There have been times in my life when I have convinced myself that I am in love. There have been times when I have given up on the whole idea of ever finding anyone who could reach into my soul and shine a light onto the little part of the universe that is at the core of my being.
When I met Melinda, I had stopped looking for love. I’d resigned myself to being alone. Not miserable, not despairing. Just resigned to a life without that other person that I’d always thought would turn up one day.
I tried the online dating thing. I dutifully entered my profile and wrote honestly about who I was and what I wanted. I got responses, but I never followed any of them up. The whole process seemed so clinical. So far removed from spontaneity and the fires of the heart. Like comparing a microwave to an open fire. For me, I wanted to feel the smoke in my eyes and the heat on my skin, not simply press a button and wait for the ‘ding’.
The night I met Melinda we almost didn’t meet at all. I used to go to the Spotted Dog in Digbeth, Birmingham, fairly regularly. It was close to my office in the Custard Factory – just across the road from my regular haunt, The Old Crown. I was tired and had more or less decided to go home to the canal boat where I was living when the artist Bryn Tranter persuaded me to pop into Pimms O’Clock, just for a while. I knew that other friends would be there. So I crossed the road, ordered a drink and walked into my future.
The future that evening was in the garden of the Spotted Dog. She was sitting with Nicky Getgood – author of the Digbeth is Good blog and her host for the evening. I sat at the opposite end of a table of a dozen or so people. And, although I was following the conversation, the only voice I wanted to hear was hers.
What was it that drew me to Melinda so immediately? Her elegance and poise, certainly. Her voice, soft as silk blowing in a gentle warm breeze. And, once we began to talk, her intelligence and perception.
When Melinda showed me a piece of her artwork – an accordion book made from images of Exeter Cathedral – my hands trembled a little as she handed it to me and explained how she had made the piece. It was full of such unimaginable beauty and depth.
Later, I went into the pub’s garden for a cigarette and Melinda came with me. As I lit the cigarette, Melinda moved to the other side of me as – she told me – she hated the smoke. I remember thinking to myself at the very moment: “You’re going to have give up smoking.” And I did.
That weekend – before Melinda had to return to Exeter from Birmingham – we seized every opportunity to be together. We’ll probably talk more about that weekend, what we did and how we felt on different parts of this blog – this record of a true love found.
And then we kept in touch through all the means we had: e-mail, text, letters, phone calls, instant messaging. Those first days and weeks, where we got to know each other mainly through the written word, were very important. Instead of fumbling through spoken conversations, we could think about exactly what we wanted to say to each other and then share those feelings in words that could be read and re-read.
On the day that Melinda texted me to say that she had fallen from her bike, I picked one of the last roses of the year from the garden of the Old Crown and sent it with some homoeopathic medicine for her grazed knee. Melinda then sent me back Cleaved – a photograph of two pieces of slate she had found in the river, scattered over with the petals of the rose I’d sent her.
When the image appeared on my computer screen, I lost my breath in a sigh of longing and whispered to the air: “Oh, my darling. I love you, I love you, I love you.” Then I wrote to Melinda and I told her that I loved her.
We have been building our lives together ever since. I have finally found home.
Here’s how I wrote down what I felt after I told Melinda that I loved her:
I wanted to write an epic
Of wilderness travelled for years,
Of hope that was lost and fears defied,
And the searing scars of tears.
I wanted to sing of candescent love,
But never found that melody
That could make all dreams come to life
And banish the void that filled me.
I wanted to believe the story
That for every one there is one,
The brightest star in any sky,
The bright side of the moon.
But there were no epics left to tell,
No melodies to share,
Until I saw your sun-made smile
And felt your presence near.
And in that moment, rare as truth,
I saw the world anew.
I saw the world take shape and face,
Because, my love, I saw you.
Steve Coxon, 2008