This isn’t my usual blog post. I’ve been thinking about the idea of Anemoia for a little while now, and began writing a poem about it. I wanted that to evolve into a short story. What was going to purely be a love story to begin with has ended up having themes of mental health within it also. I hope you enjoy both the poem and the story. I would love to hear what you think. Nicola xx
ANEMOIA – A POEM
We met, in the wrong place and time
Distant, hurt, misaligned
I know there’s meant to be more
Yet it can’t exist in this current form
It’s as though, when I look into your eyes
every parallel universe opens wide
just waiting for me to approach
and there’s one I would run to
every single time –
It calls to me, like a soft lullaby
It’s a time I’ve never lived through
A place I’ve never been
But I feel the warmth of it through my body
Your love buried deep within my bones
Instead of meeting those wrong people
the people who hurt us
taught us shame, regret and doubt
We simply met each other
Ignored everyone who said
we were too young, it wouldn’t last
For we never needed the rest of the world
Not once we’d found each other
We lived had a life of perfect imperfectness
I grieve that I missed out on it all
By being in this space, this time
Because the me and you who exist there
are the luckiest creatures
Creation ever saw
The Anemoia I feel
Rages through me like a passion
I know, if we tried, we could feel it here
It would be harder,
so much harder
We both have pain and pasts
issues and scars
and half healed hearts
But you know …
maybe if we worked through all of that
The feeling at the end
when we were just us
Would dwarf every other feeling
from every other universe
Nobody would sense it but us
Like silent shockwaves
Taking our breath, leaving us speechless
but divinely blissful
this Anemoia hit me for a reason
To push me on
To not give up
Because the very best thing that could ever be
The place where my life was destined to lead –
It’s worth every struggle
And if it ever gets too hard
I stop and close my eyes
Let that nostalgia fill my senses wide
And carry on, to you
To where our stars align
Another Wednesday had rolled around, it didn’t in all honesty matter to me what day it was. They were all much the same. Work, home, television, with the occasional visit to the gym or a coffee shop. I felt disassociated from my own life, and I still couldn’t decide if I blamed myself or him more.
Don’t fall in love young, that’s what I’d advise. I was too naïve, and he was too calculating. Nobody teaches you at that age what a healthy relationship should be, so I had to learn the hard way. Unfortunately for me, that involved getting home early one night to see my friend (I use the term loosely) Violet, on her knees in front of him. I think the lack of remorse and shame from either of them in the following weeks was worse than that moment. It was just the last straw on top of three years of making me feel less than him, somehow not quite enough but also too much all at once. It had got to the point I didn’t even try to speak up anymore, it wasn’t worth it. I think Violet, and her gobby mouth had actually done me a favour, but I wasn’t sure if I’d ever feel like me again. I just felt a bit broken, and a lot less confident than before, trust would not come easily to me in the future, of this I was certain.
This particular Wednesday however, was slightly different. I’d reluctantly agreed to join everyone from the office for a game of bowling and some beers after work. At least I didn’t have to try and make much conversation if we were bowling. Hearing them all talk about their dating, their plans, their holidays, just got a little jarring when I never had news of my own to share. They always tried to involve me, but I just preferred to be left alone, quiet, live up to the introvert label that had been planted on me early in my teenage years. Nobody had understood it was perhaps just awkward shyness that would have passed had it not been made into such a big deal.
Halfway through the first game, in which I’d managed to stay firmly unremarkable in the middle of the scoreboard, my manager Laura called me over.
“Ella,” she smiled at me kindly as I took a seat in the booth. “This is Alex. He’s starting in the office on Monday, and I thought as you were the last newbie you could help him learn the ropes? He’s just come along tonight to quickly meet everyone, break the ice.”
I nodded obediently and returned Laura’s smile, before glancing across the small table to Alex…
That was the exact moment every ounce of breath was sucked wholly out of my being. I couldn’t even describe to you what he looked like; I was just lost. I was not in the bowling alley anymore.
My eyes had closed, and I had no wish to open them again. I wondered briefly if I’d died, had some freak accident occurred as I sat at that table with my boss? It would be an embarrassing place to die, but it wouldn’t matter, because surely, this had to be heaven. I was complete.
My entire body felt cushioned, as if I was nestled in blankets of angel feather and cashmere, so soft against me. I ran my fingers down my arms and felt the balmy warmness of my skin, as though it had been under a hot Mediterranean sun for most of the day. God, I felt so good, but… I was also very, very naked I realised as my fingers pressed against the bare skin of my thighs.
With my next, deep, satisfied breath a familiar scent flooded my mind. Alex… He’d been working outside again, that pine smell always lingered in his hair, and come to think of it, I could feel his fingers were slightly sticky with tree sap as they rubbed lazily up and down my back. Wait…
Too late. My taste buds were accumulating around his mouth as it met mine, dividing and multiplying, desperate to taste more of… him. He was everything, how had I lived before him? His kiss, the sensation of it. I’d kissed him a million times before and I’d kiss him a million times again. I tried to speak his name, into his lips but I was lost, so lost.
Time shifted, quickly, and I could feel in my body that we’d made love and it meant everything to me. It wasn’t the first time but still a tear ran down my cheek. My body shivered as clouds of goosebumps washed over me at the sound of his voice in my ear. I’d missed that voice so much. The words were jumbled, a different language, but I knew they were full of love. I’d never felt as cherished and adored. He had me on the highest pedestal, but we were equal, I placed him beside me, and we were inseparable, nothing would or could ever come between us. His words, whatever they may be, were making me want him again. I slowly turned, in the soft cocoon we were embedded within and opened my eyes to look at him…
An endless vision of possibilities flashed by in a blur. Life after life after life of me and him. I saw children, I saw car crashes, I saw so many graves, weddings, christenings, adventures, boredom, a myriad of countries. Every parallel universe that ever could have existed was right there, and in each of them we were together in some form. None of this made sense, yet at the same time it all made sense. Alex, how had I forgotten his name?
“Ella! Ella, are you alright?” Laura’s high-pitched voice broke through the trance. “Are you having some sort of seizure, are you sick?” Her hands were gripping my arms and shaking me, the skin sore where her fingers pinched.
“I’m… I’m fine.” I stammered, shaking my head, and trying to control my breath, I was hyperventilating. I looked at Laura, too scared to glance across the table to Alex again. Alex… for god’s sake I hadn’t even known who he was ten minutes ago and now I couldn’t think his name without shivering. What the hell was going on?! “Could you please just get me some water, think I must be getting a virus or something.”
Laura let go, leaving white marks in my arm where she’d gripped me, and scurried over to the bar in search of water. I frowned as I looked at her empty seat, too scared to turn to him in case it happened again.
“Ella?” His voice was exactly as I remembered. But how could I be remembering someone I’d never met. This was insane. I ran my hands through my hair as I slowly, cautiously cast my eyes in his direction. “Are you OK? Your eyes were rolling around so fast, your breathing…”
Now that I coerced myself to look at him, I couldn’t help but smile. That familiar face, younger than I’d just seen it, he was maybe twenty-two. His hair all floppy and messy, by his mid-twenties he’d like it shorter but for now, it fell over his right eye, the dark, dirty blonde that I adored. His eyes, brown and deep, like open books to his soul showing his kindness and humour. His nose was a bit big, and he didn’t like his double chin, but I adored every single part of him, I could never find him anything except beautiful.
“I missed you.” The words left my lips too quickly, and I felt a stab of pain as he his head tilted to the side with confusion.
He sucked in a breath before he spoke, his jaw tense. “Laura will be back in a minute, don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll feel better soon.”
“You don’t remember me?” I asked, hearing the needy edge to my voice, the panic at the thought he would walk out of here and I’d never see him again.
Then Laura was back with the water, and I was ushered into a taxi and told to go home and rest, take the remainder of the week off and come in on Monday. Never getting chance to hear his response or further the conversation.
Monday… Alex would be starting on Monday. My mouth set into a satisfied grin as I sank into my soft bed, recalling the feelings I’d had earlier, reliving every moment of them. It would come back to him too, I knew it.
Yet he didn’t remember, or if he did, he deserved an award for his acting skills. Six months passed and I turned from over exuberant puppy, positively panting with excitement every time he came near me, back to that girl whose light had been dulled, whose hope had been lost. I was grieving for something that I didn’t even know was real, what was wrong with me? Maybe I was just losing my mind, maybe I needed help.
It could have been a virus after all, maybe I imagined it all. But somehow, I couldn’t quite convince myself of it. It was so real, how else did I know his voice, his taste, his touch, his smell? Every time he walked by me, I inhaled as deeply as I could, and the memories flooded through me. In every lifetime he always smelled the same.
The universe had its plans though, I guess patience was needed, although it had never been my strong point. One Friday, not long after, I was dawdling, not in a rush to leave the office for the weekend. The others had all fled as soon as possible, for their drinks, their partners, their plans, there was nothing for me to rush back for, I was always the last here. I heard a voice coming from the staff room, his voice.
“So, I can’t go back there? Until they’ve checked it’s safe tomorrow? Great, thanks for nothing.” The voice was exasperated, defeated, and tired. I knew those emotions in him. He’d be trying to appear brave now, but in reality, he’d just desperately want a long hug.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, as I poked my head around the door. “Sorry I couldn’t help but overhear, sounded like a problem?”
He jumped ever so slightly as he looked up at me. Was there a slight hint of a blush or was it just this awful strip lighting? “There’s a gas leak in the building I live in. Not even allowed to go back in to get anything until its signed off as safe, which won’t be until tomorrow. I’ll never find a room around here on a Friday night, not at this time of year.”
His eyes darted to the window quickly and mine followed. The Christmas market outside was in full swing. Colourful fairy lights strung between all the buildings, including ours, lighting up beautiful stalls selling gifts, wine and candy canes. Also, predictably giant bratwurst which seemed to dominate every Christmas market I’d ever been to for some random reason. The market was a massive tourist attraction, and he was right, the few hotels and B&B’s that serviced the picturesque town we lived in, would be fully booked up.
“Come and stay at mine.” I offered, probably too quickly. Something flashed behind his eyes, and I sadly thought it was reluctance.
“I don’t want to put you out.” He began googling places to stay and the tension in his shoulders told me he was having no luck.
“You wouldn’t be, I haven’t got any plans,” I winced immediately, realising I was making myself sound pathetic. “The sofa’s really comfortable, I was going to order Chinese anyway tonight. You’re more than welcome.”
I took a small step back, giving him space to decide. “Thank you,” his eyes met mine and I couldn’t help but smile. “That would be great.”
Two hours later after a stop at a supermarket for urgent supplies such as a toothbrush, a razor and a couple bottles of wine, we were sat on the colourful rug that dominated my living room floor. The large coffee table in front of us was full of the cute little boxes my local Chinese used for their deliveries.
“I’m sorry I don’t have a proper dining table. I like eating down here, and living alone there isn’t much point using all the space.” I began to explain.
“I like sitting on the floor to eat. Feels rustic.” He replied as he refilled our large glasses with deep, red wine. Bless him, trying to put me at ease. We’d already had a large glass each while we waited for the food, the last thing I needed was to get drunk and try and kiss him or confess my undying love.
With the food devoured and the second bottle of wine opened, we slumped onto the couch. Seemed as good a time as any to try and dig a little deeper into this version of Alex I didn’t yet know.
“So, your accent doesn’t seem local, where are you from?” I asked, wanting to make the most of this opportunity.
“Bristol,” he replied. “I should’ve been getting married soon but it all went horribly, horribly wrong. I wanted a fresh start.”
“She obviously wasn’t the right girl.” As soon as I said it, I realised it sounded callous. “I mean, erm… I think people are sometimes meant to be together, and maybe she wasn’t meant for you. Maybe someone else is.”
He watched me closely for a moment, and the silence felt deafening. “Anyone specific?”
I shrugged, hoping to not look so obvious. “Did you ever meet someone and just feel… instant connection?”
He rested his head back against the deep cushion of the couch. “Even if I did, I’d run a mile. What she put me through… I’m not going there again.”
“I got my heart broken too,” I replied. “I know what you mean, but… what if the right person, who’d never do that to you, was so close?”
“That night, in the bowling alley. Something weird happened, didn’t it?” Alex put the wine down on the table as he spoke.
“I don’t want to sound crazy; you’ll never speak to me again. But yeah… it was like I could remember us being together, like I was remembering another time and place.” I covered my face with a cushion and the rest came out muffled. “I can’t believe I just said that out loud.”
“I felt… something but… Ella. It’s not you, I just…” He sighed deeply before he continued. “You’re lovely and sweet, so beautiful even though you don’t know it but… I just don’t want to go through it all again.”
I wanted to cry, but I knew I couldn’t. He’d already think I was insane based on this conversation. I went to top our wine glasses up again as a distraction, but the second bottle was already empty.
I don’t know why I’d let my mind conjure up all these potential outcomes for the night. Like he was going to realise he loved me as I offered him the last spring roll. I was pitiful, no wonder he didn’t want me. This was never going to end with us tumbling into bed and living happy ever after.
“I’m going to head to bed, I left blankets and pillows behind the couch for you.” I stood up slowly, the wine suddenly making me feel nauseous. Was it the wine, or his words?
“I didn’t mean to upset you; I’m just trying to be honest. It’s why I avoid you at work, I don’t want to get close, and I feel like to you… I would.”
“Don’t worry, you don’t have to explain.” I tried to sound breezy and bright, but my heart was aching, I could feel it slowly dissolving within me. “Night Alex.”
“Night Ella.” I heard him say quietly as I closed my bedroom door and leaned back against it as my eyes closed with a sigh.
My entire body felt restless and agitated as I tossed and turned in the bed, trying to force sleep that was impossible. Why had I got my hopes up? Why had I ever thought things would work out for me? All those images and feelings, it was just my stupid mind playing painful tricks on me and I was sick of it. So, so sick of it. Eventually I drifted into a jerky, angular sleep, not the softness that brings rest and healing.
Even whilst in slumber though, I couldn’t escape him. I was remembering that life again, as stupid as it sounds to remember a life that wasn’t even mine. But the happiness of it was just forcing a different reaction from me now. My fingers clenched into fists during my sleep as the anger hit me at the unfairness of everything, how I was stuck in this weak, pointless existence watching other people be happy. Always other people, and now to rub further salt into the wound, I’d been shown the happiest me imaginable and then had it snatched away. And he was right through that fucking wall.
I awoke with my face pressed hard into my pillow as I silently screamed, furious tears burning down my cheeks. But I didn’t want him to know. I didn’t ever want him to know what he was doing to me. He already thought me deranged from what I could gather, this would just be the icing on the cake. Sobbing like a heartbroken teenager over a memory that wasn’t even mine.
The next few weeks were like a torture for me. A constant, spinning cycle. A sickening ride that I couldn’t get off, it wouldn’t stop, it wouldn’t let me rest.
The first Ella was convinced that this had to be fought for, that we were meant to be together. It wouldn’t matter how long it took, or how hard it was to get him to trust me and realise that I wasn’t like the others, I wouldn’t hurt him. That Ella would spend her whole life working to achieve the goal of that happy place she’d seen. She was however completely eclipsed by the second Ella.
The second Ella felt as though her heart and soul had been cracked in two. I couldn’t handle seeing him at work, it hurt so badly. Plus, as much as he said he was too hurt for anybody, it didn’t seem to stop the painful flirting with the sandwich girl every single lunchtime. I’d taken to walking around the park at that time to try and avoid the spectacle, it made the acid in my stomach bubble up and add to the poisonous thoughts that were brewing inside of me.
I hated him so much at times, hot, angry tears running down my face as I spent more time hidden in the toilets than at my desk. I began taking more and more days off sick. I hadn’t exactly been enthusiastic about life to begin with but now… Every day felt like a heavy drag, my thoughts were black and dragged me to the floor. I struggled to see an outcome where I’d be in the light again. I didn’t want to see people, people made me feel worse. I didn’t like being awake but I was scared to sleep because those feelings – I can’t even call them dreams because they weren’t made up, they were real – those feelings flooded my mind and my senses. His touch, his smell, his very being.
In the end, I lost my job. I thought he might come to see me, check on me. For days I sat in my flat, all tidy, hair done, fake smile ready and waiting for him. But he never did show.
An infinite array of alternate realities, parallel universes, dreamscapes. An endless mingle of he and I together, in love, in some form or another. Why did I have to be living the one where he didn’t want me? The one where I was rejected. The one that had the saddest ending imaginable.