The first time I knew love was a moment I shall never forget. It was one of the most important moments of my life and the two people involved never even saw me. Thinking back, I am not exactly sure that they did me any favours, perhaps I had better explain a little bit more.
I was twelve or thirteen years old and travelling to England from Ireland on the ferry. Excited by the prospect of adventure and a tiny bit sea sick I went wandering the deck during the middle of the night. As the ship ploughed through rolling waves, I lurched around the dim and deserted boat, trying as best I could to look like I belonged. The sting of salt spray on my face was uncomfortable and exhilarating at once. The dim running lights of the ship held no power over the all-encompassing gloom of a mid ocean night. The waves rose higher, causing me to wonder if being on deck was all that wise, but wisdom and youth rarely sit well together. I wandered on, swaying side to side, hands firmly driven into my coat pockets, far too cool to use the hand rail. After walking around for a time I found myself on the top deck, looking into a near deserted lounge through a sea spray speckled window. That was when I saw them.
So young, but older than me. They seemed to shine in the way no light could in the dark of a mid ocean crossing. They had an exotic hue to their skin, far too tanned to be Irish, perhaps Spanish or French. She had long dark hair past her shoulders and was very beautiful. She wore a short green jacket with a wool jumper underneath and jeans, comfortable but stylish in the way a movie star must in dress the hours before a scene is shot. The man was just as dashing, his chin coloured with stubble, and unruly brown hair fell to the shoulders of a leather jacket. Their beauty was undeniable but that was not the quality that changed my heart forever. It was the way they were together and alone at once that struck me dumb.
The Girl sat on a bench with a book in her hand, the man slumbered, his head nestled in her lap. In that perfect moment I fell in love, not with her or him but them. It was the intimacy that they shared which captured me so completely. Even in that public place it radiated off them like heat from the sun. As she read, her fingers teased and rolled the locks of his hair. Slow languid movements. As he slept she cared for him, watched over him and protected him. To each other they gave themselves, willingly and completely. Such an innocent movement of her hand was far more tender than any poem I had ever read. I don't even know if she knew she was doing it. In truth I hope she didn’t.
I stood outside that window and watched. The ocean spray carried on the wind, glistened like tiny diamonds as it landed on my clothes. I was mesmerised, I couldn’t take my eyes from that couple. I wanted what they had. The connection to another so strong, so close that you aren’t even aware of it, until it’s broken, like having a limb taken from you. In the end I found my family asleep and unaware that I had been changed. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was feeling. I felt happy excited and a little sad at the same time. Right then I wasn’t even aware how big an impact these people had on me. But that image has never left my mind. Over the years it come now and again reminding me what I found that day on a windswept deck in the middle of a dark a dismal squall. Love, pure and simple.