By Rei Tanotsuka, 5 June 2019
About 2 years ago, I was going through something…….A period of mental isolation brings about a change in the self that is worth exploring.
I love going to Onsens in Japan. Onsen is a place where you can take a bath using water from a hot spring.
On one particular night, I was relaxing in an outdoor hot spring bath when a vision appeared in my mind’s eye. I saw him. He was an older gentleman, in a beryl blue shirt and slacks…..I saw him briefly, then he turned and walked away.
I thought I was just day dreaming but he left an indelible impression on me.
Over the course of the next 3 weeks, he visited me regularly and a story unfolded. There were no words……the words had to be my own, but he gave me images. He kept appearing to me until I penned the very last word – “Yours”. Then I never saw him again.
I do not understand what happened to my mind at that time. I can not replicate this experience.
I can only hold this to my heart and be grateful that he allowed me to tell his story…….whoever he may be.
I was that guy. Alpha, rugged, athletic…..everyone’s friend.
I started dating young and I guess you could say that I have been in various stages of a relationship from the age of 14.
Every girlfriend beautiful, pretty, conventionally so. I took it for granted that I deserved beautiful that was easy to understand. No explanations needed. It was blatant.
My first girlfriend Madeline was one such beauty. 5’9″, a bronze goddess. She played netball, loved the beach. Shoulder length, honey streaked blonde hair. Our first kiss seared in my mind. Her orange flavoured lip gloss infused with the scent of grape bubblegum. An overpowering fragrant of sweetness, heady to senses if not for the elevated state of youth.
I loved her………As much as a 14 year old was capable of understanding what love was. We broke up after 2 months because……. there wasn’t a lot to say.
Then came Bianca.
If all the gradations of blue, from the heart of the ocean to the grandeur of our firmament was given as eyes, I thought I had found the possessor.
She came to watch me play footy after school, almost on the daily. Her giggles made me happy. The sound…..the dimples which ensued….how a common breeze would whisper a few strands of her hair to gently wash over her eyes and then the most amazing vision……… alabaster skin with piercing eyes of azure now faintly veiled by her hair……a rich, deep, dark chocolate.
But once again, it turned out that we didn’t have a lot to say……..and predictably this went on for almost a decade.
Then I met her. I met my wife. Sally.
Sally wasn’t like the other girls I had previously dated. She came from a broken home. Alcoholic mum. Reclusive dad. She was an only child. She was also plain. Very plain. Except for the light sprinkling of freckles on the bridge of her nose which made her kind of cute, she had none of the physical attributes I had grown accustomed to love.
Yet, for the first time I could be myself. I could talk around her. I met Sal in Uni and by then, I was ready for longer relationships but the lack of Sal’s beauty, heavily discounted the possibility of a real relationship with her. She however, was falling for me. This was clear. It reached a point where she just asked if we could give it a try. I acquiesced and said yes.
It’s the most confounding state to be in……..every time, when I first saw her on that day, a splint second just before saying hi, I would be awash with a small twinge of disappointment……..but just for a splint second. Then she would carry on and I would feel like the luckiest guy alive. This twinge was never vanquished, even on our wedding day it was there.
The desire for a man to possess beauty……to partake in enjoying a beautiful woman can never be annulled. The nape of her neck. The curving of long, slender calves….the gentle sway of her bosom, the slight parting of luscious lips during an embrace….I would sever this anchor if I knew how and just love her as a person………… but that’s the problem. I don’t know how.
I love a piece of buttered toast, a rasher of bacon fried in its own fat, with 2 slices of tomato and a strong black cup of coffee for breakfast. I almost never depart from this. Sal knew this and throughout our marriage, she made this every day for me.
We got married when I was 28 and she, 25.
We had our first child when I was 29 and Sal became a full time mum. When our son became 2, I developed a crush on a co worker.
Sal, for some reason, sensed this. One morning she came to me and said,
” Jeff, this is probably the best buttered toast I made, so even if it’s the last, you will have no regrets.” Then she walked away. I knew then that Sal understood my straying heart. I decided to think logically and I halted any further feelings towards my co worker.
As our son entered primary school, Sal found work again. Things were cordial between us but we hardly had any time for each other. When I turned 38, a friend introduced me to someone at a dinner, Janice.
It was an innocent dinner but a friendship between me and Janice developed. She was a beautiful woman and began to fill my waking thoughts.
Once again, Sal, during breakfast said, “You know what Jeff? The bacon fried up really well and the tomatoes are sweet too…..no regrets eh, if this turns out to be the last.” I remember her smiling wryly and then she muttered something about going to work early and walked away.
Again, I thought about our son, our marriage, now more than a decade long. I extinguished my longing for Janice.
Then at age 42, I finally succumbed. Sal was already on the board of the company and our son was starting high school and I felt that time was just slipping by…….my hair, now salt and pepper…..my abs were kind of fading and I would wake up each day feeling tired.
She was just an ego boost. Young, beautiful and not looking for a commitment. So I had my cake and ate it too.
The affair lasted a little more than month. Finally, it was out of my system. I had no more desire for anything superficial. I was now unequivocally committed to Sal and I thought to myself at that time, thankfully Sal didn’t notice….because, it just…happened.
Last year Sal became sick. Very sick. Her last 6 months were spent in the hospital and I was there everyday. We became the closest we could ever be. We reminisced about the past and alluded to all the future memories we would create once Sal gets discharged from the hospital.
Deep down inside, we both knew that Sal would see her last sunset in that room, on that bed, with me beside her. Yet we clung to hope.
On a Thursday night, at 6:57 just after dinner, there was a faint streak of vermilion graffitiing the sky. A dull moment in the hospital, staccatoed with laughter from adjacent rooms. I remember looking around and seeing all the bouquets of roses I bought for Sal, forming a fragrant fortress. Sal loved to use a body lotion made from Damascus rose.
She looked at me and smiled. I asked her was there anything I could get for her. She said a strong, black cup of coffee. It was then that I knew she knew. She had known all along. However, I went along with it. She needed to say what she had to say.
As I handed her the coffee, she grabbed my hand. It was then that I realised that she probably would not see tomorrow’s sun. Every sinew in her arm was used to hold onto my hand and that cup of coffee.
She said,” Jeff, this should have been the last cup of coffee I made for you 39 years ago…..but I never made it. You gave me everything I needed to complete me. I had no home, no family, no love before you. You gave me all the pieces needed to make my picture so I gave you the only one missing piece needed to complete yours. No regrets, Jeff. If I had served you that coffee all those years ago, we wouldn’t be right here, now, to share this one.”
All I could muster was “I’m sorry.”
We shared that last cup of coffee. That was the last coffee and last night we shared.
A Lifetime after One Year……..
Finally, after one year since Sal left, I can say what I wanted to say that night.
“Sal, you were complete before me. No one person who is not whole, can ever truly understand what love is. You have taken the few strengths I have and eclipsed my great many faults…….and I thought I understood what beauty was, but I didn’t recognise it soon enough as I had never really seen it. Now I realise from day one, you are the most exquisite person I have ever known.In my heart, there’s only one story worth telling, worth remembering. Yours”