The pain starts to burn before I realise that it is there at all. Opening my fist, I glance down to see four angry half-moons, indented on my palm. No matter how many times I go through this, I am always nervous just before I see you. I have managed to build up a tolerance for almost everything else, feeling a sense of indifference towards most things – grieving over friends and loved ones has developed into a habit, if not, almost a chore, and work has become a form of silent meditation. Very little can anger or frustrate or scare me. Sometimes I feel like an iceberg, a total zenith of peace and security, adrift in an ocean that is still and silent, except for a mild wind.
When I was young, I used to miss you. I used to spend days, weeks, decades weeping over you, visiting your many graves spread over many continents. I remember placing flowers in Tuscany, Adelaide, São Paulo, Bombay. I have lain upon the moist ground above your two unmarked graves and I have slept in the cool marble of your first mausoleum. Each time we meet, we fall back in love and we age together: sometimes we have children, sometimes we exist in a peaceful solitude. Until you die, and it all starts again. Each time I feel as if everything is ripped away from me; as if nothing matters anymore. Each time, I am stripped of all the wrinkles and scars that I gain while by your side, slowly returning to how I was when we first met, all those centuries ago.
Strangely, watching my white hairs turn black, and feeling my arthritis disappear always provokes a profound sense of melancholy within me. Regaining my youth only means losing you all over again. It is like rewriting my own personal history, as if all the experiences which we have shared are wiped clean – almost as if they had never existed at all. Witnessing myself age before returning to my late adolescence is rather distressing. I am constantly peering over a cliff, preparing to jump, before being ripped away. Starting a journey which I know I can never complete.
Slowly this deep, raw warmth returns to my cheeks. All these feelings are so foreign and yet I recognise them so well. My chest tightens and my mind races. I am overwhelmed by a kind of nervous excitement, as if the whole world has taken on a soft glow. Hazy and amaranthine. As I emerge, leaving behind this chrysalis of apathy, I feel the warmth of the sun’s fervid rays upon my skin. I become aware of the dew drops impearled on every leaf, and of the butterflies who hover about them like sleep-walkers. The sky seems to expand before me as if it were some kind of vast ocean. I am ready to find you again.
We were always destined to be with each other, but the constant waiting often makes me feel impatient and hopeless. While you have been reborn a total of thirteen times, I have lived through 1494 years, about five hundred of which I have spent alone. In that space of time, I have acclimatised to solitude, never allowing myself to form new friendships and relationships until I start my life with you once again, fearing that these additional bonds would just create additional complications. Five hundred years of immortality, I know now, is five hundred years of lassitude and boredom.
I can never really predict when you will come back. All I can do is regularly check my reflection, waiting to see the familiar eyes of that girl who turned nineteen over a millennia ago and who has returned to that same age a dozen times since. I never know what you would look like, how you would talk or even who you would truly be. Meeting you again is always like meeting a completely new person, raised in a different place, with a different language, with different customs. Yet, despite all these differences and this vast chasm of time which always exists between us, I can always tell that it is you.
I always get nervous as if it were the very first time.
As I await seeing you once again, I vividly recall being near you, lying on the moist grass of a nation whose borders have since been squeezed far tighter. The weight of your hand in mine as we gazed upwards, searching for meaning in a universe which seemed so great and impersonal. The porcelain serenity of the moon fixed in place alongside silky constellations, filling the vast forgetfulness of the sky. Yet, despite the intimidating emptiness of this expanse, you were able to translate the silence of the stars. Speaking in a language that is now long forgotten, you traced out the invisible bonds between each pinprick in the sky with your index finger and, in doing so, linked them to us. The warmth of your touch brought context to this dark immeasurable abyss. I could not have longed for anything more than to stay there, touched and touching you.
Yet, in these empty moments when I feel adrift in my self-imposed isolation, my sense of self has only strengthened. In the silent decades, between wars, between deaths and between loves, I have come to find a kind of bliss in my own company. I am always there, a universal constant. It may have taken well over a millennia, but I feel that I have come to appreciate myself in the way that only an immortal being truly can. While my eternal life used to feel like a burden, I have now lived long enough to realise my own joy.
I still feel this shaky impatience. My heart races as my eyes scan the street, hoping to sense you pass me by. We cannot be severed as we are one, and to lose you, when I am this close, is to lose myself. I miss you. I long for you. You may be different people from different generations, but your soul always remains the same. I wouldn’t wish you to be anything other than who you are. It hurts to know that you are so close by, and yet you are a stranger to me. I am on fire. I want you. Need you.
And then I see you. The sense of yearning remains, but all the tension inside of me evaporates. I can already feel your touch again.