All around me on a sun-deck Somewhere in Europe the other day, young lovers of little experience stared naively into each other’s eyes, their innocence both charming and sad at one and the same time. One just knew, for instance, that if the earnestly attentive chap with the bookish, fresh-faced girl one day deserts her for another, it will seem like the end of everything. Or for him, should the smiling girl upon whom he had designs spurn his advances, he would spiral into delicious melancholy: for assuredly, she was The One.
I do of course love noseying to myself about their start on the long road, but I don’t envy them the landslides, pitfalls and dead ends. A couple seen here, with the girl quoting from a well-thumbed paperback. A less intellectual couple observed there, giggling at the discovery of shared humour. All of them enjoying the new – and failing to savour it. It is in the nature of immaturity to waste the valuable, and cling to the pointless.
Those of us old in years if not at heart want to pull up a chair, smile broadly….and explain that they should focus on this Now they’re in. But we wouldn’t be welcome – and anyway, it’s healthy for each individual to learn in his or her own way.
Whereas these lovely novitiates could see only destinations ahead, in the ember-heat of a six o clock sun, I watched as the white churn of a ferry’s propellers drew a stark line on the green ocean behind us, all the way back to my beginnings. And for a second, it felt like a kind of cleansing. I have far less future left than past behind me, but it was with no regret (and perhaps a little relief) that I saw this trail of what no longer exists swallowed by a distant, razor-sharp horizon.
We think of the horizon as a line, but it doesn’t exist. It is a separation, but separation remains the perfect illusion. Where the ultramarine of an ocean and the light blue of a sky coexist, there is no meeting, no beginning, no end: perhaps this is like life, or perhaps – more accurately – it is like love.
What age gives us, if we are lucky (albeit painfully slowly) is the ability to be ourselves….and hope to be loved for that. The start of this assurance is the end of much pain. So no, I do not envy these youngsters their pain to come, nor regret my past insecurities. It’s all part of the journey. The minute you stop making journeys, life is at an end. And the minute you stop looking for The One with whom to share it, the end of a life could easily become interminably sad.