If I tell you to kiss me, kiss me. It may come as a surprise to you, that a woman who uses words in every aspect of her daily existence, should find the utterance of two tiny, monosyllabic words so very daunting – but I do. It’s daunting because when I tell you to kiss me, there’s a chance that you won’t. And that’d be stupid. So, kiss me. Stupid.
Kiss me because you’ve run out of words to say. Kiss me because it’s Monday. Or Tuesday. And Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, too. Kiss me on every day that ends in a ‘y’. Kiss me because it makes sense to you. And if the stars and planets have aligned, whilst the moonlight smolders in the sky, and the crickets produce the soundtrack to it all – well, then, kiss me. How many signs do you really need?
Kiss me to take my breath away; I’ve always had too much anyway. Kiss me to leave me speechless; I always talk too much. Kiss me to make my head swirl and my knees weak; standing up straight is overrated. Kiss me to thrill me to death; living is always better when there’s risk.
So, kiss me. 
Stupid. 
Or, I’ll just kiss you.

It’s safe to say that I’ve had some pretty terrible relationships in the past, with men who probably weren’t the best fit for me. However, it’s nothing to regret or wish away. Every relationship we have will end until the one that doesn’t anymore. And every interaction with another person, be it for a month or five years, allows us to learn more about ourselves, as well as what we need from a relationship and a partner. However, this process of learning is made useless if we can’t articulate it. And so, bear with me as I try to define to you how I will know when I’ve found him, the man of my dreams.

He’ll buy me books. And not because I can’t afford to. Oh no. It’s usually a safe bet to assume that I’d rather live off cereal for a month than go a couple of weeks without the purchase of a new book. He will buy me books because he’ll know how very happy it makes me. He’ll know how in love I am with the weight of an entire world in my hands, and the smell and feel of the pages as I follow the author’s words on a journey unlike any other. And because he loves me, he will buy me books.

He’ll be nice to me. My parents have been married for 42 years, and when asked what the secret was to their success, the answer was simple. It was a reference to the film Venus, wherein a senior citizen explores a love affair with a much younger woman. When asked what it is he can provide her that no other man has given her before, he merely replies: “I’m nice to her.” This moment dictates my parents’ relationship in that they realised that it was the very least you could do for the person with which you intended to spend the majority of your life. So, the man of my dreams will be nice to me. And not because I ask him to be, or because he’ll feel he has to be. He’ll be nice to me, because being any other way towards me never even crossed his mind.

There will be no need to imagine the potential in him, or us, because it will be all I ever dreamt it would be – and more. This may sound like a tall order, but when it comes to forever and finding the one person next to whom you want to wake up for everyday of the rest of your life, we should never, ever drop our standards. He will be the kind of man with whom I can be whether things are going well or not. I don’t care if we make millions in our first year together and live comfortably for the rest of our days, or if we’re bankrupt and sleeping under bridges every night. He will want to be with me regardless, and I with him. It won’t be about putting off our happiness until things are better, because no matter how things are in that moment, happiness will be he and I. Together.

He will go on adventures with me – even if it entails nothing more than trying to find a different route home in the dead of night. Impulsivity is, I believe, the key to staying young. That doesn’t mean never making plans or sticking to the plans you’ve made. But there are few things more riveting than coming home one day to find both of your bags packed because he’s decided you’re getting out of the city for the weekend. Or perhaps, you want to try something new such as surfing or kloofing. If I suggest it, the best answer he could ever give me would be “why not?” It may sound a cliche, but I want to live a big and beautiful life – and he’ll want to live one with me.

As bad as any fight gets, I won’t be afraid that he’ll leave me. It may stem from the many experiences I’ve had with men over the years, or the fact that I never saw my parents fight and make up when I was growing up. But when I fight with him, I won’t be gripped by the fear that it will end us. It’s taken me a while, but I’m slowly learning that couples can – and ought to – fight, without it being the be all and end all of the entire relationship. And whilst I know I’ll still get scared, he’ll understand this. And he’ll remember to remind me, even in the middle of the screaming match in which plates and pillows are flying at one another’s heads, that he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

He’ll be real, flaws and all. I don’t want perfect. I want flawed. Because I’m flawed. Oh man, am I flawed. These flaws will never mean we treat one another badly, however. And whilst we may take one another for granted sometimes, it won’t be too hard to remember how wildly, crazily and incomprehensibly we love one another. I want to know him, warts and all. And I want to be known. I want that connection wherein words need not be used, but everything is understood and clear. Even if we aren’t near one another the whole night we’re out with friends, a single look need be all that lets me know I’m the one he came with, and I’ll be the one he leaves with. And if that look has a smile beneath it that makes me blush, well, that’s alright too.

He will make me understand why cliches are cliches, and what all of those love songs were trying to say. The words of love penned by poets and authors will take on a new meaning, and every sense of mine will tingle with a renewed awareness. He will listen to me, he will hear me, and he’ll know when there’s nothing to be heard. There are so many things we can look for in our significant other. And maybe we spend too long waiting for a partner who ticks all the boxes. But I’m lucky, perhaps, in that I have a heart that let’s me know exactly what it wants. And so I trust that it will invariably shout and kick and scream with delight when it finds the man of my dreams. And maybe he won’t be at all as I imagined. Whoever he is, here’s hoping I have the courage to go and get him…

Left to my own devices when you’re gone, I will reread old text messages from you. I mean, I didn’t save them for this purpose… But if they’re automatically saved to my phone, well, best I make use of them. And chances are, I’ll smile just as widely as I did when you first sent them. And I’ll hear your voice in my head as I read them. And I’ll end up missing you more.

When I can’t stand to miss you any longer, I’ll go for a run. Once a day, I’ll run. At least 6 kilometres and at most 10 – because we both know my legs are quite short, and to run any further would make me pass out (read: die). So, I’ll run. And whilst I run, I’ll listen to music. There’ll be an assortment of songs playing in my ears, with words that may or may not remind me of you. And I may put our song on repeat, firstly because I like the song, and secondly because every time I listen to it, I hope somehow the words will pop into your mind and make the distance between us that little bit less.

I will say ‘yes’. The key to forgetting how much I miss you, will be to keep busy. So every invite extended my way by a friend or family member will be accepted. Perhaps a long lost friend whose face I haven’t seen in six years will want to catch up over coffee, or perhaps I just won’t be able to say ‘no’ to the 7th night out in a row with friends. Either way, I will say ‘yes’. And wherever these invites end up leading me, I’ll get there and for a second, wish you were with me. But only for a second because I’ll lose myself in the moments shared with the people I find. Until I get home. And crawl into bed. And find myself suspended in the moments between midnight and sunrise, lost beneath the hilly landscape of my duvet… And it is then that I will forget to forget how much I miss you. And I’ll fall asleep fooling myself into believing that the pillow around which my arms rest, will magically restore itself into you. Even if only for a second.

I’ll completely change my life around. I’ll resolve to be more organised, more prepared for things, and more dedicated to work. I’ll launch myself into a new fitness regime and give half my clothes to charity. I’ll move the furniture in my bedroom around, and repaint the walls. I’ll hang new pictures, and immerse myself into creating an entirely new world. And after all of this, I’ll still miss you. Because the letters you wrote me will remain at the bottom of my jewelry box. As much sense as it makes to throw them out, I won’t. And the photographs we took of ourselves that day will still live in the drawer of my bedside table, readily available should I wish to lose myself in them and the memories they represent. And as much as my life and surroundings may have changed, I’ll still be the same. And that means that I’ll still miss you when you’re gone.

I’ll tell everyone in my life how well I’m doing. I’ll be better off, and I’ll ensure everyone knows it, or at least, hears me say it. And there’ll be times when I believe it. Wonderful, flash-in-the-pan kind of moments where I can finally breathe without a memory of you haunting me. But these moments will fade as quickly as they arrived. And I’ll be back to square one. And if you ever decide that you miss me, too, that’s where you’ll find me… Right where you left me.

Date a writer. Not only will she mean every word she ever uses, but she’ll also choose words that let you understand just how much you mean to her.

Date a writer. Your lives will be filled with magic from which she’ll find inspiration. She’ll immortalise your magical moments in words that will live long after you’ve both passed on. And who knows? Perhaps your own love story will inspire other not to settle for anything less than magical, either.

Date a writer. Because whilst she may not know precisely how to begin, or where it will end, the journey will always be worthwhile.

Date a writer. And discover a world you didn’t know existed, with a woman who always knew that it did.

Date a writer. Learn new words everyday. Whether she uses them in a loving moment that takes your breath away, or in a rage during which she condemns your preponderance toward hyperbole or the discombobulating manner in which you conduct yourself, you’ll never hear the same words twice.

Date a writer. For the attention to detail to which she will give everything cannot be matched. And happily ever after means more to her than just a phrase found at the end of a Fairy Tale.

Date a writer. And live a life filled with letters in your coat pockets; notes beneath your pillow, and a smile upon your face at every word she’d written.

Love a writer. Because if you mean it, she will return your love tenfold. And if you don’t, the pain and anguish you cause her will give her writing added depth, and ground the words she uses in her book.

Love a writer. For all of her idiosyncrasies and habits. She may not be able to sleep without rubbing her feet together, or won’t write until she’s procrastinated for seven hours by rearranging the furniture, but love her, and her writing. Because every piece she writes carries a little bit of her soul, a little bit of her very being, in it. And if you can’t take the time to read it, she’ll never give you another piece – of her writing, or her heart. But if you love it – and her – tell her. She’ll feel more proud than if she’d won a Pulitzer Prize.

So, date a writer. Or better yet, love one. And never lose her.
Love a writer.