08 July 2015

Love over time

Hakusan

The day Yoko and I married, the weather was perfect. The rainy season came abruptly to an end and the sky was clear, without being hot. I don't remember waking up that day. I don't remember feeling anything but the rush of movement forward, like a whole machine we had built piece by piece over the previous six months was suddenly moving on its own. I don't remember feeling any doubt or fear: I remember being confident and sure, like if I wasn't sure, I would somehow jeopardise it. I had bet on Japan again and again over the last few years, each time raising the stakes, and then we were sitting there, the two of us, in front of this crowd. The pastor, Koibuchi sensei, speaking about something which I didn't take the time to listen to carefully because the momentum was pulling us forward. You let go at some point and trust your instinct.

In my trip to Chichester, reading through my journal, I realised I had been looking for something, some point where I explained this momentum, explained how it all started. It wasn't there, wasn't in the e-mails I had written to people at the time — I met a girl, we had fallen in love, we were getting married. I felt in a way guilty to not find something more convincing, surely there had been more to my thinking, I must have written it down somewhere. I simply hadn't written it down.

Something happened though, something implicit: you can see it in the photographs over the two years. I started dressing more smartly, I lost weight. I took up running, the early Saturday morning into the rice fields on the outskirts of Niigata, under the overpasses and further and further towards the mountains. All the memories have no words. We had been hunting for fireflies in that river. We went to the mountains and held hands and I struggled with my Word Tank electronic dictionary as I read Murakami and fell into this fabulous metaphor of Japan as an enchanted forest you wander into deeper and deeper. It was all mystery without uneasiness: Japan would and was and did take care of the things that needed taking care of. You just needed to let it guide you. 

I do question the inviolability of marriage as a rule: nothing is inviolable. The moment you feel you have something right, that you have perfected something, it falls apart. Relationships end; we shouldn't be surprised when they do. And, conversely, there is no reward for soldiering on, for making things work. Making it to your or your partner's deathbed is not success. I don't valorise relationships; they are what they are. When you stack everything up, our relationship seems untenable. We are separated by cultures, nationalities, generations, and a language. We have never lived close, or indeed the same country, as our families. We live in countries that constrain us, put an end point on the time we can legally be together in the same location. We have built everything we have together, the two of us, by ourselves. That is an achievement, if there ever was one. We live the lives that we imagined in so many ways: we've given that to each other. 

Relationships are what they are. That thing I was looking for, what I couldn't write down, but I realise now, nine years on, is the thing I recognised in Yoko and which keeps this going: she is my antidote. She doesn't save me; relationships can't save you. She sanctifies me. She pulls me upwards, towards things that matter, are timeless in a way. Where the children don't take away from your relationship, but are the embodiment of it. Where passion and commitment burn slowly and steadily for years and years. I couldn't write that in 2006 — I didn't have the words. I only knew to get into the water, wade until my toes didn't touch the river bed, and let it take me away.
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