In my cozy nook, housed in my memory, lies this scene.
I wear a red dress, a lace pattern measuring just above my knees. It has short sleeves, but long enough not to upset the gossiping ladies always hanging around the plaza. The dress hugs my body perfectly, but not too tight as to seem to beg for attention. He wouldn't like that at all. He is traditional in that sense. My hair hangs loose just above my hips - black as coal, in waves. He thought me beautiful that way, running his fingers through them when we met, caressing them gently as he held me close to him. When he kisses me, his lips - warm, gentle - tastes like honey. His hands rest at the small of my back, pulling me just close enough not to cause those same ladies to make a fuss. We are to them, just children, after all. One of them, most likely two, will certainly be reporting to our parents to tell of the scandal that is our sin.
He's not a tall man, just a few inches in height beyond my five-foot frame. I rest my head perfectly on his right shoulder, clinging to his back, wanting to stay there for as long as he would let me. And he would always let me. He smelled of fresh soap, clean, unsullied by perfumes of any kind. I breathe in his scent, marvelling at how content it made me feel. How safe. I know his body, every curve, every mark. I want to kiss him some more, but he motioned with his lips toward the ladies, their eyebrows arching higher and higher on their malevolent faces. If I hold him any longer, one of the ladies would undoubtedly feign a heart attack. So he held my hand instead, and we walked toward the left end of the plaza - away from their lingering eyes. This scene, this memory - is my cozy nook.
I was 17 and 3/4 when I left him. For someone else, and then another someone, and one more other.
I can't explain why, because I don't know why. Or perhaps I am too cowardly to accept why. So, I convinced myself that I fell in love with someone else and out of love with him - but that is a lie. A grievous, intolerable lie. The truth is that I was an incorrigible brat - a selfish, scornful young woman. I was someone who couldn't differentiate between a precious gem and a worthless rock. I didn't know what I had. I didn't appreciate the gift given to me. I wanted to be free, to do what I wanted - to live. Or what I thought was living. I blundered. I played. I hurt and was hurt - painfully. Perhaps I was naive. Then again, no. That would be too gracious to describe the arrogant, insolent child I had become. I was exasperated, committing mistake after mistake. I listened to the wrong people. Friends, I thought, were friends. Family, I thought, who cared. I believed their exquisite lies. And eventually, I fell. What was a regular young woman, once beautiful and happy - was now damaged, angry, and filled with hatred for the world. Broken.
I longed for him desperately - his touch, his embrace, his kiss. And his words - always kind, always reassuring. I wanted to hear him say he loved me, again and again - like he once did. I missed how his thoughts sometimes collided with each other, that when he spoke - his words jumbled. To others, it was an impairment. To me, it was an endearing quality. I missed it. All of it. He promised me when I left that he would wait for me. Wait for me to find what it was I was searching for.
He asked me when he would have me back, and I didn't answer. I couldn't answer because I had no idea myself. I didn't know what I was chasing, and neither did I know for how long I would chase it.
Many years past. I finally found the audacity to search for him, but it was too late. He had broken his promise - finally. And my precious beloved became someone else's. And I grieved.
For nine long years after, I didn't love anybody. I couldn't, and I punished myself severely - for in my heart of hearts - I loved him still. That scene, that memory became my solace. Indelible in my mind, was every detail. His scent, his touch, the warmth of his embrace - his fingers caressing through my hair. His breath, pleasant and comforting against my cheek. How overjoyed I felt. How each taste of him felt like electricity running through every part of me. And although he belonged to someone else, I claimed this memory for my own. Absolutely no one can take it from me.
In this recollection, this point in time is where I go in times of distress, anxiety, sadness, even in times of anger. I close my eyes, drown the noise, be still - and find myself back in that plaza. For the memory comes with it - passion, protection, understanding, and above all else - untarnished love.
He, forevermore – is my cozy nook.