The Door I Never Opened
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.
TS Eliot – Burnt Norton
I cling to my regrets. They are milestones and millstones, showing where I have been, or the doors I did not open. Keepsakes, chains on snowflakes that bind my failing memory.
There are things I would change. Most are actions or decisions of such monumental personal proportions that I cannot unravel the consequences. Life, death, love and loss are contingent on those turning points. Best left alone, I think.
Little moments, almost inconsequential incidents also haunt me: a choice of words, a second’s hesitation. Given the chance to do these over I would take a different path.
This is one.
There is much I regret about that final year. My glittering academic career, punctuated with awards and scholarships, came crashing to earth. I ignored the syllabus and threw myself into night-long discussions on metaphysics, maths, syntax, and the recipe for the perfect mozzarella salad. I wrote a lot of bad poems. A lot, and really bad. I spent hours tapping them out two-fingered, but I could not bring myself to spend a fraction of that time in the library reading about my course.
All that is set. Let it stay.
I’d change the two words I said to you one summer afternoon before we sipped elderberry cordial in the shadow of Woolf and Wittgenstein.
There is a lot I don’t remember about that year, twenty and some have passed since then. I do remember you. We smoked on the window seat in my room, our legs dangling towards the river and the Bridge of Sighs three storeys below. I should have been revising for my finals.
You asked me to turn you into a vampire. I bit your neck.
I remember how much you loved those windows. I remember I didn’t kiss you.
I remember the night four of us walked across the scholar’s garden. The moon through the branches striped the lawn. I took off my shoes and went third, it was our Abbey Road, or Belsize Park. “Do you remember, barefoot on the lawn with shooting stars?”
And I remember the day you were going on a trip upriver, and either I invited myself, or you insisted I go with you. There was a gang of your friends. Of them I remember nothing at all.
We watched the trees pass overhead from the bow of the boat, wading through the unreal beauty of Cambridge. You pulled me back as the others strolled to The Orchard tea room and said, “I do love you, you know.”
I said, “I know.”
Those words cut me today, while you have undoubtedly forgotten them. I don’t know what I was trying to prove, or what coolness and aloofness would achieve. A moment to be anyone but Han. I should have said anything else, I still don’t know what.
Who knows what it would change. I forget now if I ever saw you again after that day. Perhaps once in a fleeting goodbye and a promise to write. Perhaps not. Those facts might remain unchanged. But the burden of two careless words in my memory would be lifted, and I would tread a little lighter.
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More memories from college collated here
9 thoughts on “The Door I Never Opened”
The sadness haunts.