The smoke was swirling, the carpet was blotched with spilled drinks, the faces were a blur as they passed me by. I’d been here, of course. The failings were all too familiar, too soul-crushingly irreversible to do anything but be courteous, walk away, go back, bury my head under a pillow for a couple of hours and cajole one more early morning airline dash from a body that had seen far too many sub-6 a.m. economy class queues in the past two years. So I told myself that this wouldn’t be about trying or pretending or keeping it real – it would just be about saying thank-you, nice-to-meet-you, see-you-soon, buh-bye. That it ended up being a lot more than that really had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with someone who has, much against my will, got me to care deeply about an imaginary rubber duck.
I’m overwhelmingly thankful to you, in a way that I haven’t been to anyone in a long time. For being unafraid to tell me things, for pulling down the barriers I had so pettily constructed in my head, for giving my meaningless ideas only as much credit as they deserve, for saying sorry when you didn’t need to, for processing details of events, people and places rapidly enough for our conversations to not get bogged down by minutiae, for leaving me time only to react and not to think, for your rolling laughter over the phone, for doing all this without making it seem like a big deal. There is so much more to learn from you and there is so, so much more to tell you. I hope that, in the days and months to come, I get the time and attention to do both. I’m truly amazed at how much of my time devoted to you has resulted in overwhelmingly happy memories. I’m even more amazed at how, whatever the complications or context, you just get it.
A lot of this is still so absurd that I can barely wrap my mind around it – I have no idea if you have a good singing voice, I don’t know if you hate clubbing, I couldn’t even begin to guess what your favourite colours or fruits or books are. But having spent the majority of the past three years dropping the heavy latch on that door without a second thought, I’m finding the effort involved in keeping that door propped open just a crack a challenge worth pursuing.
It has also been accompanied by a realisation that I didn’t think I’d be willing to share with anyone up until I started writing this – that maybe this isn’t about locating or sharing happiness or sadness or emotion of any description. That maybe what we’re after isn’t love or companionship or empathy or acceptance. Maybe what we’re after is what we’ve both had within us all along.