Sometime back, I made a mistake. I suggested to a friend, whom I love dearly, that she ought to have a conversation with someone who could help her. For though I love her – she had been a part of my last few years and we shared amazing, precious moments – I could not help her. The trauma was buried too deeply in her, layer upon layer, gathering dust. It – the historical component, the girlish anger and the young woman hurt – is all too visible to me, I who love her and who are intertwined with her in some mysterious ways because of our shared journeys. I chose to open my heart to her and told her what I saw.
That was a mistake I made, for she reacted badly to the suggestion that she should talk deeply about the real emotions behind her words. Maybe I hit a raw nerve that only those closest to us have access to, but whatever it was, the die was cast. It was a nail in the coffin for our friendship – but what is friendship, if two people cannot talk?
But as the saying goes, what goes round, comes round. My soulmate gave me a book 10 days ago.
“It’s about Rumi and Shams of Tabriz,” he said casually. “Will you read it?”
I muttered that I would. The title was The Forty Rules of Love, by a Turkish author Elif Shafak. The endorsements printed on the cover were certainly glowing but I wasn’t in the mood for this genre right now. I have too many things on. For starters, I am writing a children’s book.
A few days later, he asked me again, “Have you started it yet?”
As he was the man who gave me so much, especially in the long dark months of my recovery, I was under obligation to read that damn book. After all, he had read mine many times, given me helpful comments on a boring subject (theoretical physics!), even when his eyes were drooping with tiredness from a long day at work.
And coincidentally, when I was teaching at a writers’ workshop, one of the participants gave me the same book!!! The will of this book to be read by me was thus very strong! I knew I could not avoid reading it.
The first few pages set my teeth on edge. It was my life story! About a mother whose children were growing up:
“When dinner was over, Ella sat in the kitchen table on her own, finding the stillness around her heavy and unsettling. Suddenly, the food she and cooked, the outcome of hours of hard work, seemed not only dull and boring but easily replaceable. She felt sorry for herself.”
On Sunday, he Skyped me, sitting in my parents’ cheery drawing room. I wanted to lash out at him, but I could not without alerting my parents that an argument was brewing up.
“What did you think?” He asked cheerily.
I held this up for him to see:
“Blimey!” He exclaimed, taken aback at the ferocity of my emotions against him.
“Is that what you think about me?” I said. “Am I Ella Rubinstein? Am I the redundant housewife who tries too hard, who screws up?”
At which stage, my parents interrupted the conversation and we moved on. A few minutes later, he texted me to tell me that he was walking to the bookshop to buy the book, so that he could find something beautiful within it to read to me.
“Will you read with me, Jac?” he asked, texting as he walked. I can imagine him walking down Elm Grove of my youth, the sights and sounds of my past a part of him now.
“The bookshop in Portsmouth is shut on Sunday, you fool.” I replied. But yes, of course I will. I will not shut the door on someone who is brave enough to love me, despite my darkness and ugly side. So here I am, reading this damn book, looking for beauty and wisdom.
Stay posted, I will share what I find with you x