Saudade

As her words sunk in the only thought Michael could cling to was: why here ? They’d spent the previous week in and out each other’s flats, out at dinner, caught some art house film she’d wanted to see at the Grand. A myriad of opportunities to break the news; the breaking news that she must have known would break him. Why here ? This was, in the heavily romanticized version of their relationship playing on a loop in his head, their place. He’d brought her here last summer, short sleeves and carefree, idly walking and talking about everything and nothing. They’d kept coming as summer lengthened to Autumn; the Fall marking his own inexorable fall. They’d kissed here for the first time when bare arms still smelled faintly of sun lotion and she’d still tasted of lemons; a bag of penny sweets she’d brought as a gift and they’d devoured like they were kids again. He’d confessed to her here for the first time too. I think I’m in love with you. Something like that. He’d practiced it for days, borrowing words from the long dead and the great wordsmiths, before it had just tumbled out breathlessly, hopefully. I think… No, I know, I’m in love with you. She’d smiled, put a finger to his lips, mouthed that she knew and kissed him fiercely. They’d only stopped as some leaves dislodged themselves from the tree above them and landed on their heads. Falling in the Fall. It had always been their place from then. Their tree. Their place. Their love.

“I’m taking the job in Manaus.” Those six words had hung between them now for what felt like a full five minutes. Why here ?

……

A year on, when he came back, the same thought nagged and refused to let go: why here ? Their place, their tree. Why here ? After all those weeks in each other’s pockets, myriad opportunities to break the news. Why here for the breaking news that she knew would break him ?

He’d brought her here that summer, short sleeves, carefree, idly walking and talking about everything and nothing. They’d kissed for the first time, bare arms smelling faintly of sun lotion. She’d tasted of lemons, her lips still fizzing from the bag of sweets he’d brought as a gift. Or had she brought them ? They’d kept coming as summer lengthened to Autumn – the Fall marking his inexorable fall – and he’d confessed to his feelings for her for the first time. I think I love you. Practiced for days with borrowed words but blurted breathlessly, hopefully, words tumbling out and over each other. I think… No, I know, I love you. She’d smiled, placed a finger on his lips, mouthed that she knew and kissed him fiercely. They’d only stopped as leaves, seasonally dislodged, fell on top of their heads. Falling in the Fall.

“I’m taking the job in Manaus.” Why here ?

……

Five years and this place, their place, still held his memories captive: imprisoned by the bittersweet pull of nostalgia. Less sweet and more bitter with each passing year. Why here ? Why had she chosen here for the breaking news she’d known would break him ?

From their summer, short sleeves and carefree, through lengthening days of Autumn this had been their place. First kiss, the tang of lemons, bare arms smelling faintly of sun lotion, to that initial declaration of love, long practiced but words just tumbling breathlessly and hopefully from his mouth. I think. No, I know, I love you. She’d smiled and kissed him but hadn’t spoken. Leaves had rained down on their heads to signal the end of Summer and she’d told him about Manaus.

……

Just a foolish old man now, thirty long years past those days when the world was so vivid that it had tasted of lemons and smelled of sun lotion. She’d only said six words in the place he’d always hold as theirs – I’m taking the job in Manaus – and summer’s kiss through Autumn’s falling in love melted across the seasons, back through the years, and evaporated. Why had she told him here ?

……

This is the twelfth story in my series of 42 shorts that I’m writing to raise money and awareness for Mind, the mental health charity. Saudade is a rather brilliant Portuguese word with no direct equivalent in English: I have somewhat clunkily expressed its meaning in this story. Please share it if you liked it (or even if you didn’t…). If you’re interested in donating to a great cause then please visit my fundraising page. https://www.justgiving.com/42shorts/

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2 thoughts on “Saudade

  1. Vicky

    Another good story Phil.? Did the man ever see the girl again? Did he meet someone else or did he spend the rest of his life thinking of her

    Reply

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