The Memory of my Beloved

My son has had a belated fixation with the Titanic for some time. Because he was born a mere decade ago, he missed all the hype that ensued decades ago, with the exploration of its wreckage. He was also a bit young on the centennial of the disaster. I remember we went to the Titanic Exhibition held at the Cape Town Waterfront in 2015, and he was only mildly interested in it then. We both held reproduced tickets for actual passengers of the Titanic and looked them up in the passenger list, whether they survived or died on the day. We also tested the temperature of the water in which the last people on board plunged into after the ship foundered. It was a dramatic expo, but he spoke about it for a few days and then it was forgotten for a while.

Recently his interest was revived when he watched a few YouTube documentaries on the ship. He looked for the artifacts we got from the Titanic Exhibition and wanted to watch the Titanic movie. I was surprised by his stamina a few weeks ago when he stayed up for the full three hours of the film. Later he rattled off trivia and information about the ship, and its captain Smith who perished with it, and was supposed to retire after its maiden voyage. Of course I knew the movie very well from decades ago, and did not want to watch it again, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed seeing it with his younger eyes, and I was also struck by the emotional effect it had on me again.

Twenty years ago, I watched it on the big screen. I remember I visited a movie theatre in Dubai, or Sharjah, and took myself there alone. At the time I had my fresh heartbreak to process. My first boyfriend got married and I had to leave the scene because I could not stomach becoming the girlfriend on the side, or the other woman. It was no surprise that I was touched by the love story, and the idea of having a lasting connection with someone even after their death. I do not know whether I internalized the love story to my own situation but I know that even then it struck a deep chord in my sentimental and romantic nature, otherwise I wouldn’t have paid three times to see it in the theatres.

Titanic was a great movie for its time. My son recited to me many facts about how it was filmed and how long it took to produce the special effects at a time where computer graphics lacked their present sophistication. At it heart, however, it is a cheesy love story, that appeals to lonely and broken hearts. I could have watched it perhaps a year ago without shedding a single tear, but I sobbed when I watched it for the first time with my son and then cried a bit again when he repeated it this weekend. I wondered about the universal hold that love has on the heart, and how perhaps there are some types of connections between people that survive parting, distance and even death.

When I wrote about the Emotional Affair, I found many articles that treated it as a form of infidelity.  Most counseling sites argued for the preservation of the married relationship and advocated for actively trying to connect to the long-term partner, investing in this partner emotionally, rather than expending emotional energy onto the outside emotional connection. One article in particular thought that love, or at least the real and lasting form of it, is similar to stirring oatmeal; a comforting, necessary and simple activity that promises nourishment and has elements of meditation and requires some effort. It might not produce any form of excitement such as the flush and attraction of the affair. The article goes on to state that people who jump into the excitement of affairs are those who read books like The English Patient and Bridges of Madison County, where the great love makes a larger-than-life entry and then leaves in an emotional storm, never to be seen again. I blushed while reading this because both stories affected me deeply. The story of Jack and Rose is a cheesier version of the same theme, a great love that comes and goes but leaves indelible marks on the life of the person who had experienced it.

So who is right? Does true love really leave an indelible memory in the heart, or do we idolize only the loved ones we have lost? I am undecided on this matter. I do believe, however, that time is the answer. The men I loved and lost previously did not leave their marks in my memory. I do not take refuge in nostalgia for the memory of my first boyfriend. I do not lovingly recall us lying in each other’s arms and crying over the sad words of an Arabic love song. I do not remember the look in his eyes, nor the thrill that it once gave me. When love is mentioned there is only one person that comes to my mind. The heartache is still fresh, I know, and I hope that it will fade with time, but I fear that I will remember him for a lot longer than the heartache. For me, he might be the one love that I will remember and long for into old age.

Time might heal the pain of true love but the memory will stay. There are millions of love songs, and love poems that speak about love being deep and endless, they cannot all be totally wrong.