Last year I fell in love. I also wrote a book. Three months into the relationship I decided to merge the two. Starry-eyed, I turned the story of my blossoming romance with a transient actor into a key narrative arc in my memoir.
Essentially, I took the biggest opportunity of my life – a debut book about family, faith, grief, love, and the fate of my soul – and immortalised within its pages a guy I’d met on Bumble 12 weeks ago.
My editor thought this was a brilliant idea. My friends did not. This is because they know me to be someone who manages romance like Basil Fawlty manages a hotel.
Haylee Penfold with her fiancé Kye
The moment I knew: I was 19 and not quite a widow. He respected my need to grieve
But I was undaunted. In fact, I was completely confident it was the right choice.
Whenever we met, there was nowhere for us to be intimate that didn’t involve a park bench. This is cute if you are 15, but less endearing at 39 when necking on a park bench is not only embarrassing but a genuine inflammatory risk to the spine.
Location was a real issue. He lived temporarily in a thin-walled room at a lodging house in Brisbane’s West End – and I lived with my kids, who did not need a shirtless stranger serving their eggs sunny-side up in the morning. Neither of us had any money to book a trip to Paris or one of those tasteful rainforest Airbnbs with an outdoor shower, so we pooled our spare change for one night in a cheap and cheerful hotel in the city.
What a marvellous idea it was – or so I believed.
It wasn’t the aggressively made bed in Room 403 that first caused alarm, nor was it the strung-out carpet. It wasn’t even the faded painting on the wall pretending to have something to do with Monet, or the elusive scent – Eau de Cigarette and Mothball, perhaps? It was a set of tiled steps, inches from the base of the bed, rising up to a mirrored spa bath – a gaudy and garish behemoth with Playboy Mansion aspirations.
You can tell a lot about someone by their response to the humble or dreadful. I guffawed and looked at him, anxious to see his reaction. Ever the diplomat and lover of simple things, he squeezed my hand and said: “Retro. Good view. I’m into it.”
I laughed, relieved that the spirit of levity existed so strongly in us both.
The view was, admittedly, excellent.
We poured bubbles into water glasses, sat on the concave bed, and talked and talked. The sun rose and fell over the city and we didn’t switch on the lamps. Golden light moved across the bridge and dropped into the river as Aimee Mann’s Wise Up played from the tinny speakers of his phone.
We lay on our backs in the glow, the saggy bed conspiring to press our bodies together. The room expanded as we spoke about our heartaches, our children, and the inglorious cataclysm that is realising things will never be the same again. The Motels crooned Total Control. Dreams that had died and ones just being born hung above us, clearing out the musty air.
Room 403 became a solitary cave on the edge of the world. The city lights starlight on the mirrored walls. Even the God-awful painting took on a type of beautiful melancholy. Another victory for twilight.
He and I are not in the business of chic furnishings, impressive walls, carpets, or baths. The view from the window, the world stretched out below, all the untold stories hiding under bridges, over the moon, deep down the river and out to sea are what matter to me – and to him.
That’s when I knew he would be part of my story.
source: the guardian