I still think of 1982 as the best year of my life, because so many wonderful things happened to me during that year. And you were definitely one of them.
You touched my life briefly; we both knew you could not linger, as we knew there was no future for us. But the moments we lived together were so special that we never forgot each other. I kept you as a cherished memory as I believe you kept me, and I never thought I would see you again.
Until life came up with one of those wonderful surprises it sometimes has in store for us.
Forty years ago, you came on a sail boat, entering a sailing competition that filled the docks of Lisbon with sails and masts, some incredibly tall, almost touching the sky, some smaller in size if not in ambition. It was the case of the sailing boat that brought you, that won the race in its category. It was a small vessel, with some 20 young men as crew, but you were a proud group, and a fierce one too.
One of you was the friend of a friend of a friend and that’s how we came to meet. From the first day there was something special about you, maybe your eyes the colour of the sky shining on a bronzed face, your hair the colour of wheat in the sun or just your open smile. Or perhaps just the things you said, whispering them so sweetly with that Brazilian accent we Portuguese find irresistible. Or that honest look on your face, the certainty that what you saw was what you got; the feeling that you were authentic.
So, I believed you when you said you loved me, and I loved you too. I resisted at first, because we lived on opposite sides of the ocean and I knew our love was doomed, but them you asked me why I was fighting my feelings, because in the end our life is the sum of the emotions we have lived through, and they should not be denied. I saw the widow in your words and let myself live our love story; and, even on that saddest of days when I stayed on the dock waving goodbye and crying my heart out, watching your ship disappear in the distance, even on that day I never regretted what we had lived together – not for one moment.
For a few years you kept on writing the most beautiful letters, and I kept you as a treasure hidden in the depths of my heart; then, slowly, memories faded away and we lost touch, but from time to time I would see an old photo or a sailing boat and remember you, always with a feeling of warmth in my heart.
Time went by; life happened. And then recently the past called again and I decided to look you up on Facebook, and there you were, the same smile on your face and the same light blond hair. How happy you seemed when you replied, saying you had tried to find me every time you came to Portugal, and you had come often… and then you said you were coming to Lisbon at the end of May!
I often say life is full of wonderful surprises and here you were, again! We agreed we’d meet as we were both free on that weekend. I went to meet you and we recognised each other instantly, and hugged tight for a few minutes; for a flicker of a moment, it was as if time had stopped forty years ago and we were young again, and then we came apart and laughed while we looked at each other, as if not really believing we were together after such a long time… And then I took you sightseeing, and we walked, but most of all we talked. And talked. And talked. We told each other about the last forty years. About what happened after you left Lisbon, about our marriages, our divorces, our work, our children, the dreams that came true and those that did not, our current lives… I can still see in you the dreamer, the young man who was sweet and tender, but I can also see the man you became, a man who will follow his dreams and live the way he wants to live. A man who leads a simple life, who most of all wants to be free, a man who treasures sunrises and sunsets, and keeps his passion for sailing intact.
And so, we spent two days together, sweethearts of long ago turned into old friends. We had a wonderful time, and I loved to show you some of my favourite places in Lisbon, like the castle of St. George with its magnificent view over the city. And you were always so happy, with such a smile on your face, that it was contagious, and I felt happy too, happy to have found you again after all these years, so happy that you were back in my life, even if for a short while.
Now you have sailed away again, on your way to Morocco and the Mediterranean with some friends. You say you’ll be coming back during the summer and I’m sure we’ll meet again soon. It will be lovely to be with you again. I’m sure there will still be many topics of conversation of these long forty years apart.
Sailing, as in the old song by Christopher Cross, takes you away, but it has also brought you back.
Photo by George Desipris on Pexels