Heartbeat born of my heartbeat, but I will always be a stranger to you, another man your father, your mother my lover when she shouldn’t have been, at least within the constraints of her marriage vows. And yet she was, my lover and my love, across too few months when I would have wished for forever, and believed it a possibility until it no longer was, her words of goodbye softly spoken, and yet still bruising my heart so savagely.
Should I speak of this truth, raise my voice for your ear, and in doing so rearrange your life, when maybe your life now needs no rearranging, a change in its course nothing but cruel interference? And why now, you might ask, as your ten years soon become eleven? Why now at all, your mother might ask, for had I not given her my word that I would never speak of it, the knowledge only given to me after she had ended our time together, and even then only given because she believed I had a right to know, and, if I did truly love her as much as I said I did, I would accept that knowledge as all she would offer in relation to you. And I, of course, agreed, because I loved her, yes, but because I believed, genuinely believed, that given enough time, she would return to me, her marriage of unhappiness remaining unhappy, and no place, I imagined, for a child to be raised. But I was wrong, of course, and eleven years have now passed, and I am eleven years older, perhaps wiser, and yet, in my heart, exactly the same age when I first fell in love with your mother; younger even, but don’t men of my age always believe such things, or similar enough to make little difference, as every one of our peers succumbs to the multiple onslaughts of age around us?
In truth, I have no answer, though I did question the fact of my age, one of those so-called significant birthdays fast approaching, and I find myself nowhere I believed I would be, though I do not believe I have ever really imagined myself to be anywhere specific, or, perhaps it is truer to say I have never found anywhere I wished to be, a place, a moment I could aim myself towards, life and its living simply happening to, and around, me. But, as thoroughly as I considered it I dismissed it with little effort, for it is just a number to me, my age, a number with no meaning to the youth in my heart; and isn’t that something else men of my age say, when a mid-life crisis begins to make itself visible on the horizon, with some of those peers of mine already reaching theirs with results both sad and embarrassing, and, yes, I admit, occasionally extremely funny? But no, no, it is not that, and so I am still without an answer. Nor even a hint of one, some shadow of awareness inside me that explains it to me without the need of words, when instinct speaks directly to the heart, the voice and ears entirely bypassed. Over a decade has passed since I was told of you. And while I have not pondered your existence every day, or even every week, I have thought of you from time to time, each thought a thin slice of ice between my shoulder blades, its cold thin point touching the center of my chest, but I believe that there is more grief at the loss of your mother, than the loss of you who I have never known. I have never seen a picture of you, nor do I even know your name, you’re obviously too young for social media, while the presence that your parents have on various sites is locked to anyone but friends, and I am not friends with either them, or even of their friends. Though, to be fair, I have not tried too hard to discover your name, or find a picture of you, not even those times when I am struck cold by thoughts of you hidden inside thoughts of your mother; I must admit here that I do look at your mother’s online profile, usually late at night and with a drink or two taken, her picture telling me that she barely changed since I last saw her, though there is some telltale passing of the years around her eyes, a much kinder passage than my own.
Perhaps, perhaps the fact that I have no answer is an answer in itself, though I cannot help but feel that this silent answer is in fact the answer to some other question I have yet to ask myself, one that might present itself in some year to come, or maybe not at all; no great loss I tell myself, seeing as I cannot miss what I do not know, but I hear the possibility of a lie in that reasoning, or if not a lie then, at the very least, a kind of willful ignorance. So, no answer is the current answer which probably means it may be best to remain silent for the moment, you remaining unaware of my existence, your life changing not one iota. And I, I suppose, will think of you from time to time, the years passing as all years pass, and my own life passing with them.
Edward Lee’s poetry, short stories, non-fiction and photography have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen, The Blue Nib and Poetry Wales. He is currently working on a novel.
He also makes musical noise under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Orson Carroll, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy.
His blog/website can be found at https://edwardmlee.wordpress.com