Hello, my darling
It’s been a while, almost 11 years, since we last spoke. Your visa expired. So had Leo’s. A plan – leave the country with a return ticket, get a new visa. No problem. The night before you left – or were supposed to leave – was like almost every other we had spent together. We ate, we talked, we kissed and we made love. We slept as we always did, arms and hands entwined. Our flat was quiet and the garden was slipping out of May toward the early summer days I longed for in London. Summer meant we would all be outside, at Brixton Lido; Clapham Common; road trips to day clubs in Brighton; lager in the beer gardens instead of Guinness over the pool table. You chose Turkey because the return flight was cheap and I raved about it. The bag packed for two weeks would be back in the hallway, and it would be time for you to teach me more Portugues than how to swear, how to love and how you had come to take care of me. Time for you to mix more caipirinhas & bake less bread. Time for me to love you. Time for you to hold my hand and make me forget there had ever been a moment in my life when I hadn’t felt desired, protected, beautiful. Time to dance in samba clubs. Time for jealous spats about me going to Sicily with a male friend and you chasing down a mugger and the purse owner reluctantly buying me a drink as well. Time for another test, this time positive, so you could tell me again how happy you would be if we had conceived. How happy we would be. Your flight was early in the morning, so you would stay with Leo and go to Heathrow with him. OK. I went to work. Kissed you goodbye. Came home from work. Knock on the door. It was you, my darling. You kissed me, hard, and loved me fiercely. We both cried this night. This night we ached. To love so intensely. To be away from your love, which had never let me go. We had so much time. Just wait two weeks
Tuesday, 20 June: I’m waiting. I have waited for five weeks. I call my parents. My mum is excited. She asks how you are. I tell her you’re as happy as they are. It’s not true. I don’t know where you are, let alone how you feel. Your things are everywhere, you’re in every room. Your dictionary is next to the lounge. Juice from your parents’ factory in Brazil in cartons in the kitchen cupboards. Shaving cream next to the bath. Your winter coat still on the coat rack, which annoyed me most. It wasn’t cold when you left but you wouldn’t pack it away! I’m half-crazed by your presence and can’t sleep without you. Because I’m not alone. You & I, we two are one; two hearts beat in my body. One beginning, one breaking.
Tuesday, 20 June: I’m sitting in a generic Islington pub. England is playing in Euro 2000 and the English are unhappy, they’re being let down by their men. The squad they thought would come back triumphant had disappeared, played off the park. I know the feeling, boys, but I sip my soda water and talk in a voice that i didn’t know as mine. Mark doesn’t move as the tears and words come out. I have to see his friends in a tower block, his fellow Cariocas; I have to know where he is, Mark. Why he doesn’t answer my calls, my messages, my emails. Mark, I’m not strong enough to do this. Mark, please come with me?
Tuesday, 20 June: of course; the fucking lift is out of order. Of course, your fucking friends are 11 stories up. I’m going up there, Mark. It’s 22 flights of stairs. I don’t fucking care, Mark. I need to know where he is. The evening sun and stench of piss and beer cans in the stairwell make me vomit. I always cry when I vomit. Mark, I know you want to kill him, but please, just let me talk to them. I can’t deal with a fight. There is no fight. There are no words. I work in social housing. This flat is ‘abandoned’. We walk away, down, down, down the stairs. We walk to the Tube. I go home to Brixton. I can’t cry anymore.
I no longer know what day it is. I call my parents. He’s gone. I go to the consulate. I need to know. Has there been an accident? Is he in the country? Is he hurt, alone & broke? I can go to him, I have the money & right of return. Is he in trouble? I can support him. Us. You’re not a relative, Miss. I write to the address on the packs of juice. No reply. I write to you one last time. Come back, my darling, come back. I need you. I love you. The test was wrong, sweetheart. It was wrong. You would be proud. You would be so happy. I write the letter. I have nowhere to send it.
I go to work. I’m sick, all day. Everyday. I’m dehydrated. I faint. That’s it. You’re going to the doctor. The doctor can’t see me. Anna drives me to St Thomas’ Hospital. The gel is cold, the doctor is right. There’s a heartbeat. I look at the monitor and our baby. You need to stay here for a few days, get stronger. We’ll run some more tests. I call my sister. She’s working. I lie in the ward. The registrar asks me questions. You need to see the specialists. I wait. My sister’s working. I wait. The obstetricians draw the curtains and sit on the bed. My love, my darling, is not ‘viable’. But there’s a heartbeat? We’re sorry. They do look sorry. There’s a heartbeat. But not for much longer. I nod. The epilepsy. You have to plan. Neural tube defects. Spina bifida. Give it a year or two. You’re only 28. But he’s gone. My darling. He’s gone, and I don’t think he’s coming back.
The day surgery unit is across the road from King’s College. I fill out the forms. The nurse is kind and holds my hand as she explains the two part procedure. She says she can arrange a general anaesthetic for me tomorrow. Someone will need to come with you. I nod. This will hurt, my darling, she says. I’m sorry, my love. You’ve been hurt enough already, & now this. I clench my fists. My nails draw blood on my hands. I go home and cry while our baby dies inside me.
Sean takes me to the day surgery unit the next day. The pre-meds make me loopy. It’s not his fault, I say, to the nurse, as Sean calls me babe in his Cape Town accent. I love him, you see? What a glorious summer we had, you and I, Seany boy. Would never have ended like this, babe. It’s the first thing that’s made me laugh in two months. Sean came out after we split up. I loved him more for it. I’ll see you on the other side, babe, as I’m wheeled down to the theatre. I count from 10, backwards. Sean takes me home. He sleeps next to me. My friends take it in turn. They won’t let me be what I am. Alone.
Eventually, I go back to my life. Clubbing, working, laughing. I go out with other guys. In December, Dave proposes. He’s crazy and cute and makes everyone else mad except me. I say yes. My parents are happy. I go home for the first time in four years. No one asks about you, my darling. They look at my photos, agree Dave is hot and the ring is amazing. I carry your picture with me. Dave knows I can’t give you up. He is crazy but he is kind to me, and that’s all that counts. I get home from Gatwick at five am. It’s bitterly, January-cold. He’s painted the flat. It looks amazing. There are fresh rose petals everywhere. So terrifying and so tender, this Dutch boy of mine. I climb into bed and he mumbles, half-slumbering. Hallo, baby. I missed you. I missed my girl. And he sleeps as he always does, arms and fingers entwined. He sleeps so soundly he never wakes up when I unjumble myself from him.
Wednesday 20 April: It’s 5.21am. 2011. Dave, like all the others before and after, are gone. I kept looking for you. Even in Sydney. I thought I saw you once, on Macquarie Street. It was Australia Day. I stopped and stared. You didn’t look up from the map. I stood there. Afraid I would embarrass myself looking for a ghost. Afraid it was you. My friend called me on. I walked away, into the cool of the cinema and watched the Spanish film. Such an easy language, you always said, compared with Portugues. It’s the 20th of April. I don’t sleep and I can’t eat. My body is remembering, because I refuse to forget.
Meu querido Alex. Você veio para cuidar de mim. Eu amei e fui amado, uma lâmpada incandescente, intoxicando o amor. Eu amo como nós amamos, eu valorizo o nosso amor. Onde você estiver, você é minha querida. Meu anjo. Eu te amo tanto.