Message in a bottle...
Needing some time to myself, I took on a good friend’s advice and did something I’d been longing to do from many stressful afternoons at work. Instead of staying home and reorganizing my apartment as I’d initially planned, I grabbed a book, my keys and my bag and found myself sitting under the shade of a big tree that belonged to Parque Santa Catarina: a beautiful garden just a block away from my work.
I ignored the lovebirds and the morons who tried their luck, keeping my nose glued to a book that I had bought more than a year ago and never had gotten around to reading. The book is called Message in a bottle by Nicholas Sparks. Although I’m aware that there’s a movie about the book, I’ve never seen the movie and experience has left me with the opinion that the book is always better than the movie. The book was bought on a cold Sunday night in one of Lisbon airport’s bookstores. Romances were books that I stopped buying sometime near the end of high school, but this one was bought with the intention of reinforcing the idea of love and it’s obstacles. Perhaps reading the novel, a message of hope and strength would be found to rescue my soul in its turmoil. My concentration only allowed me to read two pages in the boarding room whilst my own melodrama kept my mind occupied for the rest of my trip back home. The ending to my own short-lived love story wasn’t the kind that you’d hope for.
They say that everything happens in it’s own time and place and the sensitive dreamer in me says that the book was meant for this exact time in my life hence the reason it was bought and not read.
Visiting the marina more often than usual, those who know me well would know to find me there. All my joys, all my sorrows, all my doubts and fears go to the pier to be discussed with the ocean. As clichéd as it may seem, the waves of the ocean soothe my pain and heal my hurts. They listen to my thoughts without me having to utter a sound and it’s where I go whenever I need to be alone. A romantic, yes I am… often I accuse myself of feeling too much or living in a reality that no one else lives in. But I can’t deny my soul the pleasure of being true to itself so I allow it feel every emotion that life has to bring. Looking at the marina and the boats, I recalled all the amazing moments I’d lived linked to the ocean. Just last year a family of sailors had changed my life with their entry into Funchal bay and the most wonderful beginnings seemed to start right there. I couldn’t help smiling at the memories and even remembered with disappointment that once a woman had predicted that the day I met the man of my life, I would walk with him near the water. I had always imagined that the pier, or near the ocean is where this would happen, for it’s my favourite place in the whole world and that only destiny would manage to take someone that special to that same place. Even though I don’t believe in such predictions, it would be nice to imagine such a fate especially since everything else she had said at that point had already come true. Even so, it was something I’m incapable of believing in.
Ironically, my book involved the ocean, a boat, loss and love… the eternal kind that I had never managed to erase from my heart’s beliefs. Although the fiction of the book was nothing more than the diction of someone else’s imagination, there were important life’s lessons to be learnt. One of them being that precious miracles are lost when we don’t give life a chance and another that if you’re incapable of being sincere with yourself and the person you’re with, you risk destroying what love can build.
Halfway through my book, something that sounded like someone calling a cat caught my attention. Right in front of me, sitting on a bench has a man with a camera trying to catch my attention with “pssssstttttt”. Irritated beyond words I ignored his calling and returned to my book. A voice inside reminded me lost opportunities that don’t come around twice, the man in front of me was near his thirties and even though he wasn’t that great looking, he was well dressed and charming in his own way. At the same time a loud protest that seemed to come from my heart reminding me that fate didn’t work this way. It took me ten minutes to decide whether I would put to end the ceaseless “psssting” and educate at least one man about how to charm a woman. I stood up and sat right next to him. The expression on his face changed immediately to one of self-satisfaction like a little boy who had just managed to get something he wanted. I looked him directly in the eyes and told him that a real man doesn’t sit on the sidelines “psssting” and hoping that a woman will come to him, a real man would stand right next to her, introduce himself and ask permission to sit next to her. Shock registered on his face and before he could find words to respond, I stood up turned around and walked across the park. That one was for my girls! and just as I expected… half way after chasing me across the park, he stopped, gave up and turned around.
The book was basically about a message in a bottle found on a beach by a lonely woman. She had been alone since her divorce and had since avoided relationships. The letter she found was from a man who wrote about his love for a woman who had left him. Moving her beyond words, she used her column to publish the letter in the hope that it would touch her readers as much as it touched her (Ironic, I know!). After getting a response from another reader and a little research, she found herself with three letters, a name and an address to the writer. Not knowing what quite to expect she took her chances and flew to meet him. Fate worked its magic on the two and unaware of her findings the two fell in love. To cut the 301 page story short, he ended up finding out that she’d found the letter he’d written to his dead wife and after a good discussion they both had come to the conclusion that the reason their relationship would not work is that he was still in love with the ghost of his wife. The story ends with three letters. One to the woman he now loved telling her that he had finally let the past go and that he loved her and wanted to be with her and the second to his dead wife telling her that he was letting her go and wanted to be with the new woman in his life. The first was put in a bottle and mailed the good old-fashioned snail-mail way, the second had to be thrown in the ocean like all the others. This is where our hero gets caught in a storm and dies putting the heroine in the same position as he had found himself when they’d met. After half a kilo of cherries and various tissues later, I was moved with the last letter that ended the story. After a year of his death, she wrote to him telling him how she understood his pain better than before and thanked him for teaching her to survive and move on. Although she loved him, she would eventually move on.
A half hour later I found myself once again at the place I always go to when my heart speaks louder than my head. As I walked by the marina I looked at the grey skies and told no one in particular that love doesn’t stand a chance. Not in this world, not in the reality we live in. The people I know are incapable of risking their hearts and loving one another without doubts or questioning each other’s motives. It’s not that romance is dead; it’s just that people are incapable of living it, of feeling it… even though they don’t stop dreaming about it. Even I have gotten to a stage where trusting someone with my heart is almost near impossible. It’s not the fear that prevents me from doing so; it’s the knowledge that person would be incapable of doing the same. We live in a world where feelings need to be protected from others not to be hurt, and so we allow the best things in life to pass us by. Guilt is what I was left with after reading this book, not necessarily because of my fears but mostly because I had given up on such feelings that are the core of me just like of everyone else. I could think of more than a handful of people who were probably sitting in their rooms, in their offices or in their cars wondering if that love that they dream of truly exists. I’m guilty of doing something I swore I’d never do. I allowed myself to believe that all it took for two people to be together was understanding and mutual trust and although I know that the person I’m with could never be referred to as second best, I also know that with him, I’d still be looking beyond the horizon for something more. Does true love truly exist or is it just a fiction of our imagination and our deepest desires? Looking around me, the evidence is demoralizing, and although I cannot blame my parents for the poor example, looking at my father’s fate, I sadly conclude that true love doesn’t stand a chance. If it’s true what they say, that love cannot be found where it does not exist, nor hidden where it does, I’m faced with a destiny of solitude. I guess because I would rather be true and lonely, than to subdue to living a life where I would have to convince myself everyday that the care and respect that I had for the person I’m with is good enough. It isn’t, it will never make me a fulfilled person. Not having much to say or teach, I simply share with you in this column the message I found in my book. Let not my words of resignation also make you surrender your hopes. Hope is the last thing to die and no one reading this is dead yet. But to those of you, who also have someone in your lives: be sure that the one you hold is the one you want. Any other option is considered soul suicide and for those too lazy to read, go hire the movie.