I swear I’m a cynic. But I’m also a romantic. I love ‘love’ and everything about it but I’m always ready for the shoe to drop (is that the correct expression?).
The greatest love story I’ve ever known was that of my aunt and uncle. My uncle spent two (or three years) polishing shoes around Accra to save money to buy my aunt a ring. Every day, when she closed from her apprenticeship, he would ride by her shop on his bicycle, sit with her, chat for a while, and eat peanuts. For years. Until he got his money up and proposed.
My uncle later worked as a driver at a government agency in Accra. On good days when he would receive presents from his bosses (they travelled a lot), he would come home (kinda smiling) and yell, “this goes to my wife first, and then she can share!” My aunt always shared her treats with us, her babies. But that’s beside the point. They were beautiful, my aunt and uncle.
I say were because three years ago, my uncle died and three years later, my aunt still cries for him. But, love.
When I was nineteen, I thought I had had my first heartbreak and so I borrowed some money from my brother and went to Peru for thirty-five days (I will talk about this trip in my next post). The next time I got my heart broken, I realized I was overly dramatic the first time around.
I used to make my lover read Pablo Neruda with me on some nights. We would drink wine (always red, never white), and get comfortable so we could take turns reading.
There was one poem I could never quite finish without choking. Neruda’s poem, Tus Manos, romanticizes the idea of familiarity and belonging to a person. Imagine touching someone for the first time and feeling like your hands have always belonged on their chest. Some people may never quite get to feel that familiarity and maybe that’s okay.
Here’s the poem for those of you might fall in love with Neruda as well:
YOUR HANDS/ TUS MANOS
When your hands go out// love, toward mine, // what do they bring me flying?// Why did they stop// at my mouth, suddenly, // why do I recognize them// as if then, before,// I had touched them, // as if before they existed // they had passed over // my forehead, my waist?
Their softness came// flying over time, // over the sea, over the smoke, // over the spring, // and when you placed // your hands on my chest, // I recognized those golden// dove wings,// I recognized that clay // and that colour of wheat.
All the years of my life // I walked around looking for them. // I went up the stairs, // I crossed the roads, // trains carried me, // waters brought me, // and in the skin of the grapes // I thought I touched you. // The wood suddenly // brought me your touch. // the almond announced to me // your secret softness, // until your hands // closed on my chest// and there like two wings // they ended their journey.
Maybe I should have written this post on Valentine’s Day but I think I’ll talk about heartbreak then.
In the meantime, be sure to fall in love and have it hurt a lot, so when you read Neruda, you feel his words in your core like I do, every single night.