It’s always been considered bad luck to make your own wedding dress. It implies a life of want if you can’t outsource such an important task, or maybe a life of never-ending work. That means a steady procession of happy brides-to-be in my bridal shop. These days I leave the actual stitching to my dedicated and skilful seamstresses. I prefer to interact with my customers and bask in their excited energy, spilled without any thought to the cost.
Being married isn’t essential in this business, but it definitely helps. My engagement ring is not just a symbol of love, it’s one and a half carats of trust. Brides love to buy their wedding dress from someone who understands their mindset after all. And the man who gave me his promise is six feet of wonderful who loves me dearly. Sometimes I pinch myself, because how did I get so lucky?
My last customer of the day is radiant. Accompanied by her mother, Rosalind wants only the best. They haven’t set a date yet but she can’t wait to start looking. I pull eight gowns and she looks truly wonderful in all of them.
While Rosalind gets dressed her mother and I chat, the usual about luck and love and soulmates. A photo of them smiling together is proudly produced. Rosalind’s mother wipes away happy tears. Look, they’re made for each other. I look, and I can’t breathe. I lock and bolt the door after they’re gone but it’s too late.
Somewhere along the line, I missed something.
The day I leave, I pack everything except my shears. I take great care of my dressmaking tools even though I don’t use them often, because keeping a sharp edge is essential to a clean cut. His jackets will look normal at first glance, until he pulls them and finds sleeves removed and linings slashed.
When I reach the last one, his favourite Italian wool suit, I can’t bring myself to vandalise its exquisite workmanship. I know how much work it takes to construct something so beautiful. Instead I leave parting gifts; my wedding ring on the counter – and raw eggs smashed in each of the suit pockets.
We shared everything. Soon he too will discover something rotten hiding in the dark.
listen to this poem here:
I made her favourite dinner.
Onions simmered to vanishing
meatballs just the right size
absolutely no mushrooms of any kind
no wholegrain healthy pasta
everything the way she likes it.
Then I watched her poke at the sauce and say
not what she wanted
not hungry anyway.
And I thought
you will make something for someone.
It will not showcase the breadth of your skill.
It will not win any awards.
In days or hours it will likely be forgotten, but
you’ll put heart into every tiny part, regardless.
And when they push it away you’ll tell yourself
it does not matter
not that important
Some lessons can’t be taught.
Some flavours must be tasted
bitterness in each regretful bite.
I love her, so I let her walk
from plate untouched and love unspoken
and I spared her the knowledge
that one day
it will be her turn.
listen to this poem here:
This place I’ve been before
a shoe that didn’t quite fit
I’m sliding in anyway
(close my eyes)
can almost see the way we were
hear your laughter unravelled in time
distance draws the bitter barbs
leaving only the ghost of sweetness
feast on crumbs of forgotten memories
rake it over, find one last spark
call it enough
better than nothing at least
(a once-familiar kiss)
it only looks like backward motion
from where I’m standing
so stay with me awhile
and I promise not to cry
(we already know how this ends)
listen to this poem narrated in reverse here:
you break on me like a wave
a swell of careless seduction.
I’m drawn to dangerously calm waters
pulled under a riptide of love
you snatch my breath clean away and still
lending you the heat of passion
hold close, my cold and slippery siren.
A dull life, before you.
Filled with too much or too little
(a little too much pain, I thought then.)
I thought I knew how life worked.
You were sunlight, floating carelessly
bright summer without end.
I thought I knew how seasons turned.
A flock of black umbrellas for a good man
steady drizzling grey, a leaden weight
that stops my breath, crushes my throat.
Earth rains from cold fingers
pattering on the lid
a fleeting thought of following it down.
I thought I knew how hearts worked
but there’s no fixing this
(too short, too little)
you couldn’t teach me how to smile today.
So I turn my face heavenward, swallow the sky
let its tears drown my despair.
I thought I knew –
but there’s no colour, after you.
Have you ever loved someone and it didn’t work out?
You tried, they tried, but ultimately you parted company. Then you were left to either heal a broken heart, or hide your relief at escaping something that had lost its shine.
When that happens a few times, you start to wonder whether love is all it’s cracked up to be.
Love is supposed to be our ultimate goal.
Most of us chase it all our lives, and sometimes even find it. But in the nature of these things, finding and keeping is not the same thing. There are different kinds of love of course, but our culture puts romantic love top of the list.
We act as though love is forever and yet we know it is not. We enter into contracts and exchange rings that symbolise an unending circle. And we quietly build exits and escape clauses in the form of prenuptial agreements, running away money, and the number of a good lawyer, just in case.
The Matrix Revolutions argued everything that has a beginning has an end. Why should love be the exception? Maybe as you lick your wounds from your last battle with forever, you ask yourself, “Is love ever a mistake?”
A few people get lucky, but most of us contend with detours and blind alleys before we find The One — if we ever do. That holds true whether we seek love or a life purpose or something else of value. Winning the ultimate prize is like running a maze with no idea if a solution exists, or if a lifetime is long enough to find it.
Why keep running when success seems more elusive than a lottery win?
Cross My Heart And Hope
Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.
You can’t know how your life will work out down the road when you can’t see the whole map. Perhaps there are no mistakes, only progress you can’t yet recognise.
When things seem to be going wrong, think of it as taking an unexpected turn on the road of life — a plot twist, if you like. Once made, your footprints can’t be erased anyway. We can’t change our past; we can only make peace with it.
With this in mind, look back at past experiences and take what can be learned from them. Some loves are like flowers; beautiful and doomed, and all the more precious because they are ephemeral.
But even more precious than love itself is the capacity to feel love not once, but many times. To have that opportunity, you need to draw on hope.
Hope encourages you to try again and trust that you’re making progress. Hope might lack the certainty of faith, but it persists even in the face of disappointment. Hope keeps you going.
Pandora found that when all is lost, hope is the tiny flame that lights up the darkness. And the deeper the darkness, the brighter it shines.
Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.
If this too will pass
and nothing lasts forever
why won’t these scars fade?
It is the time of sleep and not-sleep
but warm, always.
It is the time of seen and not-seen
soft focus, indistinct.
It is the time of dream and not-dream
yet absolutely real.
This is the place, mapped and not-mapped
each hill and curve already known.
These are not adventures, and here be no dragons.
We know this gentle push and pull
caressing the edge of darkness
teasing the frontier of rest.
The familiar needs no more
when soft half-light reveals us to each other again
veiled in a gossamer web of sighs.
It is that time.
when you fall a thousand times
weeping blood tears
when love lies bitter on your tongue
and fear storms every barricade
when you are once more alone
only hope will bind your wounds
I am still here
take my hand,