Thursday, August 30, 2012

Narcissus Transformed


The first time he brought her flowers, was her last. She wasn’t alive to see them bloom. For 20 years she’d longed for him to send her a gift of anything; chocolate, the book he’d written especially for her but never sent, flowers on her birthday or a Christmas card. The only gift he’d ever given her, an item of clothing that she admired, had been ‘re-gifted’. She often wondered who actually bought it for him, and how they might have felt knowing that it was being worn by someone other than its intended. Still, she wore it as if wrapped in his embrace, comforting and warm until its threads withstood no wear and it was relegated into a suitcase of relics that marked her life.

She’d have made love to him had he written her a poem, hugged him for a token of his affection but these moments had been rare. He’d made the effort to attend her funeral even though it was a world a way from the place he now calls home; strange for a man who considers he never had one. Only twice had he crossed oceans to visit her. Wonderful visits full of adventure, laughter and intimacy. 

She’d visited him many times, in many places, none of them where he really wanted to be, but he’d been sparing with his thanks, then, she had been grateful just to connect. Despite his intentions of travelling the world, he had remained land-locked and, as he aged, lonely. Never having the will or resources to wonder beyond his self-imposed boundaries. Yet he'd kept in touch.

Sure, in his 30's he'd had women besides her. Beautiful women, professional women, artistic women, crazy women...all had come and gone, none stayed. None showed an understanding of his personality or a deep love of him, despite himself. Quick fucks, long fucks, sympathy fucks, slow fucks, sad fucks...once the gloss wore off, they wondered into other men's arms, leaving his bed cold and his heart steeled.

He places the bouquet upon her casket, watched disapprovingly by a sea of faces, none of whom know who he is. This foreigner, this interloper, stealing a moment.  Funerals are like that, everyone thinking they have a special connection with the body in the box. None knowing the connection she had with him. He did. He didn't know how great until her passing.  Her children know of course, and a few close friends remember him, have heard of him – spoken about lovingly and affectionately by their friend.  She waxed lyrically about him; beautiful and gentle, sweet and misunderstood. Her interpretation coloured ,but her love of him solid and unwavering.

 He was solemn, and for the first time in a long time, tears other than those of a crocodile glistened on his now crow-footed eyes. A shadow of his former self, he looks older than his 54 years; sadder, worn out, beaten and unhappy. She would have hated to see him this way.  His glossy dark hair now silver grey. Skin pale and sallow, his gait hampered by a limp once slight, now through neglect, pronounced and painful. A nagging pain he’s carried all his life. He bears the wound as his badge of courage, a reminder of the fallen and his own guilt. A badge long undeserved. A courage lost and forgotten.

He was a young man when she met him. Arrogant, confident, beautiful and talented; penniless of course. Full of hope and aspirations, unwilling to put in a hard day’s work for a decent day’s pay.  Damaged by some, desired by many, loved by few. His tenure with friends short lived due to an impetuous nature and unforgiving soul. Not much of a prospect really, but she had independence and money and didn’t need financial gain, just his affection and the tokens that accompany friendship, love.

His selfish ways didn’t faze her, nor did his angry temperament or his impatient heart. She saw beyond the mask, inside the shell. She saw the softness he tried so hard to hide. The vulnerability he tried to shake. She knew who he was, what he was, and loved him anyway, unconditionally and with deep sorrow over the lack of  reciprocation. He could never be hers because she could never be his. All she wanted was for him to take a little more interest in her. Repay a little of her kindness and affection. Treat her as special, even though she wasn't. 

“Why do you hold me in such high regard?” He’d often asked.

“Because I love you. That’s what people who care about each other do.”

The answer was always the same. Love him she did, care about him she did, as if he was her son, her brother, her lover, her friend. A love she longed for him to articulate, as he had in the beginning, but as the years went by, he rarely did.

“The words have more meaning if I issue compliments rarely. When I do say thank you, or I love you, you know I mean it,” So he would explain away his refusal to reassure her.

She disagreed and said she loved him all the time. Even when he was harsh and difficult.

“I tell my children I love them, my friends that I love them…and I’ll be damned if I won’t tell you that I love you …”

His cell filled with messages each night - “Good night sweet prince,”  For twenty years, she’d sent a goodnight wish. Long after she'd found another, was happy in her skin. She never forgot him, never betrayed him, never stopped loving him. She was nothing if not reliable, loyal, honest and true. He knew that, he appreciated that, but never told her even though he knew how much it would light her life and thrill her heart.

So now, he brings her flowers. Sweet sunshine on stems, Daffodils, Narcissus tazetta, their significance unacknowledged, but she would have understood. This is her last bouquet.  These blooms would have elicited tears of joy, had she lived to see them.

She’d have taken solace from his despair, and outpouring of emotion. Only once had she seen him cry. At last, a cognitive sign of love, a sign he really cared. He finally has the strength and will to communicate in a language she would have understood. A language so sincere and heartfelt, yet one he was so determined to avoid during her lifetime.

As he places the bouquet of sunshine on her casket, and the unmailed book,  he finally whispers the words she longed to hear.
 “I love you - thank you - I’m sorry.