More Than Life

Entry by: Kent Ocelot

29th May 2015
I married a storyteller.

At night, he used to tell me of when we met in the Tudor court, of how I fought for the Spanish in the peninsula wars. He remembered, he said, our meeting Troy, in Athens, in Allyria. And as he reminisced on my silhouette behind the silk curtains as I looked out to the acropolis, as he recalled my scent as he crossed them room, I remembered too.

I remembered his lips against my neck, the sun sinking behind the Parthenon. I could taste the wine, feel the olive oil as my maid spread it on my back. He reminded me of how she loved me, how she’d kiss my shoulder blades as she shined them and I’d shiver in the cool evenings and ignore the impudence.

I remembered, that wild hair of his tickling my shoulder as he lay close to whisper in my ear in a rich tone from Sheffield, being a mermaid. Not a nice one. I could feel the satisfaction he described as men were ensnared below the surface of the waves and drowned. I could feel the coral beneath my fingers as I drifted asleep, taste the salt-water and hear it rushing in my ears.

Because of him, within a week, I solved a mystery too complex for the police and I found a house haunted by ghosts on every threshold, and the public learnt of that as well, although they didn’t know it was me.

Our eldest son was a samurai, our youngest could speak to animals, our daughter was Q.

When it began to slip his mind which of these happened in this universe and which happened in others, he tried so hard and tried every day to make me out amongst the witches and warriors that he’d superimposed upon me.

“Do you remember?” he’d say, one shaky finger running down my jawline. “The music in Venice?” And he looked hopeful, and in a way discerning, as though he could ask enough questions to narrow down what reality was by my response. That sharp glimmer of the astute in his eyes was nostalgic. To say the least.

“Yes,” I’d say, smiling, feeling ashamed. I wasn’t lying. I could remember the gondolas and restaurants in clarity, everything that someone who has never been to Venice could possibly remember.

He’d had the ability to make us young again. As I passed 75, I refused to acknowledge that I’d relied on that, that I’d assumed all my life that he would run his fingers along the papery, veined back of my hand and tell me how lovely the skin of the woman in the story was, and it would be mine. He’d tangle his liver-spotted fingers, somehow despite the arthritis, in my wiry, blue-rinsed hair, and talk about her chestnut curls, the ones I remembered, and I’d feel them crushed under my shoulders.

I refused to acknowledge that I resented its loss. I’d lived a thousand times with him when we were younger, lived in every era, every country, and I’d expected to do it again. Once our possibilities declined and our movements narrowed, I’d expected him to open it all up and we’d be twenty five and have our lives back, our lives, much more enormous than anyone else’s non-fiction life.

I don’t resent him now.

I was never very good at loving him. But after 50 years, that doesn’t seem to matter. The requirements are less demanding. Stay. Be kind. I achieved one and strove to the other.

I’m no longer ashamed. It didn’t matter to me whether he saw fact or fiction when he looked at me. It didn’t matter if he believed our honeymoon to be a bedtime story. He never mistook me for anyone but the princess or prostitute or wild child or werewolf that he’d spent his life with.

I do understand now that over 50 years, it wasn’t the centurions and the espionage and the time-travel that made our lives so much more.

My story, my soldier, my servant and master, my Greek and Roman, my wizard, my lover, my love: time to kiss you and say good night.