We were having dinner at my place and I asked her to tell me about her love story – definitely the most special love story of her life. And she told me.
He was one of the most handsome men in the small country town by the beach where she used to spend her holidays. He belonged to a family of the local gentry and was widely known as ladies’ man; he was some five years older than her and already a lawyer. All of this made him seem like some sort of unattainable god in a galaxy far away. There was no way he would ever look at her, she thought. Why would he, after all, when he was always surrounded by beautiful, sophisticated women, so different from her, who was only an inexperienced university student?
One summer evening she was with her friends at a disco and saw him as he came in. He was talking animatedly to another man and she observed him: slim, middle height, classic features with a Greek nose, brown curly hair, dark penetrating eyes and above all, so sexy. She looked outside trying to get a breath of fresh air. When she turned, she was stunned to find him crossing the dance floor and heading towards her. She looked around – it was hard to believe he was coming to find her, but she was puzzled to find out it was so. He stood facing her, with a cigarette in his hand and looking at her with a slightly ironic smile: “So, how is Law School going?” In a fraction of a second she thought “Oh, my God, he has been asking about me!” and awkwardly replied “How do you know I’m also studying Law?” letting him know that she, too, had been enquiring about him.
He was still smiling when he replied his cousins, who were her close friends, had told him. They continued to talk for the remainder of the evening and when the disco closed he took her home. She was very excited and could not sleep at all; she was obsessed by him. She felt something very important had just happened in her life.
The following day she looked for him on the beach but failed to see him – little did she know he did not enjoy going to the beach! In the evening she dressed with special care as she expected to meet him at the bar where young people used to go to – and she was not disappointed. There he was, and he was clearly happy to see her. Again they talked and talked until it was time for him to go, as he would have to go back to Lisbon to work the following day.
In a time without cell phones or even traditional telephones in summer houses she spent the whole week looking forward to the following weekend when she would see him again. She was elated because he seemed to have taken an interest in her but at the same time she felt very insecure when she compared herself with the far more experienced women he used to go out with. She was restless all week and very unsure of what she really wanted. She was only certain of one thing – she was dying for him to come back.
On Friday evening there he was at the bar, but this time there were many friends around. Still, her heart beat faster when he invited her for dinner on Saturday. She accepted with alacrity and as she got into his car the following evening her heart was beating wildly. He took her to a restaurant at a nearby village. When he parked the car he suddenly kissed her on the lips and she felt dizzy. During dinner he took her hand many times and she felt this huge attraction growing between them. By the time they left the restaurant the atmosphere between them was explosive and the inevitable happened: on the way home he parked the car below some pine trees and there and then they made love for the first time.
Back home she was in a state of total confusion. This was not her first time but still she was not too experienced and this was a man, not a boy like her former boyfriend. She could say this much. It had been amazing…but then she regretted it as she thought he would be finding her “too easy” and feared he would not call her anymore. After all, this was the early eighties and making love to a boy on a first date was not so usual…she was more confused than ever.
But she need not fear, because he came to see her the following day and he seemed very much in love. And then she believed that his interest in her was genuine, not just one night stand and she admitted to herself that she was deeply in love. During the weeks that followed they wrote to each other every day during the week and met during the weekend for more romantic dinner dates and uncomfortable yet passionate lovemaking under the moonlight.
Their relationship grew stronger. Soon their families noticed there was something going on and he wanted to tell everyone, in fact he was very serious about it. For her family it was good news as he was older and a respected professional. As for his family, she was the sort of girl they wanted for him – not only was she very different from the worldly women he had been seeing before but she belonged to a traditional family of the region as well. She was very well educated and a very pretty, charming girl who soon had everyone at her feet. As for her – she was ecstatically happy, crazy for him, and he made her feel very much loved too. It was a very happy summer.
A happy autumn followed. When she returned to Lisbon they saw each other every day. He lived by himself in a small apartment, so there would be no more need for them to make love in the car – they would have a proper bed! And so it was – they spent wonderful moments there. She would leave home in the morning as if to go to classes and would go to his place instead. He had given her a spare key and she would go in and get into bed with him. They would spend a few hours there and he would invariably get to the office late. As for her, when she arrived at University during the mid-morning break we would look at the dark circles under her eyes and tease her – but it was great to see her so happy and so much in love. In the early evenings she would go to his office and they would walk through the park hand in hand or with their arms around each other, and he would take her home and on the way they would make all sorts of plans for their future together.
Those were happy times. They had now a very formal relationship; it was almost as if they were engaged to be married. In fact he had asked her to marry him. He had dinner at her home almost every evening as her parents were very welcoming. Everyone was taking this relationship very seriously.
But soon problems started, as he began showing a darker side of his nature – he was very jealous, possessive, and suspicious of her, domineering. He didn’t want her to go out with her friends when he was not around. The following summer, when she was at her beach house and he was working in Lisbon during the week, one evening while she was at the disco dancing with some friends suddenly she looked up and there he was, in the gallery, watching her. He had come all the way from Lisbon on purpose just to see what she was doing. She hated it and they had a huge quarrel. And things grew worse: sometimes he accused her of staring at other men, and she would not accept this – after all she was completely in love with him. He had a strong character but then she was strong minded too, so soon they were quarrelling most of the time and their relationship became tempestuous – major fights were followed by passionate lovemaking. One day he was at his most romantic, making plans for their marriage and for their future home, and they were buying things together, planning short “honeymoon weekends” in small delightful hotels all over the country, and the following day he was forbidding her to go out with her friends and threatening her. At the same time he was flirting with other women and leaving her insecure and confused, because he kept saying she was the one for him. As he lived by himself and she had some limitations to go out, particularly when she had to study for her exams, she began to suspect him too and was soon obsessed with the idea that he might be betraying her; she also became very jealous and their relationship was more and more tempestuous. She no longer felt ecstatic or happy, but anxious and unhappy.
Time went by. She finished Law school and began doing her practice at a lawyer’s office. He was now insistent – he wanted to get married, and he wanted her to leave Lisbon and come and live with him in his family’s country manor. He had recently opened a lawyer’s practice there and of course he had much more chances of a successful career in a small town where his family was well known and respected than in the big city, where he was just another lawyer among thousands…he also wanted her to come and work as lawyer with him. In fact he had it all planned: she would leave her life in Lisbon and come and live the life he wanted for them, live in his house, work in his office, then have his children… but by now she was scared, she found him and his style of life very chauvinistic and old fashioned, and as much as she loved him deeply this was not the life she wanted for her; she would be totally dependent on him and she did not want that. While she was having this inner fight there were some episodes that clearly showed her she could not go on: once she went abroad on a business trip and he called her hotel room several times during the night just to make sure she was there; when she came back he was apologetic and very romantic, but when she complained about his jealous behaviour he grabbed her arm with such violence that she cried in pain; finally, she had a strong suspicion that he had spent the night with another woman at his cousin’s apartment; although he always denied it, evidence was too strong and all of this combined made her question the future of their relationship. And she made up her mind, even if heartbroken – she broke up with him. He took it very badly, and bluntly told her: “If you don’t marry me, I swear to you I will be married to someone else in less than a year!” And he added, with a sad smile “Remember this: no other man will ever love you like I love you”.
This last sentence has haunted her for all of her life. They stopped seeing each other and it was very hard for her, but she knew she had to be strong in her resolve. She did not want the life he was offering her. As for him, his pride kept him away. They did not see each other as they didn’t have the same group of friends and he avoided the places she went to. Soon she heard he had kept his promise and married. She was devastated and cried many bitter tears. She knew she had lost him for good. They were both proud individuals, and at the time she was not mature enough to understand that maybe, only maybe, had each one of them made a few concessions, their love might have kept them together. But, proud and strong minded as they were, this was not possible, and they went on to live separate lives.
He was very unhappy in his marriage. Even the birth of a baby daughter did not make up for the fact that he was not in love with his wife. As for my friend, she met a divorced man who was an intellectual and who charmed her, and soon she was engaged to be married. A few months before her wedding, she was working in Porto and her former boyfriend called her and told her he was going there and asked if he might stay at her apartment. She hesitated, because she was in a stable relationship but then decided she would let him come, as if to test her feelings and her resolve. She received him coolly and made his bed in the living room. He tried to make love to her but she resisted him. When she was in bed, suddenly he was at her bedroom door begging “I know you are thinking of me, let me come to you”; but she would not give in, and she told him she would shout if he made another move. He silently went back to the living room and the following morning when she woke up he was gone. And again she cried many bitter tears thinking they might have had one last night together.
Then she was married, but there was always something between those two – when they saw each other there was a strong emotion and it seemed everyone noticed it – their spouses most of all.
Some time after someone told her he was very ill, with a brain tumour and again she cried for him. She visited him in hospital and when she arrived he asked his wife to leave the room so that they might be alone.
Unsurprisingly, he divorced, but remarried soon after. His tumour was partially removed and for some time he could go back to his normal life. Unfortunately, it grew again and began to affect his behaviour. He became more and more outspoken – when they met during the summer he would tell everyone that she was the love of his life (in front of his wife!) and he would kiss her hands; she would be embarrassed, but by then everyone knew he was not well. He would call her and tell her he thought of her all the time and he was still attracted by her – he told her he had never forgotten her.
When she separated from her husband he was already very ill – after their break up their paths had never really crossed again, at least at a time when it would have been possible for them to renew their relationship…
It was terrible for her to see him grow more and more frail. With time, she became less the former girlfriend and more the old friend, and she visited him often during his illness. His second wife did not resent her as the first one had and was in fact quite friendly. The last time she saw him he was already very ill and she doubted he had recognised her, but when she held his hand he squeezed it so strongly that she knew he had. He would not let her go, and she stayed like that for a long time. She felt embarrassed and told his wife “Look, he won’t let go of my hand”, but his wife understood the special bond between them and allowed them those last moments together. She left in tears as she had the feeling she would never see him again. And so it was. Two months later she received a phone call saying his heart had stopped beating – that heart that, for so many years, had always beat a little stronger whenever she was around.
She went to his funeral and it was disturbing, she felt dizzy and almost fainted. She felt very, very unhappy – it was as if a part of her had died with him. She had been divorced for some time and had lived through a few meaningless relationships, and it was always as if she were hearing his voice as he had warned her, so many years ago:” There will never be another man who will love you like I love you. Never”.
…and it was true. Never again would a man love her as he had. And never again had she felt happy as in the early days of their relationship, when all was perfect.
I look at her as she finishes telling her story. And then, always the incorrigible romantic, I ask her if there is a particular song that reminds her of him. She smiles and says “Yes, Teresa, actually there are two songs that I think of as our very special songs. One of them is ‘Zoom’ by Fat Larry’s Band. When they sing ‘…just one look and then my heart went boom’ I remember the beating of my heart as he approached me that first might at the disco. And the other…”, she smiles, ”the other is Mike Oldfield’s ‘Moonlight shadow’, that we used to hear in his car when we stopped under the trees on those moonlit summer nights…”.
After she leaves, I listen to “Moonlight shadow” on my iPad and I find the words so true, especially the part where one of the lovers is “carried away by a moonlight shadow” and the other vows to see him again in Heaven, one day.
I smile to myself. I know I am an incorrigible romantic, but I believe that, when souls belong together, they will find each other again in some other dimension. As I know these two will.