couple under hut beside sea and infinity pool

Love is All That Remains

In all honesty, the most disturbing thing about love is the possibility of being pursued by a mythical creature wholly intent on archery practise with your heart as its target. I find this uncomfortable.

My first clash with love was when I was dragooned into a prep school at the age of eight, and frogmarched into a class populated with a dozen or so other boys of my age, and a rather ferocious gentleman who was the tutor. Once I was seated, and I suspect, because I was the new boy, the be-spectacled tormentor made a be-line for me and spat at me: “Armo, Amas, Amat…” whilst slamming his bamboo cane down violently on my desk. “Amarmus, Amantis, Amant.” he continued while his piercing eyes seemed to penetrate my forehead. I hadn’t a clue what he was on about, which was more than obvious to everyone else in the classroom.

Escape from 6am cross-country running

As the terrifying spectre of the teacher receded as he went to pick on another victim, my desk mate surreptitiously elbowed me a well-worn text book on the front of which was embossed LATIN. The secret was out, I was in a Latin class. I immediately took this information and stored it at the back of my mind with that other very useful subject, algebra, and decided to concentrate on more useful things like how to get out of cross-country running at 6am on a freezing November morning. I subsequently found out soon afterwards that the very frightening man’s Latin he bellowed at me actually meant: ” I love, You love, He loves, They Love….” And all sorts of other things. That was my first encounter with the word love.

Love really is quite circumspective, you can love something, but not be in love. For example, I love the sound a sail makes when the wind cracks it open as it fills, I love the hissing sound the cool sea water makes when it laps over white-hot sand, and I love my bicycle, but I don’t want to marry it.

Once, many, many years ago, when I lived in Barbados busily making enemies with my father, I walked into a beach bar and ordered my usual ice-cold beer. Sitting at the bar was an elderly gentleman with a tatty beard, and, as sometimes happens with these things, we started to chat.

Love is all that remains…

He was 86 years old and had some fantastic stories to tell, and slowly but surely the afternoon slipped away. We finally got round to speaking about relationships and the disasters I had had, and the problems with my father. It was then I asked him if he had been married. Have you ever seen a candle flame just before it goes out? Well, that was what I saw in his eyes. He paused, took a sip of his beer, then looked me sadly in the eyes and said: “When you are alone, love is all that remains when all else is gone.” He left then, and I never saw him again as I was returning to South Africa the next day. I think of what he said quite often, and you know what, the older I get, the more I understand what he meant. Indeed, a wise old man.

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