New Year With Sam
Sam is an acronym for ‘Self-effacing Antipodean Man’, my sweet-natured ‘Kiwi bloke’ who has spent the last decade working his way around Europe. We are friends and when circumstances permit, we are also lovers. When we met over ten years ago, I was in my late forties and Sam was in his mid-twenties. Over many years, our connection has grown in closeness, depth and eroticism. We cannot leave one another alone, yet we are not together. We start other relationships, they fail; we turn to each other for comfort. It has taken on a life of its own, this mutual understanding. It is an embryonic phenomenon clinging to life in a protracted gestation, with the projected lifespan of a great tree, in the order of millennia.
‘Had we but world enough and time…my vegetable love should grow, vaster than empires and more slow…’ The situation reminds me of imagery in the poem ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvell, written from the perspective of an ardent young man attempting to seduce his virgin beloved and arguing that her reluctance is wasting the resource of valuable time. In an odd reconstruction of the point made by the poet, Sam and I, already lovers, do not possess the longevity to see this evolving affection reach fruition. It is maturing at the rate of a regal dynasty or a rain forest, over generations. Unfortunately, the lifespans of mere mortals are more restricted; this is time we simply do not possess.
It is New Years’ Eve. Sam and I are staying with our respective extended families, separated by distance and time. He initiated the texting and emails yesterday. Today, we find a spare few minutes to actually talk. We are commenting, somewhat surprised, on how long it has been since we first met. I tell him how I appreciate him; how convinced I was that he would gradually fade out of my life. I don’t really comprehend why we are still in touch as we are so very different. His reply is that he considers we are both good, tender people, who are ‘sixy togitha’, with shared fundamental values. Ultimately, he says, that is what we have in common.
On impulse, I suddenly blurt out that I have loved him for years. I want to share how dear he is to me, before he goes home to New Zealand and we lose touch. I tell him that I have no expectations of him; I have held my secret all this time without it affecting him. He need not worry, nothing need change, the last thing I wish is to control him or affect his liberty in any way. He listens and I hear his breathing. I hear myself saying I am far too old for him; that we should both take the opportunity should other more suitable people come along.
I finish speaking and there is only an agonising silence down the line. I cannot see him; I have no idea what his reaction is.
I feel paralyzed with terror. The thought of losing Sam is unbearable: I feel nauseated, asphyxiated, my guts taut. What possessed me to declare the ‘L’ word after all this time? I am a silly and immature fantasist. Any fleeting dreams which I may have nurtured of us being happy together, even for a short while, dissipate. It is simply ridiculous to think about any future with him. This beautiful man has been part of my life for the more than the past decade and now I have driven him away. Through my own foolish lack of judgement, my thoughtless asinine action, I am going to lose him.
Frozen with dread, I brace myself for his response. By tomorrow, New Years’ Day, all that remains of Sam will be a chasm of grief and memories shaped by insufficient world and time.