In the City
Sarah ~ I imagine you, standing above the vast space of the station, watching the crowds of travellers. The remnants of end of year celebrations still adorn the walls of the building. Outside the sky is clear, the air almost mild for January. You are thoughtful, perhaps remembering the last time you were here, meeting her. You may be even thinking of the delightful hours you spent together then, in an intimacy you never knew when she was alive.
Whatever doubts I may have had about the reality of Melissa for you, I have now left behind us. The truth is so simple: Melissa is you, a reflection of the young man you were, of your life in the little town, of your loves and hopes. I know that once Melissa was real, of blood and flesh, a tall girl with sensuous lips, who loved you; and I know that, perhaps, a friend who knew both of you, built that memorial page.
I don’t think that the spirit of the real Melissa haunts those virtual worlds, but it haunts your mind, as the impossible dream of that rarest of love: the love that lasts all of one’s life, and never dies. And, now, now that I have understood, I cherish that memory of your youth too.
So you go back to the city of your birth, the metropolis where we met for the first time. You have, with the city, the strangest of relationship. We live in London, but you wish we moved to Berlin – now also full of her memories – but you cannot give up Lutèce, even when you are disappointed, at a loss, in the midst of its sins. The city still holds your heart, and its population of ghosts are now for you the equal of the living, maybe more. Time and time again you go back there, with or without me. Together we walk those streets, we sit in your favourite park, in Spring we admire the apple trees in bloom on the river banks.
Today you are on your own, walking along the boulevard, silently observing the traffic, the seedy shop windows, the girls on bikes flying past you. You follow your favourite walk, some ten miles from the centre to the East, walking past landmarks known the world over. Your steps fall into the rhythm of the city. Soon, you are the younger man again, supple demeanour, shoulders back, fists in your pockets. Soon you are whistling Riverside of Agnes Sobel, and she, Melissa, is walking along with you, a tall girl, red-haired and full lips, holding to your arm. Your heart is full of her, your love for her. She turns her beautiful face towards you, and, in her eyes, you see the deep well of time past.
The mirage won’t last, but it is enough to inspire you. At the Bastille you will look at the skateboarders, listening to the heart of the city. You could walk for hours.
Tonight you will come back to me, tired but happy. Exorcising your past has become part of our lives.
Julian ~ Only you matters now, Sarah, my past is dead, the ghosts who surround me have nothing more to say to me, about her, about the way we lived, once, about her death. I too have understood, and there is nothing more to say. Yes, one thing: I love you.
The Julian who once shared his dreams with her, with the girl named Melissa, is no more. Those years are now far away, in the world of subdued memories, in the world of writing. As Helga told me, I have everything to win in accepting my lucky fate, married as I am to you, and still able to enjoy life with you. What should I care about ghosts?
Image: courtesy Fleeting Illuminations