Under my bed I keep a few plastic boxes filled with memories of the past: my childhood diaries, old photos, love letters from sweethearts long gone from my life, even if not totally forgotten, wallets from high school and university days, drawings and the sweetest messages from my boys on Mother’s Day. I even found a sort of play written by Beli and me during a Criminal Law class that had me laughing to tears at how our incredible imagination took us away from the classification of crimes and the eternal discussion regarding life imprisonment and death sentence.
For years all these boxes have sat there, quietly. When I began researching for my first book (soon to be published, I am happy to say), I retrieved them and dove straight into the past, recalling episodes, songs and even people I had completely forgotten.
Trip to the past
Now that I have begun working on my second book, I need to go back to those treasures for inspiration. Last weekend – yet another one of confinement – I decided to embark again on one of these pleasurable trips to the past. They make me feel young again, as if life hasn’t passed me by and everything is still possible; for a couple of hours I laugh, I cry, I sigh and I revel in these tiny bits of my life. Then I call my companions of those adventures – Guida, Luisa and Beli – and share photos and texts with them and it is as if we are doing the same things together all over again. Everything has changed, except for our friendship, and the certainty that it will be there for the rest of our lives and beyond – if we do live several lives, as some say, I’m positive these three have accompanied me in more than one journey, such is the bond that ties me to them.
Last weekend I saw photographs picturing smiling teenagers – myself included – jumping into the sea in Madeira, or sitting by the pool, our bronzed, lithe bodies depicting energy in every muscle; in others, all dressed up for the night, dancing the bailinho (Madeiran Folklore) at the Savoy hotel nightclub; the pictures of our group during the best New Year’s Eve of all, with the pointed brilliant hats and little horns, the girls’ faces scintillating with so much make up, the boys so smart in their dark blue jackets and ties, all lips opening in never ending smiles… the unforgettable New Year when I met someone who would be a great love in my life, someone who loved me deeply, truly, probably like no one else ever would again.
Looking at those photos I sit back and feel a wave of sadness invading me. Not because I lost that love. It was my choice – I chose to let it go because I fell in love with someone else. I feel sad because that love had written me the most beautiful letters; the most tender, funny, romantic, loving of all the love letters I have ever received in my life. More, they were unique, because they always included exquisite drawings, a depiction of us lovers and an unimaginable amount of hearts. And there were many of those letters, because we lived in different cities for a while, and wrote to each other every day.
A special letter
There are few things I regret in my life, but this is one of them: I kept all those letters hidden in the top part of my cupboard. Before I left home to marry, I decided I could not bring those many dozens of letters to my new home; it wouldn’t be fair to my husband, I thought. After all, he was the love of my life, or so I thought at the time – he had swept me off my feet and made me forget the author of the letters. Slowly, but implacably, as if I were erasing three years of my life, I tore those letters, watching the handwriting and drawings I knew so well turn into tiny pieces, filling a huge plastic bag that I took myself to the garbage container. I remember keeping only one – the very first, the most magical of all, for memory’s sake. And I went on to live my life.
Every time I go through those memory boxes, I look for that special letter, that unique letter, a living reminder of that love story of so long ago – but I can never find it. In my search I have found many letters from other people, and so many documents, and papers, that I didn’t even remember – but that letter remains mysterious and elusive. Each time I hope I will find it, but I invariably close the boxes empty-handed, because it will not appear. Although I am certain I have kept it – but I must have hidden it so well that it will take time to appear or, maybe, who knows, maybe I’ll never find it again.
Time will go by, and my books will hopefully remain as a living memory of those days, reality mixed with fiction. Only I and my closest friends know the difference between truth and imagination. Perhaps one day, when I am gone to another dimension where space and time do not exist, to meet again all the people I carry inside my heart, someone, maybe a young girl, who knows, a granddaughter, a romantic girl such as I once was, will go through my things and finally discover this letter. And she will remember the story in the book, and realize that this girl her grandmother once was, vibrant and full of life as she is now, lived a great love that inspired this letter. At least that love, she will conclude, was real, not imagination.
She will put the letter back in the box, along with my other treasures, and she will keep them under her own bed, and will pass it on to the next generation.
Or maybe, who knows, this is just a silly dream. When I am not of this world, my pragmatical (like most men) sons will naturally throw away all my papers- after all what use are they? – keeping only the books I have written, part real, part imagination, never quite knowing how things really were.
Whatever happens, I will be beyond caring, in a world where memories and reality are as one and again I am loved like that, and I am happy.