I used to think that Chris was unromantic. “We need both heaven and earth,” I would say to her, wishing these qualities were more evenly distributed between us. Why did she have to keep her feet so resolutely on the ground, I complained.
I was a fool.
Looking back, I realise that although she rarely spoke of love, she had a thousand other ways of showing that she loved me. Actions meant more to her than words alone, though sometimes she expressed her feelings in cards and notes.
Over Easter Weekend I delved into a small cardboard box that she gave me on my 60th birthday. The outside of the box is decorated with a Japanese print and inside are the props and artifacts she used to tell a story at my party. There’s a copy of Alessandro Baricco’s book Silk from which she took the story; a DVD of the film; a handful of silk moth cocoons; and a letter printed on flower embossed paper, rolled into a scroll and secured with a wax seal in the form of Cupid.
I remember her telling the story of Hervé Joncour travelling to Japan in the 19th century to buy and smuggle silk moth eggs back to France and falling in love with a Japanese concubine. She told the story beautifully, holding us enraptured for an hour.
At one point, she slipped the scroll from its binding, looked me straight in the eye and read the words of the lovelorn concubine which she had adapted from the novel.
The letter ends, almost presciently:
This moment had to be.
This moment is.
And this moment will continue from now, until forever.
We shall not see one another again.
What we were meant to do we have done.
Believe me, my love, we have done it forever.
And if it serves your happiness, do not hesitate for a moment to forget this woman who now says, without a trace of regret… farewell.
But there is no question of me forgetting “this woman.”