Seagull flying out to sea, another waits behind (photo: Colm Francis McKenna)

It’s dawned on me: my first love and I will likely never cross paths again.

Not romantically, but generally: physically, geographically. Probably, we’ll never be in the same room again. It’s likely we’ll avoid being in the same train station at the same time for the rest of our lives.

Our distance confuses me; there’s no measuring it.

Odds are we’ll never see each other again. No chance the world would allow for a fluke like that.

And yet, we could be separated by no more than a wall at this very moment.

And if I’m not sat by a wall, I might simply turn around and find her there.

Isn’t it absurd that I’m now compelled to turn around and find her; that I’m disappointed by her absence?

Isn’t it absurd that if you were to consider the contingencies that might have placed a past lover, a past friend, right behind you, then you would turn just as quickly?

When the weight of fact sets back in, when the furniture returns and you take your place amongst it, you laugh to yourself; simply had to humour ourselves, didn’t we? How funny. And yet we all turn…

Is it unfair to make a palimpsest out of a love life?

Probably not, it feels fairly on the mark.

My next relationship will superimpose itself upon the last.

Ad infinitum.

Old lovers exist somewhere beneath the surface, past intimacies are buried by the repetition of affections towards a variety of guests.

The original manuscript exists somewhere. All palimpsests bear their first entry.

You’ll scratch your fingers down to the bone if you want to get back there, mind. You’ll hurt yourself no end, upset yourself.

It’s embarrassing, the fact that we can’t ever really move on. We’ll use the same tricks for the rest of our days. The old mannerisms, pet names, inside jokes. You’ll recycle those with new lovers.

Partners change, rituals stay the same.

We’d rather be rid of the old ones. And yet we all scratch…

“Maybe I Should entertain
The very fact that I’m insane
I wasn’t fooling when I said
All the people I like are those that are dead”
Felt, Forever Breathes The Lonely Word

I often find myself traipsing through times of love with a cold shoulder to the present.

My desire to relive makes victims out of new lovers. They mould me too, unknowingly.

Is all this trepidation really necessary? Should I really be so melodramatic about it?

Maybe. It’s at least worth considering.

No one can remove us from our past selves. New faces approach us but we can’t bear to let them be new people.

The only love is the satisfaction of memory. Our present romances are nothing more than adultery.

Should we feel guilty about this?


We are memory foam for others; we bear the weight of their impressions forevermore. We remember.

We remember good and bad. When I anachronistically plaster old idiosyncrasies onto new faces, well, I wish I didn’t.

But isn’t that a small price to pay?

Would I sacrifice the bliss of days spent floating, lost in a lake of things past?

Not a chance.

And yet…

“We use each other like axes to cut down the ones we really love”
Lawrence Durrell, Justine

We know what we are doing. We beg to have them back; give us back the blueprint, so the love and the face might align once more. Rid us of our guilt, make us happy again.

Catching a glimpse of an old lover in an unsuspecting victim, you wonder where they end and the person lying next to you begins.

Might it be the same love every time? Is it just the new costume that gives the illusion of change?

Leave it to the poets to speak like that. I’d like to stop the first bleeding into the rest, not make verse out of her.

Is there a solution? How do I shake off the fear that I am merely trying to recreate my first love; that the entirety of my future romances will be dedicated to the same end; what I thought was love is in fact grief.

There must be ways to take this burden off new lovers, I hope.

“We feel nostalgia for a place simply because we’ve lived there, whether we lived well or badly scarcely matters. The past is always beautiful”
Michel Houellebecq, Submission

Nostalgia, unfortunately, doesn’t discriminate. Memories of divorce are often as orange as monarch butterflies.

I know that sometimes I play tricks on myself. So why not about her?

If I stop being so soft-centred, it’s plausible my neuroses will fade. If I stop being so sentimental, it’s plausible I will get over this.

Likely. Things always get nasty. You made each other cringe with your sweet nothings on occasion. You brought out the worst in each other. At times, you understood you weren’t that compatible. She liked to dance and you did not. He made offhand remarks that you found offensive.

And what about how they acted when it was over? When they became more themselves, much to your surprise.

Puddle (Photo: Colm Francis McKenna)

I’d do well to have a little hope. To convince myself that at times, it was far from remarkable. To remember all the insults, all those words that deliberately came out wrong. I should laugh until it hurts; what have I done? I should rationalise; what kind of blueprint is that to carry around with me?

To be open-minded and to hope for more out of new faces.

Falling in love again, seeing the worlds furniture wink with fresh lids.

Again I begin to smile, foolishly narrating a new life for myself.

Cycling towards the future with the naivety and grace of a child.

Crying about it all, knowing I’ll hardly be aware of that sturdy bit of happiness, waiting for me, just around the corner.

And yet.

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