Young at heart, old at heart. This is the descent into madness that only love can inspire. This is Philips open letter to love.
There is an indifference to you. A pernicious contempt for your desires, and a deep unhappiness with your need to permeate my brain. I find myself sleep walking through the throes of your passion, unable to allow you that sceptred place in my mind. Though echoes of your beauty find themselves pulsing through my veins they find no dock in my heart, just a vacant doorway through which you are quietly ushered.
Though it wasn’t always like this.
I was young when I first knew you. Wildly fresh, dwindling on the ecstasy and despair of ageing, my teenage mind became obsessed with you. As the world blossomed around me, in your company was the first time that I felt I was truly seeing it.
I remember lying awake in the bed you had made for us, watching as the branch of a tree bobbed idly in the gentle breeze against the purest blue sky. Its gentle malaise, its simplicity seemed to be of great importance, and as I watched the leaves of the tree shudder, hang and ripple in the air, life had become meaningful, coloured by your own hand. The smallest pieces of all existence seemed to be full of purpose and I craved to know them all – to throw myself fully into this world and commit with the whole of my being to exploring each thread of your woven fabric.
Each step on paved streets became an inch closer to knowing you more intimately. Each kiss that I planted on soft wet lips became the language we conversed in. And how we talked – for hours, until the darkness of late nights consumed us, we would share our thoughts. Those days that passed fell into one another with sublimation, the air hanging heavy with your sweet sweat.
Mornings came complete with your compliments. The days broke into a sense of wonder, stretching as far as I could see. My eyes would dart around the room to absorb each fragment. The desk chair’s legs turned from wooden struts into living limbs marbled by the memories of ancient forests. Each piece of the setting became as integral as the eyes that saw them, each speaking in their own voices of a heritage that would far outlive my fleshy body.
We found ourselves within the intertwined legs of two children, melted into one atop freshly washed sheets. You rose in my lungs as the summer wafts of jasmine poured through my nostrils and my throat would bulge, my stomach consume itself, as I wantonly grazed upon as much of you as I could. The cigarettes I burned curled to the sky in waves of blue and grey. Dancing serenely into the same air that you were breathing were the ever changing patterns that breezed from my lips, and you gladly inhaled my second hand smoke.
It was us and that’s all I needed to know.
Then one day I happily fell into your arms only to fall through them.
Your bodiless embrace left me reeling. You couldn’t leave. Not me. Not now that I had known you.
It was only you that I could ever want and now that I had tasted your scent it was only you that I could ever think of. I endeavoured to bring you back to me, stirring at each turn the urn which had once overrun with your warm milk, desperate to be with you again, to at least graze my lips on the stains you had marbled across the surface. Though what you’d left behind had curdled, soured, become unpalatable.
As I lay once again in the bed that I’d made, I watched the empty blue sky, a jet plane carouselling into nothingness, and was stricken by the sheerest sense of loss. There no longer was meaning in the colour, just a vast emptiness until space became even emptier beyond. I came to realise that there never was any meaning, just a different perspective when held in your arms.
This was too much for my young mind to handle. My body began convulsing in a fit. Hands trembling, my breaths fell short. My lungs mocked me, my neck jutted forwards viciously and my gut withered. I wanted to fight you, to kill you as you were killing me. If only I had the strength to stand and look you in the eye. But then what would I hit? What visionless body could I strike?
If I could not fight then I needed to flee you, to fall back into the world I’d known before when I didn’t know you. I needed to get away from every shred of the life you’d shown me but there was nowhere that you hadn’t cast yourself. There was no escape, nothing to hold responsible.
So I turned in on myself. I began ripping apart the memories that I’d hung so elegantly in burnished frames. I played out the days spent as a young child darting through the shadows of the apartment block, whilst upstairs mother cooked meatballs. My mind visited the earliest memories of itself, lying in bed dreaming of a feathered dragon that would follow me in my waking life, dreaming of red brick buildings that I hoped to one day call home. These dreams which held such meaning to a foolish young boy who didn’t have the capacity to understand them. I burnt them all.
I knew you as a baby knows it needs its mother’s milk. You kept me upright, drifted in and out of my life as the clouds that dot the horizon, giving an intermittent perspective on the blurred backdrop. You penned my life in bursts, trickling from my mother’s hand. You were creating my addiction for you in each letter, teaching me to need you in order to live, teaching me that life was nothing without you but a wait for the end. And now you were nowhere to be seen. You’d left and spoilt every inch of the planet, drenching everything in malicious spite.
The voices of those close to me became disconnected from grotesque faces. Rupturing my thoughts, I regarded their moving mouths with stoney dead eyes. The lips that I once would speak with until I fell into restful slumber were then no more than disgusting furrowed tracks, a sallow pink reminder of the tenderness I’d only too recently known.
The fear of not knowing you, of you never having been real, bled through my eyes and into my mind. Sleep, which I once called on to quickly end so that I could be with you again, no longer visited me. I would lay awake, afraid to shut my eyes because there was even less behind their lids than that which I saw in my waking life. The visions that would erupt in the blackness of my own consciousness wavered and came into being with a crippling sense of desolation. The dreams that I had greeted as friends were then nothing but hollow jesters taunting me with their false tricks.
Without you I knew only a special kind of madness. A self assured madness that spread like a disease through my conscious. It ripped and tore apart all the assertions I’d made of myself – the lessons I had learnt, the person I had become.
Language became haunting and tortuous, echoing through a cavernous dome; the hollow statements hitting empty walls whilst the air that filled my lungs conspired against me. No longer did hair grow from my scalp, but wires, rough and coarse, now ripped through porous skin.
The hands that I had used to clasp my lover’s face – to touch flesh – brought about the greatest waves of nausea. Their sickly pink, wrinkled ugliness, hard, wrought nails, bony brittleness. They had known the trails you had laid across pale backs, delicately tracing the meandering streets of browned beauty spots. They had known the intimacy of a woman, known the pleasure and pain of bra hooks, known the weight of pens and had written of you in such grandiose terms. Now they trembled like a ward of meek orphans, shaken with the last rattles of their unheard spluttering waiting for the final time they’d see that flickering halogen lamp.
The illness peaked. It began to whisper of the need to die. Its desperate voice urged me to depart from your world, to fall and find myself beneath the ground. There seemed to be no other way to escape your torment. Even in losing faith I still felt your absence, perhaps more than I’d ever felt your presence. Having believed, having known you as I did, was too great a burden to bear. You that could curate such joy only to replace it with unending tribulation.
You that would abandon me.
I stood alone, watching as my sunken face peered back at me through leaden eyes and felt in my hands the cold wetness of steel. Wrist tensed, my vein swelled to the surface. A blue ripple across pale skin. I felt sick with pity that it could not know the meaning of its summoning. It pulsed innocently, dutifully forcing the blood around my body.
The hairs stood to attention as my hand reached around intent on finding the solution to your fever.
As I watched the skin indent under the blade, a droplet of blood swelled to the surface. Neat and spherical. It momentarily sat atop my skin as if it had no idea what to do. As if asking me why I had brought it out; why I had disturbed its benevolent journey.
And as it asked the question I saw the resigned look of disappointment in its face. The sorrowful realisation of the why, and in that moment it burst. Streaming down my arm and onto the floor. I watched it seep into the bathroom rug and dropped the blade.
If I couldn’t even bring myself to die, then what could I do?
The only escape from your foul clutches stolen by fear, I became your slave, searching fiendishly for you everywhere I went. Down crowded lunchtime streets and darkened back alleys I would scour the lonely faces for any trace of you. I drifted from shade to shade desperate to bring you back to me, assured that my illness was only temporary, that you were just around the next corner.
And I did know you again. And again. You came to me when I was in deepest despair, remedying my crippling loneliness, capturing my imagination once more. But each time I could not know you like the last. I couldn’t allow myself to for fear of what you would do to me.
Since then every relationship I’ve developed in worship of you has been marred from its very inception by your propensity to leave me. The shrines that I erect are built with less care and attention because I know that you will only make me want to destroy them all over and I just want to make the whole task of clearing up easier to handle. I care less and less for my lovers’ desires and keep you at arms length, from which I can push you when I feel the talons dig deep.
Resigned, I’ve joined the legions of the purple faced, wandering from hazy nights to dreadful mornings. Sodden in drunken misapprehension; calculated self deceit that sees an invented joy bubbling through my insides. I’ve turned the vices you embedded in me into a fierce addiction for chemical rushes, forgettable sex and nicotine fixes.
It’s all I can do to ignore your tempting whispers, to forget about the beautiful memories you created for me. To forget the fleshy bodies you once inspired. Though their meaninglessness isn’t lost on me, and in my sober, waking states I know what I need. I hear it slowly calling through the chambers of mind. Word by word. It dances around my ears and jostles through my voice box. Taps across my tongue. Lingers on my lips:
I hate you, love. But I need you now more than ever.