I met her, not at her front door, but in her back garden. That was the first thing she taught me: that people could meet like that. That you could get to know people, not in the usual, expected, pre-arranged ways, but spontaneously, creatively. With a sort of calm, summery patience too. I had rung her doorbell and, instead of inviting me in, her voice came hollering out, asking me to meet her around the back of the house. She already had a picnic blanket laid out. A book there, lying on its face. A cup of tea. A half-eaten bowl of salad. My heart was singing. Hello, I said.
She used to write to me, even after she finally invited me inside. Writing to me of all people, just a rather glum postgraduate in art history. I'd find these little epistles hiding around my apartment with my name on them and addressed to 'The Bookshelf, Right Hand Side, Between Van Gogh and Matisse' or 'Atop the Fridge, beside the Apples.' I used to love it, but because she never mentioned writing these letters to me, I never asked her about them. I just wanted her to keep them coming in their secret and furtive way. I wanted her to have a reason to come visit.
So, I never said a word: just collected whatever she wrote me inside an old shoebox, taking it out from time to time. Anyway, seeing her outside, writing with such intent, with such attention, I always felt so desirous of her. Turned on by the scenario. The sexiness of her absorbed in her work. As if she were very far away from me and this vision I was seeing was just some tantalizing dream. As if we were distant lovers with a whole ocean between us.
She would sometimes steal my jacket when I came to visit and slip into the garden again, even if it was raining--something, again, I never bothered to have her explain. It was just one more bizarre, surreal, lovely thing which stoked my desires for her. Only now I wonder if she wasn't actually trying to teach me something, the way she had that first time I met her. Her ongoing lesson. You see, looking back, picturing her there in her garden again, what I see is this startlingly young person aching, just aching for love. And perhaps this was what she was trying to get me, always, to realise. Maybe, this was what she was always trying to teach me...One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't just go out there with her, for god's sake, just throw open her french doors, and dance with her in the rain.