Ex Die in Diem

by duncan mcnicholl

Unspoken

There are some things that you feel like you want to say to people that you just don’t need to.

It is perhaps in the nature of love to be indescribable, but even within that context there exists a whole glut of things that refuse to bend to the language we attempt to use to describe them.

Love is an easy word to say and a hard word to define: this declaration is hardly original, but originality is not the driving force here, honesty is. And if I’m being completely honest I don’t know what to do with it. With love, I mean. and when I say I don’t know what to do with it what I mean is that I don’t know how to talk about it. I’m pretty sure that I know what to do with love when it’s given to you and by you and it fills your heart - what you do with love is hang on to it at all costs, and trust it and let it be in your life with you, because it’s when you do that that your life happens.

But when it comes to talking about it, I think we don’t, or we can’t, and so we talk around it and to it and about the things that it’s like. There are times when that’s all we can do, because it’s precarious and might be knocked off course or kilter by being spoken about directly, and there are times when that’s all that we allow ourselves to do, because it’s just too big and too important to face directly.

At this point, as I pause for a mental breath, I am realising that this truth that I’m trying to bring to the surface is itself the reason that it’s so difficult. Maybe examples would help to make the point that I’m trying to make.

There was a time when you could sit in silence on the phone, and the person at the other end could hear your silence, and you could hear their silence, but connecting more people in more places and more ways has led to digitisation and the loss of that comforting silence, and now if I get quiet enough, the person at the other end hears literally nothing at all. But that silence was always an important interaction, and a part of loving someone, and maybe now we have to find more modern ways of saying nothing when we mean everything.

Another, a different, time when you just don’t say anything is when you’re right on the edge of things, balanced precariously and hoping not to fall the wrong way. You breathe in to give yourself the air you need to say what’s in your heart, and at the very top of that breath you pause, and you feel it. That “it” is almost telepathic, a synchrony with the person you would be saying it to, a certainty that they already know, and that your fumble-fingered attempt to explain is only going to muddy the waters and let doubt and misunderstanding in. The crystal clarity of understanding-without-saying can be difficult to trust, but when it’s true it’s a beautiful and precious thing. So when you’re brave, and when you can, you pause on the in breath, and you release the out breath without words in it, because love doesn’t need words.

It gets big, too. Your world can change, recentre, and the things you feel don’t seem to fit into you any more. There’s a word in Portuguese that’s just unrelentingly beautiful: saudade. It means… well, it means a lot. It’s melancholy, and nostalgia, and a recognition of how good things were, and acknowledgement that they may never be again but a joy that they have been. It’s “the love that remains”. There’s a core, when you have loved someone, that doesn’t shift when circumstances change. You can lose them, or move away, you can find another love, you can watch your whole life become different and realise that what you had will never be again, wouldn’t fit into your life even if it did, and that core still remains. That’s where the saudade comes from. Even when your life has grown and changed beyond that love, something is there, and if called upon to do so, you could and would walk over hot coals and broken glass to help and heal and be there for those you’ve loved. And when you feel that way, you don’t talk about it, because how could you? People wouldn’t understand.

They wouldn’t understand by thinking you’re mad to still feel like that, or they wouldn’t understand by thinking that the whole is left and not just the core, or they wouldn’t understand how it could be bigger than everything else but not as urgent, not as acute as what happens now. The difference between important and imperative never feels like it will translate, and so you keep it to yourself.

I think the real centre of what I’m trying to say is that even when it fills you and overflows you, love isn’t something that you speak about.

It’s something that you are.

This is from the