Two years ago today, a long-ago ex-lover of mine died. The most important one, the one that I had the most intense love affair of my life with, the one who used to write me love-letters on pink graph-paper. In one of my circles of friends, they refer to that one most significant ex (which so many of us have) as TOTGA, The One That Got Away. But in my case, they didn’t go away. We remained friends for 25 years afterwards. We hadn’t met in person for a few years, but we had just spoken on the phone a couple of days earlier, a long rambling conversation, but I remember talking about the night sky. I like the stars, but my ex was drawn to the dark.
“Not even the stars stay in sight forever.” But the stars that go out of view leave an afterimage on the mind’s eye which can last a lifetime, especially when it’s a star that burns as brightly as my shining bipolar ex. When I was in my late teens I wrote a poem cycle called At the Aphelion in which I imagined myself as a lonely comet, but I didn’t appreciate how easily the gravity of a passing planet can deflect you from your previous orbit, changing your path for evermore. Since then, each new romantic attraction altered my trajectory, almost always changing me for the better. I learned what I assume most parents know: that love isn’t a finite resource; it’s additive, and it accrues. I discovered that I don’t stop loving people when I stop sleeping with them. Nor even when they die.
Mankind made star maps long before we began to make maps of the ground beneath our feet, even though – or perhaps because – the stars are forever out of reach. When you can’t see your lodestar, it may make navigation more difficult, but we travel on anyway, into the distant dark.