odi et amo: Catullus's inspiration


"In the beginning, when we were winning / When our smiles were genuine"

It's cold tonight. Peeking out from behind wispy and fleecy cirrus that sweeps across the sky, an achingly a full moon strained round the corner of the steeple's spire and beamed down light to warm my soul. I look up: my ceiling is only heaven's floor.

The moon always seems full these days; so radiant and strikingly beautiful. Light banter flowed effortlessly through the still evening air. The twinkling stars were out, and gentle photons are refracted through clouds, reaching our eyes at the same time. Simultaneously meaning together - together because we're together. Everything else under that sky doesn't matter at this moment. Her delicate hand is tightly gripped in mine as though I could never let her go and, while she softly talks, I look upward - bright-rayed craters are illuminated by an unseen sun and I think to myself for a moment.

Just recently, I would have thought it equally likely that I could be on that milky-white moon four hundred thousand kilometres away as being here, spending my evening with a pretty girl who captured my heart so. I uttered a silent prayer to no deity in particular: Please, please; let this be real.

She tugged gently on my arm and I obediently followed. Sniffing the light air, I could close my eyes and know exactly where she would be. That faint musky aroma wafted through air molecules, drifting to me - I beamed. On anyone other than her, I would have been put off by such a scent; it was almost too ... too confident for her humility. She looked back at me and smiled the most radiant smile that could light a thousand moons. Supple muscles toned by years of fencing competitions contracted slightly and, again, I felt a lithe little pull on my arm. I wouldn't have minded if she were ripping my arm from its socket; just the touch of her was enough. We continued talking, but about what I can't remember.

The perfect silence of the night was shattered suddenly by a distant girly giggle coursing through the deserted evening air from across the Green Court. Mist was beginning to settle. As she led me into the undercroft, she stopped for a moment and turned slightly, "If you ever get to know me," she coyly said, just loud enough for me to hear, "I bet you'll end up hating me". Looking into my eyes, she knew that waiting for my reply wasn't necessary, for we both understood how impossible hate would be.

Later, we lay together on those red-carpeted stairs. The silvery moonlight was just reaching our feet - it was so delicate I felt that breathing too hard would make it dissolve away to be fleetingly lost forever in the endless, yawning canvas of sky. She's in my arms and I look down, wondering whether it would be appropriate to lean down and ever so gently kiss her golden hair again. From this angle I can't tell whether her eyes are open or closed, and it makes me think back to the staring competitions when I first met her. So close to her now, I can smell her perfume stronger than ever and the atoms of pure sweetness curl up to my nose in whorls that make me giddy. It's so flattering when a girl makes an effort for you. Our moment is suddenly interrupted by a teacher opening a door behind us, but he's soon gone - the contaminant forced out because we're so intimidatingly perfect together. She flirtingly smiles looking up at me and we talk on, me wishing the sun to never rise.

But wait, wait - back up just a little.

This tale began when we all least expected it - over the dining hall's supper table her irises were absorbent, and I could see through them into something far beyond. I never used to be good at staring competitions, but then the food heating up my chin from beneath was forgotten and I can keep my eyelids from automatically shutting forever. If I should break my gaze, I won't see her anymore; I'll no longer be looking into her eyes. More than anything, I want to see. We walk out past the kitchens - that smell of acrid alkaline detergents, the magical lightning ball in the physics display and the bottle-green hedge that always seems darker than the night.

That night, she sat with me on the old worn-down war memorial. The stones were hard and cold and so rough but we talked: successive personal mutual self-disclosures and the private evaluation that is all part of the ritual. Before I left her side, she reached out, completely unexpected, and embraced me in a brief but warm life-giving hug. An ephemeral moment of shared intimacy that was the beginning of the process; that sweet feeling as you begin to assimilate all those tiny imperfections and idiosyncrasies that linger in memory after everything else is forgotten. This was just the start.

Oh, linger indeed...

"All you see is a replay / Every time you close your eyes I'm there / Crashing over and over"

The time is now.

Those hundreds of barely visible idiosyncrasies now torture me. Everywhere I see her, I'm reminded of something I was once so much closer to. And now I can't make myself forget them. But still, I can't remember what clothes she wore. I can't remember the conversation on either of those evenings so long ago because I can't remember any of the things she said to me. And after all the time I spent looking into them, I can't even visualise her face or remember what colour her eyes are and I will die if I ever try to find out. Hell, I can't even look her in the eyes anymore. But what about the things I do remember? My problem is I remember all too well...

I had made it to the moon, reached my own zenith. The impossible had happened once already - maybe it could happen again? But perhaps she was right: I probably shall hate her. Certainly I was right, for even then, tapping at the cracks through my hollow prayer, I knew deep down what the true answer would be. Somewhere within, the cynic in me knew I was in a fantastic but inevitable dream world and now, I am unable to lie to myself yet again.

As I tumble down from the lofty heights of her friendship, there's nothing I can do about it. I wasn't even there long enough to make a mark, didn't have enough time or influence to push my flag into the Sea of Tranquillity next the to the stars and stripes. And now my foot prints have been dusted off the surface and my only space shuttle is broken. Right now, all I want is to know someone still cares.

I am Jack's complete lack of surprise.

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