How do we love?
Here’s a place to begin
Come and go, take and give
Sand goes out, wave comes in

Oh my love, your face is a faraway place

from ‘A faraway place’ by The Guild League, from the album ‘Private transport’

I stood on the beach, not entirely alone but almost, away from the people I had come with, away from any people at all. I stood there with my feet on the pebbles, with my dress blown by the warm wind, and with my ear to my mobile phone. I stood there looking at the waves come in, crash, and go. It was a late Easter, the beginning of May, and unseasonably hot: two weeks before it had felt like winter and now it almost felt like summer, the skipped spring like a word unspoken and almost forgotten in between.

She was telling me of all that she had dreamed the previous night, of her friend and of the man she loved. She spoke of dreams of previous lives, of intrigue and passion and even, I think, of murder. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know if I believed in previous lives. I didn’t know how important I considered all that night time dreaming to be. I didn’t even know why I was there, on that particular beach, in that particular conversation at that time of my life, not really — although I felt that there must be a reason for it all, and so I stood, and as I stood I listened.

I remember it as a kind of sublime moment, a moment made of silence and space inside me, of the wind and the waves outside me, and yet I must have been struggling at the time: struggling to understand, to find the right thing to say, to find the words with which to say it. As it happens I don’t remember any of what I said except for the moment, near the end, when I asked her to picture this man, the man she said she loved, the man she was telling me she thought she had killed –out of love and passion and jealousy– in a previous life, to look at him and to tell him, simply, ‘this time I will love you in the way that you need to be loved.’

I have no idea where that sentence came from. I don’t know if what I said meant anything to her at all. What I do know is that I picked up a pebble then, and threw it towards the sea — and then, because that didn’t seem quite enough, another, and then another. It was that kind of moment: the kind of moment that needs to be punctuated somehow, the kind of moment when the whole wide world seems to hold its breath and gather around your heart to listen. It was the moment I found myself alone with the blue of the sky and the blue of the sea, with the brown of the sand and the white of the sea foam, with the wind dancing all around me and with this promise shining clear inside my heart: this time, I will love you like you need to be loved.

I didn’t know it then, but I had just began to find my way home.