OMNE TRIUM PERFECTUM
To Celts, the three points represent the natural elements of earth, air, and water. On a spiritual level, it has also been thought to symbolize life, death, and rebirth.
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My first love had been a strange, watery thing all whiskers and blinking black eyes. A thing of fantasy that I could never quite reach. My second love had been a fleeting, fumbling thing. Quick-slow-quick and then gone! My third a love made of walls, dammed up and it had been found in the shallows, skimming flat stones to pass the time. But my last love? It started with Hi... and ended with Tá mo chroí istigh ionat and it became everything. Everything! For my last love, oh my last love was my greatest!
You see, my first and my last love were one and the same.
In a manner of speaking.
The third time I saw you was in the late autumn. The bright, burnished leaves of autumn had all but disppeared, only a few still clasping to their boughs like sailors cling to the masts of their ships in a storm-tossed sea. The frosts danced upon the ground, icy feathers delicately decorating the surface of shallow puddles. The glimmer upon the grass in the mornings stealing away the rising apparition of breath with its beauty. Autumn’s resplendent allure now fading from gold to silver as she grasped on with her frosted fingers to her very last moment.
And this time was different from all the others, for I was a ripened and seasoned woman, not a girl, and you were not wearing your sealskin coat. Your form was mortal. And this third time we did not meet upon a shoreline, nor did your silky head emerge from the rippled surface of the sea. There are no stories of gulls stealing ice-creams nor of crabs biting upon the mournful silvery heads of fish. Perhaps I could speak of long distances travelled. Of plane journeys. Of coming home. The roar of an engine, the silence of the skies so far above land and ocean. I could speak about the bright, false light of an airport buzzing with unfamiliar faces. All strangers. All strange. Of jet-lag and luggage and stark hotel rooms. But that doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t fit. So perhaps I should speak of a colony far away. Of great bulks of bodies basking lazily upon gleaming rocks or rolling along beaches. Of barked conversations and braying calls. I could speak of black, shining eyes always settled upon the distant horizon, pining for something there. Whiskers twitching. Waiting. Watching. Stirred by something distant and unreachable. Perhaps I could speak of a pull – too strong and too much of a force to resist. Of a lollop and a splash. Of a body now submerged, spiralling and twisting gracefully away through the kelps and the rocks for thousands of miles. A creature haunted by the enticing lure, unable to resist the silent call.
A creature unable to deny ocean’s breath, ocean’s song.
And in this story I cannot say what dress I was wearing nor what shoes, for those details seem insignificant now. There will be no faded and discoloured snapshots of myself to look back upon that could jolt my memory. Though you remembered this part so much better than I. You have told me a hundred times just how it was, so that I do not know if the memory I have is true or is simply a trick. A false memory that was created by your storytelling. Do you remember that you have told me over and over again of how our eyes met across an ocean of scurrying people and how they parted to make way for us and how our souls met at the moment our eyes did and how we recognised one another immediately so that you were convinced that you did not walk but were carried toward me, gently laid at my feet. How you whispered my name because your throat was as dry as sand and your mouth was full of nothing but me. Intoxicated. How you spoke my name again and again and again. You couldn’t speak anything but my name. How I trembled and how you took my trembling fingers and pressed them to your cheek. To your lips. How I smiled. No! How I beamed. No! Glowed as if I were iridescent. How you threw your arms about me and held me for a thousand years. Not wanting to let go for fear I would be a dream. How you bent your head to mine and how you kissed me. How the world melted away so there was nothing but you and I. Nothing but us in the whole world.
Yes, I could speak of all the hows and wheres and whens in detail, if I thought it was significant.
But does any of that matter? How long it took us? The year, the place, the exact time? How we got there? All we had to give up to do so? Not for me. Not in the end. All of those details dwindle away to nothing. For once I saw you, there was nothing else that mattered. Years vanished into thin air. Hurts faded. It would all be well for at last I was with my Selkie-love. You with your dark hair; the salty gleam of white weaving through it. Hair that you casually raked back from your face. You with your sturdy height and broad shoulders. You with your dark eyes with crinkles that deepened in the corners and lips that curved so readily into a weathered smile. You with your brows arched high, eyes intent, softening as they settled upon mine. You taking steps forward, toward me. Your lips shaping my name. Ocean’s breath, ocean’s song. My name! “Maeve”. Spoken aloud – not read upon a screen.
And I remember how I felt. Right at that moment. Nerves, of course! They plucked at me until I felt light headed and gnawed around my edges until I trembled. Weak-kneed. It cast me back so I forgot myself and forgot the years I had lived. I forgot that I was a woman who should know better and I felt like a girl falling in love for the first time. I also remember more how something else rose in me. That same feeling that had filled me as a small child, the one I had no name for, that small, quiet ache.
Even though you had breached the distance that had risen for so many years between us – a distance that had always felt insurmountable before – now you stood so close, the space between us somehow seemed further. You were still too far from me. Too distant! And I felt it surge up. Hiraeth. I felt it almost overpower me, until I stumbled into your arms and melted into your bones. Until I felt your true shape beneath and how it fit together perfectly with my own. Until you rested your lips within my hair and spoke my name again and again. Until you lifted my chin with your fingertips and looked again into my eyes, bending your head and finding my mouth with your own. And I knew right at that very moment that nothing in the whole world could stop us.
And in your eyes, in your voice and in your arms, I found the true depths of you, my love. And I knew that I would step into your waters, breath held. Ready. Expectant. And that once I had done so, I could never leave them. I was Ophelia – the Seal-bride. A thing of eternal beauty. And you were my Seal-boy.