“She” is the title of one of the most beautiful, meaningful love songs I know. An original by French singer Charles Aznavour, some years ago there was a new version by Elvis Costello that has become extremely popular.
It is a song that is often played, especially when one wants to pay homage to a woman, and many of us women consider it very special, so it’s not surpriing to hear it in celebrations such as weddings, birthdays and even wedding anniversaries.
I remember very well when and how it became so special to me.
A song on the road
I had been separated for some time and although it had been a friendly separation it had hurt of course. Not exactly the end of married life, as that had been unfulfilling for quite a few years, but the loss of the life I had dreamt for myself, the loss of the family we had created with our sons, the loss of the dream of finding a love for life and living happily ever after. For years I had stubbornly pursued that failed dream and now I had to accept it would not come true. Still, I felt strong in my resolve. I had my two boys and my career, and for a time I forgot all about men and romantic attachments.
Then, slowly but steadily, I understood there was someone who was becoming very special in my life. He was also divorced, with two grown children, but we were colleagues at work, which was very undesirable to me. In fact what brought us together were the many meetings we had about the merger we were both working on; sometimes after long hours of work we would share thoughts about our children and our views on life, and suddenly I was feeling irresistibly attracted to this serious man with a sharp sense of humour and great principles.
I could say he enjoyed my company – why should he otherwise confide in me? – But nothing else. At a certain point I was torn between my heart – that wished he would take a step forward – and my head – that told me we should definitely not get involved for our work’s sake.
We travelled together for business and talked endlessly during those car trips. One winter evening, as we were arriving in Lisbon and had fallen suddenly quiet, I heard the first notes of Elvis Costello’s “She” on the radio. I was silent, enjoying the song and listening to its meaningful lyrics, those of a man about the woman he loves; although he knows nothing will ever be easy with her, he says he will be there for her “through the rough and rainy years”, for better or for worse. He was listening too and when the song ended I simply said “How I wish one day someone would say something like this about me”. He said nothing and drove on, and soon he was dropping me at home and I went up o my apartment feeling confused and torn.
Eventually the moment came when all doubts disappeared and we could no longer deny a strong, deep, passionate love that lasts to this day and has made us both very happy. We have many shared songs that we consider “our own” but somehow the song by Elvis Costello was never mentioned again.
A birthday party
Last week we were celebrating Nuno’s sister in law 60th birthday. It was a party organised by her husband, Nuno’s brother, who was so happy that he had managed to give her the surprise of her life! She was expecting a quiet family dinner and when she entered the restaurant she was confronted with more than eighty people, among family, relatives and friends, a few of which she had not seen in many years, all singing “Happy Birthday”. Later on, she was again overwhelmed by emotion when the singer – who had been singing great songs, by the way, most of them from the 80s – announced the next song was dedicated to her by her husband, and began to sing “She”.
As she and her husband of thirty years looked at each other no doubt remembering all their years together, I was suddenly transported to that winter evening of long ago when Nuno and I were listening to this same song in his car and I had told him I would love to inspire those words. Lost in my thoughts and memories I failed to see Nuno looking at me intently – I only looked at him when the song ended , only to find him smiling at me. When I looked at him questioningly, still partially lost in the mists of the past, he simply looked at me and said: “This is our song”, and reached out for my hand.
I cannot describe the emotion that invaded me. All through these years, without saying anything to each other, we had felt the same every time we listened to this song. But had we really? Always the sceptic, I questioned Nuno: “Why are you saying this?”
He was very serious as he replied “I remember very well that time in my car years ago when we were returning to Lisbon…”
He didn’t need to say anything else. He didn’t even have to tell me that he remembered what I had said back then about the song. It was enough to know the song had lingered on our minds, connecting us to each other ever since, even without my knowing. But he was right, it was, it is our song, and it has been so for a long time, since the beginning of our love story.
As we danced later and he held me in his arms I felt happy. We have come a long way, I thought, and what we have is so strong. Maybe it’s not perfect, but I am now of an age when I do not believe in fairy stories anymore. Yet I do believe in a shared bond of love and understanding, and what better proof could I have than this incredible connection through a song?
After all, I thought as I drew closer to him – I know my wish has somehow come to pass. For if he sees this as our song, he will no doubt share with the singer some of the beautiful words he dedicates to his love – and so my dream of long ago, that night in his car, has undoubtebly come true.