“But Martha, I YEARN!”

Denis (with his PhD in Literature from Notre Dame and his dissertation on Samuel Beckett and his [subtly] dyed hair) and I wandered around the campus one damp morning. I was in love with Denis. Denis was infatuated with Rebecca. Rebecca was NOT interested in Denis. By then, I had had my heart broken and was pulling away. I would fall out of love with Denis (for good) and a great friendship would grow out of the rubble. I’d fallen in love with him from liking him. The liking wouldn’t stop just because of Rebecca — whom I recognized as the Dave Matthews Band to Denis’ Beatles. It wasn’t going to happen.

That day all this had not happened yet. Denis had just said, “But Martha. I YEARN.”

Half a dozen years later Denis fell in love with me, but when he said, “I love you,” I didn’t hear anything I didn’t already know. Of course we loved each other. We were friends.

Longing. Yearning. This boy, that boy, this man, that man, this dream, that dream, ideal followed on ideal, romantic smokescreen and illusion. A shadow show.

One Sunday morning we were walking on the beach from Pacific to Mission Beach, and Denis said, “I went to a therapist for a while. He said, ‘It’s going to be difficult for you to find love, I’m afraid. It’s never easy for very intelligent people’. What do you think, Gus? You’re also a very intelligent person. It hasn’t been easy for you.” (Gus was my nickname.)

I thought about it for a little bit. It was an interesting question and one I hadn’t thought of, ever. The whole “luv” thing had never gone well for me. Was this partly WHY?

“Maybe,” I said. “Maybe we’ve just read too much poetry.”

What I meant was perhaps Denis and I were both in love with longing, the unattainable beauty in the high tower. Perhaps, to us, this poem was too beautiful, and evoked too much of what we truly wanted, whatever we told ourselves, whatever we told each other.

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

William Butler Yeats



5 thoughts on ““But Martha, I YEARN!”

    • I agree with you about love. Everything else seems to fluctuate over time, but real friendship doesn’t go anywhere. The saddest part is that when I did “get” a boyfriend (bad boyfriend) Denis quit speaking to me. And then he died just a few months later of a massive coronary. I guess I was missing him today because that prompt called out to me. We used to walk on the beach at least one Sunday every month and I wish I could do that again. Just can’t be profligate with people.

  1. Nostalgia and memories: NOS-algia = “pain in the nos” as we know it: longing for something or someone in the past, YET for me it has an element that makes me smile and even feel good. Your story is sad. “If only she had chosen me instead of nursing school,” I pine. But look what I have. I know not otherwise. But what we had, was precious, then sad, then it was ok. That massive coronary…must have “killed” you. THAT’s sad.

    • You hit it right on the “nos” :-)When Denis couldn’t maintain a friendship with me under the same terms I’d maintained a friendship with him (he had three girlfriends over the period; I had ONE boyfriend) I felt betrayed and very disappointed. I hadn’t treated him that way. His death was very sad. He was 49 and it made sure that NOTHING between us would ever be repaired. On the bright side, he died in a golf cart just before it was his turn at the tee.

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