Sunday, 24 July 2016

My heart has lost its home

These days I find myself looking for hearts. I look for them in cloudy skies, in blossom petals scattered on pavements, in frying pans and puddles. This week, I found them on the beach, heart-shaped pebbles strewn across the sand, like stepping stones across the abyss. Sometimes I feel I am clutching at straws, searching for evidence that, though you are gone, love has not died. I am looking for you everywhere. I look for you in the faces of strangers, in the backs of men with broad shoulders, in male bodies in workmen's clothes. I send frantic messages to your friends and family. Sometimes they reply and sometimes they don't. It is just another form of looking. I am looking for evidence that you lived, that we loved, that it was real. I want someone else to say, yes, that happened. Though this is a nightmare, that wasn't a dream. Love existed. Love still exists.

I looked for you on my arrival in Norfolk with the kids. This too is something that I do. With every coming and going, I am searching for my home, longing to tell someone - I arrived, I am safe, we are here. And suddenly I was crying in a strange kitchen as I looked for spoons or cups or spaces on shelves, lost in a strange place where you had never been, where you would never be, where I wouldn't even have expected you to be, just because my heart was looking for its home.

Though a love of the sea was something we had in common, we only had one weekend by the coast. As it happened, it was the weekend before my mum died, but we weren't to know that then. I just knew that I was tired of the trips backwards and forwards to hospitals and that I needed a break, that I needed some time with you. After she'd died, I felt guilty that I'd spent that weekend away from her. Now that you have died, I'm glad I did. She would have wanted it that way. You took me to Sterchi's in Filey to buy chocolates for our mums. Though my mum never got to eat hers, I'm glad that your mum had one last box from you.

I try to remember every detail of our weekend but already it is blurred by time, already the memories are out at sea, like the waves at high tide and I feel them slipping away. We left early on Friday, I think, but then I think, no, surely you were at work on Friday and what did I do with the kids and it must have been late when we arrived. We listened to Neil Young, I think, but no, we were in your van, surely we listened to your music and the Neil Young cd was mine. I don't know anymore. I know that we arrived and that you made a fire. I know that we played Scrabble. I'm not sure who won. I know that we made love and that you felt that you had won that night. I know that you felt strange being away in a holiday cottage and that you looked too big in the low-ceilinged house, were out of place in the pure white bed linen. I know that the whole idea of renting a holiday cottage was alien to you. You were used to roughing it and not comfortable with me paying but I'd told you in no uncertain terms that I was too tired for camping in December. 'I'm going to book a cottage for the weekend, Blacksmith,' I said. 'It's up to you whether you come.' I'm so glad that you came.

You took me to some of your favourite places, to the lighthouse at Flambourough and the beach at Thornwick Bay. We saw a seal. He peeped his head out of the waves, bobbed about for a while and was gone. We picked up pebbles on the beach then too. You were searching for smooth round shapes, to make runes from. We couldn't have predicted that you wouldn't have time to make them. We wouldn't have dreamed that the seal was a sign or a siren, calling you home, though you posed me like a mermaid on a rock, saw me like a wild sea creature, even though I was bundled up in waterproofs and a woolly hat.  You were an artist then and I was happy being your muse. I loved the way you loved me. You didn't agree with taking naked photos of women having spent too much time around dishonourable blokes but you confessed that you wanted to then, as art. Maybe in summer, I said. But that summer never came.

Instead, this summer, friends and family fill the gaps in the diary and I write my way through the weeks, ride the turbulent waves of grief. Instead of making runes, I remember the old bag of runes that I found in your house and the message on the one my daughter picked: 'The beginning and the ending are fixed. What's in between is yours. Nothing is in vain. All is remembered.' I find the photos that you took on your laptop and read the signs in my face. I pick up heart-shaped stones on the beach with my children, pocket memories to store for later. We are still here. Love existed. Love exists.