The Exuberance of Loss

Deal with your loss while it’s fresh My Dears, before time and denial have withered it.

There is no meaning in the dried up husk of an ancient loss, mummified and irrelevant.  Loss, at its best, is warm and wet, roiling and thrashing. It is a monster, caught in a net, full of rage and dread.

Do not shy away, though you would rather, though every atom of your being screams ‘No!’

Do not shy away. Have courage My Dears. Courage is a flavouring, a garnish that enhances ones loss, deepening it, extending it, and, with luck, making it last for ever. Courage! Be brave.

Engage with the shadow, the shadow is the proof of light. Embrace it, dance a slow dance and revel in its cold-warmth.

Loss leaves a taste on the tongue, metallic and salty, with the promise of vomit yet to come.

I am not just saying all this you know. I am not just making it up. I know whereof I speak. I have …  experience.

I have waited for the phone call, hour after hour, through the small hours. I have re-lived and then dissected each and every moment of that interminable bank holiday weekend. That last weekend of my life. Before I became dead.

Be sure to set aside time, when all is quiet and there are no distractions. Set aside a regular appointment. So you’ll have something to look forward to. A rendezvous.

I find four in the mourning best, ‘scuse the pun. When ones circadian rhythms have had time to subside. When ones heartbeat is at its slowest, energy levels are lowest and all hope is gone.

Yes, a four a.m. appointment with an old friend. Give it time. Don’t rush. Never be miserly with misery.

I listen first for traffic noise. That is my cue. I listen for the distant sound of compression braking and squeal of heavy tyres on tarmac. And then I recall, as best I can, for everything fades in the end, the stink of vulcanised rubber burned by friction, and the slightly sweet after-scent of overheated tar.

The aroma is the trigger or course, the smell, most evocative of senses. The cousin of memory, midwife of recollection.

Loss has a distinct odour – you would’ve been aware of it. I never knew that before. It has its own sweet fragrance, one can wear it, slather oneself in it, like fine cologne.

The old fashioned ring-ring, ring-ring, ring-ring of the house phone catches me by surprise when, at last, it does come. Despite everything, I am unprepared.

I stare at the phone for several moments, while it rings and rings, and will not stop. Curiously, and I think perhaps for the first time, I encompassed its shape. Its plump elegance, form following function, flowing in its super-heated, injection moulded, mass distributed, meme-like perfection. A triumph of industrial design – the house phone. I am lost, momentarily in its smooth curves, impatient with that irritating, insistent jingle. What does it want? Why won’t it just shut up?

And then, that classic, inevitable sensation that accompanies and presages only the deepest loss, my blood runs cold, ice flows in my veins, and I grab, frantically for the phone.

‘Yes’ I scream, ‘Yes, it’s me. Who’s this? Who’s calling?’

I am straining to hear. At first there is nothing but the almost-silence of the open circuit. The slight hiss of interference, cosmic radiation from a billion light years off in time and space, taunting gently, a long dead radio audience, to our final Act.

‘It’s me’ a tiny, distant voice, thin seeming, stretched and distended, tight as band, nearing breaking point.

There follows, the Conversation. I shall not bother to describe it, anyone who has had it knows it, and anyone who has not, cannot.

Matters requiring no explanation are set out in detail. The particulars of the affair are flayed from the corpse and laid gently upon the ears.

Explanations are proffered and accepted. It’s not as though there is a choice. There is no room for negotiation – that has to be the starting point. The Conversation, is not about compromise. There can be no concession, intercession, conciliation, arbitration, mediation, discussion or diplomacy.

The Conversation is about getting it over with. Any decision has long since been made and acted upon.

The Conversation is about ending it, pure and simple. It is about getting out with integrity and self-respect intact, or whatever can be salvaged.

There are rules of course, but these are essentially instinctual, no one has read the book or done a course. In the end it all comes naturally enough I suppose, with chess-like precision, another game I have played from time to time without ever having really grasped the rules.  It may not be necessary, in either case. For all I know those supposed Grand Masters are pulling off some giant bluff. No one cares anyway, in the end.

One is left with a residue, the detritus of Love. With luck one is left in denial and isolation, to be followed swiftly by anger, or in my case, rage. There is no bargaining, no negotiation stage, we’ve talked about that, but you might get a period of grand rationalisation, which can equally enjoyable.

When at last one is exhausted you may sink into a profound still pool of depression, blood temperature and comforting. I am told one finds acceptance in the end, but bugger that.

Loss ignored is love denied My Dears, and love denied is the greatest sin.  Wouldn’t you agree?


I have gone mad.

Or I am going mad. In any case I have lost my mind and am now behaving rashly, incoherently and with apparent indifference to the true state of affairs.

The true state of affairs! What bullshit! What utter pompous bollocks. Those middle aged men in suits who think they know the true state of affairs, those men like me, know nothing.

Why am I throwing away my marriage and most of my personal relationships and friendships? Why, after a quarter of a century or so am I chucking it all away? I have no answer.  There is no answer except the peace on the line after she hangs up, before some automated nanny system starts beeping at me to hang up too.

Am I in love with the woman who now shares my bed? Am I merely infatuated as my wife says? Will it all come crashing down on my head one day? Will I come crawling back?

What is love anyway, exactly? I thought I was in love before but I realise that was mainly for convenience. My life was comfortable. Work was ok, home life was ok, and sex was acceptable if perfunctory.

If I went back home now. If I threw myself on her mercy and begged to be taken back. If I said she was right all along, it was just an infatuation, a middle-life crisis or nervous breakdown, would that actually fix things, would it solve the problem? Is going back a solution at all, to anything?

I have glimpsed blue sky and sunshine. I have been provided with an image of another life, perhaps a better life. Is it a lie, a mirage?

Is she real, my lover? Is she as I see her or is she a perfectly pleasant woman in early middle age who, like me, is just not ready to give up? Is she the Angel she appears to me to be or is that an illusion which will also fade, revealing just another woman fighting the effects of gravity and disappointment.

I met a mad man once. A man whom I now recognise to be myself, or who might as well be me for all the difference it would make.

That man told me he had walked with angels and talked with demons. Who else could say that he asked me?  Why would he give that up for the drab, mundane greys of everyday life?

‘No son’, he said, ‘give me my madness any day, and the transcendental joy and despair that come with it.’

In the end it is better to have suffered every moment of every day of a long and extraordinary life, than to have lived comfortably in mediocrity.

I have won the freedom to experience a little joy in my life, alongside the pain.

There is no going back, ever, for anyone.