Have you ever run down a hill and the combination of your own speed, at first so controlled, and the gradient — deceptive from top to bottom — has produced something radically powerful; something powerful beyond your expectation, or imagination? Your legs are rendered useless: nothing more than molten flesh and blood and bone. Your arms are no better, spinning ineffectual windmills. Then, in a tumble of pink, a flash of green and a smattering of blue, you’re head over heels and find yourself at the foot of the hill: a bruised, and giggling, and breathless bundle of human-being. So it was with your father.
They say when you fall down a hill, you should roll with it, not try to fight it.
It never was — and was never going to be — within my control. The one choice that was mine was to settle for what he was prepared to give me, to walk into that affair hoping that I would somehow be good enough. Knowing him better than his girlfriend was no substitute for being his girlfriend. Knowing that he would lie by my side was no substitute for stepping out of the door with him by my side. There was no going back, though, once I had made that choice. The more that I had of him, the more that I wanted: I just had to go with what I’d got.
I was living in a paradox: completely helpless and consumed by the intensity of the liaison; but simultaneously wired with vitality, overwhelmed by a fervour for life. There was no way that I could play your father for keeps, but anything else that I wanted, that was mine. Everywhere that I went, I exuded a presence. There was a confidence about me that was unparalleled. I’m not sure that I will ever feel quite like that again. However, I was the other woman. My happiness depended on his actions, and he was reliant on her. I was bound inextricably to another couple’s relationship.
An end was inevitable; but I never envisaged the when or the how. It was a terse farewell, on a hot, overcast day. Perhaps that was fitting. After months of lustful trysts, and an unsaid understanding that he would walk away, and I would have to let him, what was there to say? Hot and overcast: complete the pathetic fallacy yourself. Still, it hurt. And hiding it away from the rest of the world, that exacerbated the pain. Nobody was there to bathe me and rub arnica into my wounds. Bruises heal, eventually; it’s just that some take longer than others. I was bearing a multitude, and some of those took a very long time. Sometimes, I wondered if they might ever fade and recede. But they did.
Although looking back up at the hill I am not sure if I would be prepared to hurl myself down it for a second time, I’ve no regrets. I was infused with energy to the point that I could do nothing but laugh through the pain. The memories are seared into my being and the majority of them are good: those are really the only ones that I see now. No matter how much it might have hurt, it was fun.
It was a frenetic affair that lasted six months, and to which there had been no prelude of desire, or of longing. We had been friends, but in the time that was needed for a handful of water to fly from a basin to a body, our years of platonic involvement dissipated. We became lovers. Then it ended, just as unexpectedly as it had begun. It left me screaming for more, and screaming for breath.
Bundle of human-being.
We were twenty-two. We were barely adults. We were playing a very adult game with a very childlike mentality. We didn’t think consequences, and we didn’t think responsibility. So Nature and Fate, wizened and timeless, sought to combine and they dealt us a hand that would force us to confront the people that we were and the implications of our actions.
When I realised, he was half a world away. Perhaps he has always been half a world away. With one foot in my life, and one foot in hers; he never belonged to me, but I’m not sure that he is entirely hers, either. Not now. I took responsibility. Somebody had to, and after all, I had decided to run down that hill.
I was left with you, my very own bundle of human-being. You, who personifies an entire summer of tumbling down hillsides.