Early morning hours, the interval just before lunch, and cool summer nights. A representational account of growing up; a rumination on growing older; a relation to the existence of love, and a discovery of comfortability in the ongoing process of moving forward. In darkness, one should be able to note the presence of happiness, discuss the prowess of the individual and above all, meet with the existence and power of love. While all accounts sustain themselves as personal representations and perspectives of growth, this piece of the author’s soul aims to serve as inspiration. A constant reminder of the importance of finding peace and insurmountable love of self in any path life steers us in.
Part One: Growing Up
Defining home has never been much of a challenge.
I grew up in Cyprus, a small island in the Mediterranean. My brother Nicholas and I always loved to explore our relatively quiet neighbourhood. From a young age, I noted my brother was more socially apt than I was. Our Dad is exactly the same; and as the saying goes: “the apple never falls far from the tree.” At sunset, our names would roll over the wind from two streets down. Dad was calling us home. It was getting dark and the next day was a school day. Our shorts and t-shirts were frequently touched by the dust and dirt of a neighbourhood we have since called ours. We would run back home, happiness and memories dripping from our bloodied knees and scraped elbows.
My childhood was touched by so much love. It is only human to reminisce about the past, I remind myself. Mum and Dad never faltered in their central goal for my brother and I: to raise respectful and sensitive adults. It would be easy to sit down and map all the ways I would have done things differently, had I been in their positions. Yet, I still doubt if I would be able to do half as good of a job as they have done. I know this much, for certain: they are equally all parts human, as much as I am. As adults in a growing and diverse world, we often track our parent’s intrinsic values, beliefs, and characteristics to assist us in navigating our own lives. On the random occasions our parents falter or fall short of our expectations, some occasions more poignant than others, we make a pact within ourselves to never make the mistakes they did. We promise to love harder, more erratically, more violently, in moving forward.
“Why do you wonder if they love you back?” I ask myself.
Your mother carried you in the darkness of her womb for nine months. She fought darkness, with blood, sweat, and anguish, to bring you into a world enveloped by love and possibility. Why do you wonder if she loves you back when she voices her worries of whether you have eaten; when she awaits your late-night text that you have gotten home safely; when she prepares and packs your favourite sandwiches, to this day, when you go to the beach with friends? Why do you wonder if he loves you back? When he worked late shifts and had to rise before the sun itself, even on mornings when sleep desperately clung to the corners of his eyes and when his bed beckoned his sweet return? Why do you wonder if he loves you back when he does all that he does, to this day, so you can live a life of ease and comfort – filled with insurmountable opportunities? Why do you wonder if he loves you back, when he buys you your favourite meal when you return home, after being away for weeks; when he checks to see if you are sleeping soundly at night; when he still tickles you under the dinner table, despite how much taller you are than him?
I know sometimes you fail to tell me you love me, but you have been showing me you do all my life. Doubt is for the unloved and I am not unloved.
Hey Mum, how are you, truly?
How did you do all that you did, Mum?
Promise you’ll give me an answer the next time I see you.
Have you been meditating? Are you keeping with your evening yoga?
What do you think of when you’re alone, Mum?
Do you think of Zambia?
Do you think of love?
Do you think of all you endured in an unknown country?
Do you think about the life you left?
Did I get this open and unending flame for love and life in my head from you?
Do you remember that photo of you in front of your orange Mini Cooper? You were smiling wildly for the camera, like the weight
of the world did not rest on your shoulders.
Your smile was as if the thought of feeling anything other than joy, love, and confidence had never even occurred to you.
Home has always been a place with you and Dad.
You know that much at this point, right?
I have been thinking of my childhood recently.
“The world is your oyster.”
“I’ve lived my life – are you ready to live yours, Gervaise?”
If only it was that easy, Mum.
I keep myself from going under because of you.
I remember the sand under our toes at the beach.
Neither of us were aware of the existence of grief, sadness, failure or disappointment back then.
We are now.
But that’s okay.
There is so much violence in the reconstruction of self,
but both of us understand so much more of who we are now;
but both of us meet each other halfway, Mum.
I’m sorry for taking so long to let you in.
I’m honoured to be a recipient of your love,
of your warmth,
of your patience,
of your tenderness.
You would be so proud of my growth.
I know you already are.
You remind me every day the importance of humility and grace.
I roll my neck and remind myself of the beauty in being alive.
In this broken world,
there is no one I would have preferred the Universe to assign the role of
The sun has been so bright recently.
I can see it in my eyes.
Can you see it in yours too, Mum?
Hey Dad, how are you, truly?
Life came at us both with a bite, did it not?
Struggling for power, we argued about nothing, and anything.
We never knew who was going to win.
Most times you did.
But that’s okay.
I learnt a long time ago that you and I are
or somewhere right in the middle.
Regardless, you have always known.
You have always known that you are home.
Your voice always finds a way to fill any room,
Your energy always finds a way
to remind me of love,
to remind me of your utterly unique character,
to remind me of the importance of family,
to make me laugh until I have tears in my eyes.
If I could describe our relationship through a word, it would be: rose.
Do you remember when I was younger,
you would take me to get ice cream?
I mean, we still grab ice cream together now.
(despite boys my age being told to move past occasions such as this).
But there was intimacy in watching the world go by with you by my side,
as we enjoyed our ice cream.
In those moments, I am reminded of your tender outlook on life.
One scoop rose sorbet, one scoop lemon sorbet – my immortalised order.
A small cup of ice cream
describes our relationship.
Power struggles, arguments, disagreements – sour like a summer lemon.
Pride, adoration, unequivocal and unconditional love – sweet like a spring rose.
Hey Dad, I finished the army.
The one thing I stuck out for you. I did it for you.
And I would do it again, if only for you.
Dad, I know we fail to always see eye to eye.
There is no shame
in admitting that we both sometimes fall short of our expectations of each other.
Where there should have been love for you growing up,
dismissal, struggle, anxiety, grief.
I want to make the world a better place for you.
And I will.
I hope we can keep forgiving each other, and maybe I will discover more of you in that journey.
Is that not what family is all about? Forgiveness in love?
I can smell the barbecue outside.
Will you let me help you this time around?
Nicholas, how are you, truly?
What was for lunch today?
I have always wondered: have you ever imagined what life would be if our roles were reversed?
Not literally speaking, of course.
But what if I were your older brother?
Sometimes, I feel like the reversal took place – before either of us knew it – and maybe in another place.
It is second nature to
You know that fresh smell
of new clothes, or
a new pair of sneakers, or
laundry out of the dryer?
That is what home is with you:
a constant reminder of freshness,
a constant reminder of new terrain.
a constant reminder of familiarity in the unknown.
I worry about you often;
you have a sensitivity towards the world that I noticed long before anyone else did.
I do not worry because you are sensitive,
But rather because the world is
Gentle souls should never exist in a world like that. Like this one.
The world does not deserve your tender soul.
You have given so much of yourself away,
to accommodate others,
only to get nothing in return.
My heart breaks.
I wish I could take the pain of the world off of your shoulders.
And place it on mine instead.
But you are too proud to ever let me do that.
let’s just sit here and
enjoy each other’s company.
When Mum and Dad are gone,
you’re all I have left.
And I smile
because there is no one I would rather have by my side in this harsh, mean, violent and cruel world.
I love you.
As a child, I knew everything before my classmates did. I learnt to read like expressions, metaphors, similes, vowels, and consonants had always been mine. I was just taking them back. They belonged to me, I truly believed. My parents always encouraged self-discovery and acquirement of knowledge through the arts and literature. It comes as no particular surprise as to why separating me from knowledge was always a daunting challenge.
I knew why the Russian Revolution was the most defining historical event of the 20th century.
I knew why clouds formed and assembled in the ways they did.
I knew why bees died after one sting.
I knew why innocence died after self-discovery.
I thought the world was something that could be quantified and always understood.
Somewhere along the line, I fell out of grace with knowledge. She did not beckon me to inquire anymore. Instead, there was enticing darkness. For a long time. When you know so little about why the world works in the ways that it fundamentally does, it feels like you know nothing at all.
Here is what I know:
There are 7 trillion nerves in the human body.
Starfish do not bleed.
Acacia trees can warn each other of danger.
No one ever warned me of the dangers of knowing. Some insects are not meant to live, and tenderness is hard to come by. It is nothing to mourn over, as the world has always worked in its own mysterious ways. I find myself mourning, still.
There is bliss in ignorance. It is a shame I have never been touched by ignorance, though.
When I was little, my mother and I used to bake together. I remember cold winters, the last light of sunset shining through the kitchen window, and my fingers sticky with egg whites. We used to pack our creation into the fridge, ready to be devoured the next day, as young boys often do. I asked my mother if she remembers our little traditions, but she admitted that the occurrences were far and wide between.
Somewhere along the road, I grew up. I now dwelled in a world devoid of little and meaningful memories such as these. Somewhere along the road, I got too old to be hanging around the kitchen with Mum. Somewhere along the road, I forgot the beauty in being young.
I finally understand that memory does not give everything equal value. It can stretch the warmth of a summer day in mid-August over years, colouring everything with the power of the sun. It can also make voids of entire weeks, seemingly have them pass by in mere seconds.
The haphazardness of memory is unfair.
For every moment I am able to recall, another is already gone. Maybe you do not think of the things you cannot remember, but I always have and always will. I suppose I am bad at letting things go – even the really good parts. In a silly little game of memory, I still choose the best parts. I will always choose the best parts. These fond memories formed my love languages, my relations with other people and my intimate interaction and relation of self.
I do not want someone to tell me how to live.
I want someone to remind me what it means to be young again.
On Coming Home to Myself
Identity is an interesting topic. While I never thought of sexuality as a defining aspect of my identity in the same way I would consider my blackness to be, it remains part and parcel of the way the world perceives me. My upbringing was always filled with space to evolve, grow and love. To this day, I can still hear Mum’s favourite phrase ringing in my ears: “The world is your oyster.”
So, why was it so difficult for me to come to terms with my bisexuality? I could blame it on not understanding what that entails, much of which I still grapple with until today. Or perhaps, blame could fall upon the heteronormative environment I grew up in. Cyprus, while strikingly beautiful in all its cultural aspects and history, never teaches men how to fly; how to love; how to cry; how to emote. I always considered my parents liberal. We could watch R-rated movies and discuss world politics. Yet, sexuality was a topic never discussed at home. I think it was a disservice to myself to never enquire what the thoughts in my head meant. Especially with the two people who know and love me best: my parents.
I came out to Mum in 2016, the night before I flew to North Carolina for the summer. We cried. Yet, I think what saddened her the most was that I went through layers of self-exploration completely alone, never having opened up to her about the ways I was confused, hurt and betrayed by my own psyche. I came out to Dad in May of this year – in the middle of a national lockdown due to a pandemic. My relationship with him has always been construed. Cyprus never built a space of acceptance or love for men. Our teens were meshed with politicised football games; high school was riddled with being taught what a “real man” supposedly should be; to compulsory conscription in the National Guard reiterating all the misconstrued lies we spent a lifetime having drilled into us.
But Dad showed up for me and continues to do so every day, reminding me how to love.
I spent much of this year looking in the mirror and vomiting up all the lies and twisted thoughts I had of myself. If my own parents could look at me and say, “I love you unconditionally”, why could I not? Every day, I remain committed to waking up and relearning myself. What a comfort it is, coming home to yourself in that way.
Part Two: 21
I am the sort of person who believes in manifestations; who believes that if I throw myself on the mercy of the world, the world will be kind to me; who believes that happiness should not have to be tough and tiresome work; who believes community and resistance are born out of love; who believes in the ingestion of potential.
Looking at myself in the mirror and trying my hardest to crack a smile is still difficult sometimes. Who can do that without bursting into tears over all the ways we have not been the kindest to ourselves; over all the ways we have been unloving; over all the ways we have deviated from our inherent journey?
But I believe in myself. I am not lost, for I am here – still.
I have a purpose – still.
I refuse to give up from the work of building a hut in the middle of a suffocating desert.
This summer was different. In the midst of a pandemic, I was able to have some semblance of a summer experience. An unforgettable one, at that. I have always been inspired by those around me: from those who urge me to continue sharing my thoughts, my love and my creativity with the world; to those who remind me to extend grace and sensibility in everything I fashion and envision.
Julian Jarboe outlined that “humanity might share in the act of creation”. The divine alchemy of self, if you will. If I am to take this perspective as testament, even momentarily, I would like to propose a train of thought. To love unconditionally, unequivocally and without prejudice, is an act of creation. With this thought in mind, I consider myself to be a metaphysical being of love.
Jarboe was right. We share in the act of creation.
Every day, through conscious leadership with love, we are able to move with an element of clarity in all that we do. Relationships, whether parental, platonic, romantic or sexual; your work, your passions, your positive habits, all become inherently peaceful through invocation of love. Leading with love has been the most important lesson I have allowed myself to cogitate and enact every day in social situations, my studies, my future career path and my relationships. I create the life I want to live. Success and happiness are but an extension of the very love I extend.
Summer has taught me several lessons. I have found confidence in being lost. There is so much horror and uncertainty in reconstruction and relearning. What does it mean to fall in love, to dream, to compartmentalise, to procrastinate, to be lazy, to be upset, to be joyful? Do not avoid the emotions that you are challenged with – do not seek to thrash and dismiss them. Feel and continue to feel. Find comfort in your ability and capability to feel.
A word of advice: when a world of unfamiliar bliss greets you with open arms, embrace it fully and allow it to liberate you. There will be days when you await the sunrise with bated breath to save you from days that are pointless, from nights that are unending. There will be days when you await the sunset and the clarity it allows – a physical reminder that change itself is beautiful and inspiring. Walk on a path guided by your heart and steered by the power of your soul. Our world lives within our personal perspective.
Dr. Maya Angelou outlined a few years before her passing that one should aim to “live [their] life, in a way, that [they] will not regret years of useless virtues and inertia and timidity.” Save a seat at the table for the people who have extended grace, even in all their own personal suffering and pain.
For at the end of the day, we’re all just walking each other home.
There’s a particular level of comfort in knowing that one of life’s most treasured individuals is bound to me by shared blood. We often joke about how similar you and I are. That ranges in various aspects – from the ways we style ourselves; the ways we compose and mimic each other’s mannerisms; the ways we often think in absolutes; the list is ongoing. It would be a gross disservice to our relationship if I never noted that you always know when I hit my low points. Call it telepathy, dub it our secret bond, name it an inextricable link that no one will ever truly comprehend. I thank you for always knowing, and for always reaching out.
I practice our shared ode to life every day. You and I remain that there is never any underlying happiness or satisfaction in simply filling the void we have often felt. Would you agree with me when I state that there is a thread of sadness that has run through much of our lives so far? In all that sadness, I am glad that my thread has somehow gotten tangled with yours. And yours with mine. Either by our bond in family, or in our bond of understanding and love.
Building a home in someone is no easy work. It is a constant hassle to fix the leaks, to repair the broken doors, to paint the walls a new shade every season. There is solace in knowing the home I built in you is built on a steady foundation. There is comfort in admitting that I would be unable to understand and process a lot of what I have felt for the latter years of my life, if not for your guidance and love. The intent should not be to fill the void, but rather the intention should find itself in bringing joy and meaning to life, bringing love to all the darkest parts of ourselves. The void will surely fill up in its own time when we are concerned with giving it nothing but love and respect.
You have reminded me that emptiness is not always a bad thing. It is a lesson to be learned, to be taken advantage of, to be experienced in all instances. Every once in a while, there is sanctity in listening to it, in meeting with it, in sitting and writing with it. Having a conversation with loneliness and understanding where it stems from has been the steppingstone in being open with life once more. Even the small things, numerous in count, fill up our void.
Despite your inherent dislike of mushrooms, Mondays and the rain (all ingredients of the world which I love), we have never grappled with understanding one another. God knew of the path we would walk, meddled with disappointment and shortcomings. He placed us in each other’s lives for a succinct reason. Whether I believe in a higher power or not, I believe in the connection I have with you: how we relate to nature, to each other, to our love of self, to our unending resilience in the face of the void.
And I know, without pause, you’d respond, Yeah, God.
And we’d stand there. With the sun shining brightly for two of its favourite warriors.
See you soon.
I have been reckoning with something for some time, perhaps for as long as I have known you. Sometimes your text that you got home safe is more about wanting to let me know that you are home, in the safety of your bed covers. Instead, it is saying that you already miss me. Instead, it is extending a small thank-you for caring, for listening and for worrying. And sometimes, the text is simply a way for you to tell me you love me.
I am often asked what friendship means to me. Is this not love, because we are only friends? You think this relationship is not one built on a foundation of loyalty and love itself? Do I not miss her when she is gone? Is her humour not the singular thing that makes me happy when I find myself in the deepest caverns? Do we not sit in silence together, comfortably and in peace? Are we both not honest, joyful and at ease when around each other? Am I not proud of her, as if she was the very blood pumping through my veins?
The love I harbour for you in actuality, simply means being able to answer in honesty when you ask: “What are you going through?” You recognise my suffering, loneliness and pain – and you never label it as unfortunate. Instead, you sit with me, reminding me of the power in living.
Yesterday, you asked me, “How are you feeling now?”
I said, “Better.” And I meant it.
Sometimes, better is everything. Everything is better when I know I can rely on you.
Catching your skin glow in the sun gives me butterflies. If only because seeing you smile is a feeling I have always wanted to call familiar and familial. Love like ours is one that runs bone-deep; an understanding and a knowing of self that runs thicker than any friendly acquaintance.
There is comfort in knowing that if I called out for your help, you would come rolling over the hills as fast as the wind. Love with you is easy. I suppose found family has that touch.
See you soon.
I finally understand why my grandparents always told me of the importance of human relationships, especially when growing up. There is a particular immortality about your energy – addictive to others; but to me, home. Observing you makes me go blue in the face. I still get obsessed with the smallest aspects of your character to this day. How you look when you are really having fun. Your smile is wonderful. Your energy is enchanting. Your presence is a constant reminder of the thrills of life.
If someone were to ask who around me never falters in their extension of love and trust, I would point you out in any crowd, no matter how loud or big. Every single time.
Growing up, I found it difficult to mimic Dad’s social aptitude and acumen. Even more-so in all my confusion growing up, I often wondered what having a close male friend, other than my brother, would be like. Someone who could look at all parts of me and consider me family, as opposed to someone you simply greet on the random occurrence you run into them at a neighbourhood party.
Sometimes asking if you are doing alright is redundant. But not because you do not have your own worries and doubts. Rather, because I know you have it in you to keep radiating in the ways you only know how to. Every moment I spend with you is a memory, is an experience, is an adventure. In all your erratic and idiosyncratic ideas, you still wake up every morning, ready to spread truth and love, like a gardener on a Sunday morning tending to his abundant garden.
There is a magic in you that can never be tamed, and I wonder if I would be selfish in admitting that I would hate if that magic was to ever be thwarted.
Sáenz once wrote: “You’ve always seen me. And I think that’s all that anyone wants. That’s love.” You saw me, and still chose to love the chaos. For the chaos is an adventure I know you have been dying to experience.
See you soon.
October came with a bite.
November did, too.
I wonder what December will be like.
Winter steals the sun away. Without her warmth, I often find it difficult to smile. I go out for a walk just as sunset creeps in, and the air reminds me of being young again. Maybe it is the smell of dampness or moss. It reminds me of feeling like an alien in my own skin – of pretending to be someone I am not. Winter is biting, harsh, and merciless. She reminds me of the unanswered, the unloved, and the uncontrollable.
Winter tells me I am getting old. Winter asks me what I have accomplished all year long. Winter screams I had better make something count, and soon. Winter laughs at the ways I allow small acts of sorrow to hurt me. Winter tells me I should avoid any possibility of looking back one day and seeing the fruition of unhappiness. Winter pleads for me to forgive, to be merciful, to be kind.
Winter is for learning, summer is for loving, I promise myself.
Even in all the biting cold.
Part Three: Love
On Falling in Love
I am not often at a loss for words. Yet here I am, at a complete loss for words on how to express myself. I spoke to you yesterday. Though it came as no particular surprise, we spent hours catching up on how we both have been. In retrospect, part of what you said spoke to my soul on a gravitational level. It encouraged me to stay on call with you, to talk in the ways that only we know how to. I realise now that our relationship is one of uncertainty, riddled with “what ifs”. A stream of questions to which we still do not have the answers and will likely never have. But I realise now, and I have for some time: I still love you. The part that kills me the most is that perhaps you will never learn to love me in all the ways I want you to. You are unaware of all the parts that make you so authentic, so uniquely you. I never meant to meet you at the point where we both know each other so vividly. The truth is, I’m just trying to learn to love. And you keep meeting me halfway.
I want to tell everyone that I have never experienced someone like you. I want to tell people that I never knew someone like you exists. Someone who looks at the stars and genuinely wonders of the beauty in a damaged world, who believes that dogs go to heaven, and who believes that the sea is equal parts intimidating as it is beautiful. I want to tell everyone that you are the first person, aside from my mother, who has ever made me want to talk about my loneliness.
Will I ever mend you? I find myself trying to mend all your broken pieces. I am there for you in every capacity but one. I know your intentions, your dreams, what makes you smile, what you can never tolerate. Though, I find myself breaking, shattering and crumbling to accommodate an idea of love that I have created for us both. I once reminded you that we are both trying to learn how to love. In truth, we still are. To this day.
I once thought to myself that love is a godlike, elusive, unobtainable trait that only a few of us will ever experience. Twenty-one years of life have taught me what it means to love. You remind me how to and why to love. You extend grace to someone who worries about the darkness of the world. Promise me: when a world of uncertainty and disingenuousness greets you, I hope you meet it with as much grace as you met me with. Should we meet once more in our years to come, I hope you do not find it difficult to let me in once more. I will chase the stars and the moons to one day find a person like you. Until then, love me less, but love me longer.
We will make our way and find love. You promised me we would.
On the Blue Between Us
Have you ever met someone so full of curiosities that the very words escaping their mouth serve as stepping stones for an inquiry into who they are and what they embody? I never thought I would want to know so much about someone, but here I am, replaying the million and one questions I want to desperately ask you.
Mum once told me that honesty is a difficult path to decipher and truly ever understand. While we often aim to be honest with our friends, family, significant others or partners, we sometimes fall short. Not necessarily because we are dishonest people, or at worst, liars. Instead, we often tell a lesser extent of the truth to first and foremost, protect ourselves from possible consequences, but also to protect our embodiment of love within a person.
I miss you and I love you. Though, I cannot seem to find the words to tell you the full truth of how I feel. Maybe that stems from fear of the way you will respond; fear of the illumination of my truest feelings for you; fear of how you will never look at me in the ways I do you; fear of the unknown; fear of your heart; fear of losing you, even if momentarily. I could spend years writing a novel on account of our relationship. This letter is evidence of that. I smile when I run to tell others of the ways I love you. All the while, I have spent an eternity crying tears that fill an ocean, that I hope will one day carry me to salvation.
My love for you keeps going, even until now.
I found myself wanting to reach out to you, recently. While I write this, it has been over a month since we last spoke. In our last conversation, I could not help but feel the presence of the unspoken truth we ought to share with each other sometime soon. Our relationship is unlike any other, and yet we both sit across each other, afraid of somehow and someday, losing the other. You promised we would one day find love, but I am starting to doubt its possibility. I find myself shuddering, shivering and revolting at the idea of living a life without you. But I wonder if I can keep holding onto you, with all the blue between us.
I hope the next time I write to you, I am not only kinder to our reality, but to our love, too.
I wonder if I can keep holding onto you, even with all the blue between us.
I am sorry, for I still love you.
On Love in Another Universe
I have always wanted to ask, but I doubt I will ever have the opportunity to do so. Do you feel it when I am thinking of you? It is a difficult question to answer, I know – it almost delves into a conversation of the supernatural, the abstract and the unobtainable. I would like to believe that the energy I put out into the world with regards to the love that I have for you, somehow reaches you; there would be so much comfort in knowing that it is not wasted. Maybe that is just my excuse for continuing to love you in the ways that I already do. Hopeless romanticism and all. I tried to remember when and where we first met each other. Months after we have known each other, we keep running in circles. Touch and go. I do not think we ever meant to mean as much as we do to each other. Though, evidently, we do.
I think we had something. Perhaps it was just an attraction to being seen for the first time in so long. But it wasn’t nothing either. Perhaps it was just stolen glances in crowded places to gauge your mood; laughing a little too hard at each other’s ridiculous jokes; feeling giddy at the brushing of shoulders; pausing before I call your name in a crowd. And I know it might not have been love, but it surely could have been.
There is an incredible article I always come back to, written by William Jones, a 19th century philosopher who talks about the idea of the ‘multiverse’. He coined the theory, essentially outlining that there exists a cumulation of universes all playing out, simultaneously to ours. If we are to take that as testament, even for a moment, there exists a universe in which you love me, in all the ways I love you.
Hear me out.
In that universe, I cut you out of my life entirely, halfway through October of this year. We graduate, and life takes us around the world. You spend years researching various intersections of your field. Mutual friends always rave about you; of your achievements. In that universe, I get in touch with you, to congratulate you. Maybe even more than once. In all our years apart, we meet again one day. We have lunch. You stare into my soul, like that summer I felt love breathe through me for the first time. I realise, I missed you. I missed the way we ran circles around every word we would say to each other. The way I would look at you, out of the corner of my eye, catching your slight glances, looking at me. In that universe, I realise I never stopped loving you. In that universe, you learnt how to love, but only because I supplied the space for you to do so. In this universe, I do not know if I am ready, or ever will be, to truly say goodbye to you.
Last time I wrote you, I promised I would try to be kinder to our reality and our love; but that remains increasingly difficult.
For, what is our reality?
On Being Without You
I used to love weekends. I suppose that was because I always knew I would get to see you. Well, it’s not as if I didn’t have every other day of the week to do that, though. And yet, there is intimacy in seeing the person you love on the last day of each week. Sundays were our, and everyone else’s, special little ritual: scrambling to see what we could and would do.
I hate weekends now. They invite timidity, inertia and hollowness like I have never known before. In part, because I spend them without you. Some days are harder than others, this much I proclaim to know. I promise I have been trying to be better when alone. Sunday is here again. I am tired of loving, tired of my pool of misery and tired of missing home. I await the sunrise with bated breath, in hope that it saves me from unending darkness and fog. I guess you could say Monday is now my favourite day.
I miss the way you held onto my lighter after lighting your last cigarette of the evening, almost an invitation for me to ask for it back every time. Would you linger awkwardly at the doorstep of my home just a little while longer? A small moment such as that might just be my invitation to stay a while longer in your life. Small, perhaps insignificant, but an invitation nonetheless: to keep painting the walls every season in the home I built in you.
I left a piece of me in your life and I am waiting for the chance to come back for it.
I saw you in a dream last night, and the night before that. We walked to the end of a beach and sat there, watching the refraction of the waves. We spoke about nothing and everything. You were so real. I can almost hear your laughter and feel the warmth of your palms when I lay in bed, half awake and groggy. I do not know why I have dreams like that.
You are my home. I think of you often. I caught myself thinking of the raindrops that speckled my front porch yesterday evening. Does the rain make you sad, or perhaps it causes you some sort of inexplicable happiness? There is comfort in knowing we share the seasons together. In that way, even when we are apart, I still get to live alongside you, even if it exists as a semblance of togetherness. I await to share the seasons with you. Summer is our favourite. Who will take on the task of admitting it for the both of us? I cannot wait to see you then. But, maybe by some divine and unexplainable chance, I won’t. And maybe we just keep passing each other, never truly seeing each other the same way we once did. But, one day, in eighty years, when you’re a hundred and I’m a hundred too, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly damn unbearable, send me a message. Let me know how your life has been. I hope you will say: it has been so wonderful. And I will know you lived.
I looked for you at the start of every night, from the day we said goodbye to one another. I needed you when you were not within arm’s reach. I told myself that this was poison, this was a mistake, this was an addiction. I kept at it, regardless, because to love is only a by-product of humanity.
But damn, how you look when you are truly happy; your smile curls around your teeth; your hair is messy, and you are panting from being exhausted of keeping up with me. How you look when the sun hits your face and you reach your hand out to capture her rays; how you look when you roll a cigarette, a mastery of muscle memory; and how your eyes, your fingers and the feeling of walking next to you is a life-force in itself.
I know in time I will miss whatever that was. There is no harm in admitting it.
And yet, what a succinct inability to write, even when in happiness. I am at a loss for words; at a loss for my own mother tongue in describing what I feel. Yesterday, I wrote to you; perhaps for the last time in a while. It will be difficult, as I cannot count the times during the average day in which something ordinary occurs and I do not feel the need to tell you about it. The truth is you are still the person I want to share new things with. This impulse will not end soon. Instead, what will end is the possibility of a response. You will no longer be there when I call out your name. In this regard, at least. It is not about finding someone to replace you; for I have spread my love all over the place: my writing, my career, my friendships, my family. It is about trying to sleep, knowing that I live in a world your hands held for such a long time. I write, if only to remind myself that I am not leaving you forever. I will get better. And I will come home. But there is no inherent rush. We still have our whole life ahead of us.
The world continues to close in on me, but every day, I wake up with a renewed commitment. No more self-deprivation or daydreaming. I take a breath, roll my neck and remind myself that to be alone is only a mere aspect of being human. I remind myself of the beauty in a damaged world. And I still get dressed and make my coffee every morning, remaining alive and open to the warmth of the Sun. While you may not be able to kiss the back of my ankles, at least the Sun can. No matter your response, I continue to hold.
To hold beauty.
I used to write poetry about you.
My honesty led to our reconciliation.
Reconciliation led to a fresh beginning – devoid of needing you in such a specific and inherently daunting way. I spent hours going through the entries I wrote about you. I went blue in the face trying to find some hint that it would be easy to stop loving you. What a waste of time. I did not need to stop loving you. I just needed to stop accommodating an idea of you.
Life has been so different recently. I have been taking better care of myself.
Even though the whole world was against you, you smiled at me. Three days with no sleep, and you still smiled at me. You were still honest with me, were still looking straight at me – with my vulnerability in the open, with fear clinging at the heels of every word that poured out of my honeycomb mouth. There is so much magic in your patience with me.
Friends tell me I look much happier recently.
I have you to thank for that, actually.
You met me halfway, in the way you knew best.
And now I get to move forward.
We have the capacity to be the closest of friends, and I would be lying to myself if I said I did not want friendship to work. For the first time, I have no inherent desire to rush into new terrain with you, though. I would let a world of love bruise and batter my heart a hundred times over, if only to remind myself what it means to feel. You took on a particular job without even being aware of it: carving at my heart, not to ruin or damage it, but to make it beat harder, more violently, more honestly.
I always feared losing you. Even when your voice quivered and your thoughts could not keep up with vocalisation, you still mustered the strength to reassure me.
“Our relationship means more than this – you are not losing me.”
The blue holds, I will admit. But I get to hold peace and beauty, even in all that blue.
I did it out of love. Every step of the way. You owe me nothing. I’ll see you on the other side.
The bottle is half empty, the lamp is low, the world is fast asleep, but I am still here. There is no more despair in what I feel for you. I sit here, mulling over the shape of it all – how I got this far, how we might pan out, how you are doing. My heavy heart is momentarily able to rest. Our reconciliation has been a sliver of light in the darkness of the world. If we are going to heal, I plead that it be nothing short of glorious.
I hope you are not hungry. I hope you have good dreams. I hope your body does not ache. I hope all is well for you. Regardless of my bygone hopes for us, and how they might sustain themselves moving forward, I want you to know I continue to remain by your side. At the very least, promise me to never stop loving. I often imagined a love so gentle, honest and raw that it would fundamentally change my nature and outlook on reality – a love so pure that it would change my life.
Without even knowing it, you changed my life.
Planting seeds of friendship and love is not difficult. What becomes difficult is taking up the practice of maintenance. Loving and caring for you is not particularly tiresome, though. In the home I built in you, I know where the floorboards squeak, I recognise the furniture, the pictures on the wall, the books on the shelves, the china carefully placed in the cabinets – I can find my way around the dark if need be.
What I am trying to say is: if the train was coming, would you move? If the quicksand under your toes was pulling you in, would you even notice, or would it just be another Monday morning for you?
What I am trying to say is: I know you. And it is not bitter work in being there for you.
What I am trying to say is: thank you for letting me in. I will not be sorry for any of it. I loved you on purpose, I was open on purpose, I was vulnerable on purpose. I still crave vulnerability, close talk, emotion, and I will never apologise for it. I do not want pity or guilt or grime – carry that if you so desire, for I want no part in it.
What I am trying to say is: I want to be holding your hand when I finally understand why taking an ice-cold shower reminds you of the thrill of life and does not instead remind you of all the loneliness in the world.
What I am trying to say is: the world is an orange, and I am still holding out half to you.
What I have been trying to say is: I am here for you. I still care for you. I never stopped.
And if the train comes, please move.
Part Four: Moving Forward
Adulthood is a void? Yes.
Have you attempted to fill that void? Of course.
How have you attempted to fill this void? I’ve told you: good sex.
Anything else? Champagne. Oranges. Meditation.
Beer? No, never beer.
Avocados, acupuncture, amphetamines, applause, burning letters, beauty, cigarettes, coffee, cufflinks, ecstasy, forgiveness, family, fury, gospel choirs, grace, gratitude, hypnosis, health, kayaking, kirtan, kneading, knowledge, loyalty, lucid dreaming, Pyer Moss, psychics, raspberries, salads, smoothies, straight A’s, sweat, tarot, tongues, viridian, yoga, zen.
But mostly good sex.
Have you filled the void? No. Turns out there was never a void to begin with. Just an opening, a space.
A space? Yes.
Have you filled that space? Not yet.
But there’s no rush.
Found family is hard to come by.
I never truly thought that someone who came into my life on such short notice would have such a pivotal role in teaching me to be better. You are multi-layered. If we were to peel back my layers, like a shallot diced for a summer dinner, I do not think there would be much difference in your intricate veins, in comparison to mine.
I was reading a book by your side on the beach in late June. I had to stop for a drink of water and to take in the sunshine. You looked up at me from your sunbed and reached your hand out to mine.
“You’re kind of like sunshine to me,” you said. I looked back at you, the shape of you, this person I trust so genuinely. I felt the ghost of anxiety and past rejection envelope my entire being. Intense. Glaring. Too strong for my own good, my brain screamed momentarily.
“Say, you know when you step out of the house in mid-July, where the sun is not yet at its scorching peak? Its warmth glows so gently and it makes everything feel worth it – in such a natural and effortless way?”
You stood up and joined me in looking across the sea, watching the ways the rays refracted off of the viridian water.
“You bring light to me,” you said.
Reconstruction of the self has never been an easy mission. I have found sorrow in what the world has awarded others as sweet kisses. Yet you remain, encouraging me to walk with grace, authenticity and clarity, nevertheless. Who knew our first coffee together would have us this far down the road, pride in our noses like salty seawater? Thank you for reminding me to extend grace. Keep reminding me. And I will keep reminding you of the sun’s power.
See you soon.
On Ordinary Things
I made a promise to myself when I turned 21. I faltered someway through, but I still have a few months to make up for it.
I think it is time I remind myself.
No more dirty dishes in the sink, no more eating dinner alone, no more proving myself to people, no more five-year plans, no more shrinking myself and certainly no more sadness. I may not know much about human experience, but I know this much: I am still a child and should not whine over not having mastered control of my impulses, emotions and worries yet. Some have had many years of dreams and realities to learn from, so there is no excuse for my tears to stain the counter at this particular point in time.
I have dreams and I want to live again.
I want to be curled up in a warm bed with the sheets up to my nose, full of love when Mum’s voice calls me down for Sunday lunch.
I want to be silly and embarrassing all day long, and then fall asleep knowing that tomorrow, I will wake and be reminded of the power of life.
I want to wake up to the light creeping into my room from the gap under the door.
I want to hear someone humming in the kitchen.
I want to hear the thudding of onions being cut.
I want to have an ordinary day, in the ways only I know how, on which nothing important will happen,
except ordinary things.
On the Kitchen
The kitchen is the essential heart of my home. It is the space I spent much of my time with my brother, both of us trying to shove piping hot cookies into our mouths; the space I licked all of Mum’s baking spoons; the space I burnt my first pot; the space my parents slow-dance on a Sunday morning.
I can cook a whole meal effortlessly; my brother can juggle three grapes with his eyes closed; my Mum can cook five different dishes simultaneously; and Dad can remind us of the warmth of the world with a winter soup. We can dance to the sound of the microwave timer, bicker over the last cookie and howl over who left the fridge open. We balance thick tomatoes on top of our heads, pack our avocados with bananas to ripen them faster and someone will always slide me half their sandwich when they are worried I had no time to eat.
I can make eggs at 2am when I get home from drinking, and nobody will come yelling.
My friend asks me if I feel like I am home after having been away for so long.
Mum is cooking and we are all laughing. Sade plays in the background. Nobody is slamming drawers, nobody is closing cabinets so hard the dishwasher rattles, and no one is scrubbing dishes violently. Nobody is asking why I am looking inside the fridge for the fifth time in 10 minutes, and most importantly, nobody is shouting.
The kitchen is different. I am happy there, for we are friendly with one another.
Can it not just all go still for a while?
Can I not just sit in a kitchen flooded by the sun, with the people I love?
Can I not just listen to their voices recount their days and weeks?
The things that made them laugh,
The flatmate getting on their nerves,
The small pockets of happiness in a blue world?
Our elbows are on the table, almost knocking the half-empty wine glasses. Our legs are swinging from the kitchen stools. There is homemade lemonade and lime slices in the jug just left of the stove. There is a rhythmic slicing of Fresno chillies, of fresh garlic, of red onions. The window is open, there is fruit in the bowl, the mangoes are ripe, and these are the happiest moments of my life. There is noise coming from the street below and in the distance, night is approaching.
But in the kitchen, we never notice. In the kitchen, we are laughing, and the sizzle of the chillies, garlic, and onions hits the pan. The wine is finished.
Above all else, I promised I would always cook for others. I take my time in preparing food not for the simple reason of hunger, but because cooking is an act of intimacy, an act of making others feel better, of making others feel at home. And in doing so, I have made your lives better, which is why any of us really exists.
All I ever want to know is: how are you making it through life? Where have you put your body, and how do you cope inside of it, hour by hour; minute by minute; second by second? All I want to know is how your life is. I want to know about all the little pieces that have filled your life when I was not in it; and I will tell you about all the pieces in mine; and all the pieces in between us where we have joined so wonderfully and perfectly, like the world’s best puzzle. Like here, like now.
When you leave, I will count the days until we sit outside on the veranda, drink our wine and recognise the undying light in each other’s eyes. I will wait, even though I insist on you telling the story now, rather than later. Life is so short, but I love you. I can wait until then.
On Moving Forward
Recently, I take a moment to look at everyone more intensely and intimately. It is almost as if I love them, and maybe I do! Or maybe I only love one person and I am beaming from head to toe because of it! Or maybe, just maybe, I have learnt to love myself again and I want people to know.
I find I am so busy these days. I have a new hobby: I am watching myself become someone entirely new, someone stronger. There is so much violence in reconstruction of the self. I am building something that I cannot break, I remind myself. Each passing moment of the work is grisly, grimly and grimy, but I have no choice but to pick up my tools every day and continue.
And yet, it would be a gross disservice to myself if I did not admit how much I miss home.
I long for home.
I long for the day I get to feel the hot sand in my toes once more.
I long for the last cigarette of the day, after completing all my errands.
I long for my first cup of coffee of the day, with Dad at my side.
I long for evening fruit salads, packed with ripe mango pieces and sweet grapes.
I long for flirting with the ones that got away.
I long for kisses which do not last for as long as they should.
I long for greeting people with a kiss on both cheeks and their warm embrace, despite the blistering heat and humidity of summer.
I long to hear Mum’s humming as she organises the fresh lilies in a vase.
I long to be woken up by the vacuum cleaner on a Saturday morning.
I long for the fondness, joy and sense of life that Summer alone awards.
Sadness died long ago.
It died when the old lady at the local market packed my fresh tomatoes in a bag, with a smile planted across her face, radiating love. It died when I sat quietly with Mum at 5am, listened to the sky, and considered why coming home to myself is not so hard after all. It died precisely when my youngest cousin explained the meaning of happiness to me.
Let us move forward and promise each other to keep moving forward.
Gervaise Savvias is a Cypriot-Zambian born, UK based multidisciplinary artist whose work focuses on highlighting the beauty of the Individual. A driving aim of all his work is to capture the strength of the individual and its relation to our shared community. An audience is pushed to discover and explore their emotions, thoughts and make the connections themselves; filling in their own gaps, rather than the artist imposing them.