By Caitlin Moran
The symbol of love is a big, blood-red heart.
We had our first date on Valentine’s Day – by accident – so we should be the most romantic of all couples; Cupid’s calling card, made flesh. But we’re not. Romantic men were never the men for me. I knew that romance was supposed to be Mr Darcy, Rhett Butler, Mr Rochester, but I was as unyearning of them as they would have been unyearning of me. I liked funny boys, instead. Bill Murray in Ghostbusters, Ford Prefect in Hitchhiker’s Guide, Donald O’Connor in Singin’ in the Rain. The men who make your heart beat faster not by saying something earnest, but by making you hysterical, instead. That was love, to me. A man who would look at a woman and think, “How can I make her laugh?”
So I ended up with an amusing man. Of course. The man who went down onto the beach, at low tide, and where others would write “I love you” in the flat sands, effortfully shuffled out the words “FANNY BATTER”. The one who proposed in the woods, during a smashed-strawberry sunset – but waited until I was attending to nature’s business, behind an oak. “I know I’m supposed to be on one knee – but I’ll just join you, in a crouch,” he said, bringing the ring out of his pocket.
We planned the wedding to be as amusing as possible, too. A medieval feast, at Christmas, with balloon-men for the kids, and the guests eating half a spit-roast chicken each, daggers for cutlery. The invitations said, “No presents – just tell us an amusing story, from your life.” We read the stories aloud, in lieu of speeches. One guest – Jon Ronson – did gift us: a spoon, formerly owned by Nicolae Ceausescu. “I give you this to remind you: don’t become the dictators of each other’s hearts,” he said, in his note.
As everyone laughed, I looked down at the wedding ring on my finger – gold, and glowing – and thought, “This is how a wedding should be.”
But the ring on my finger was not new. I had been wearing it for three days, now.
Three days before, we had done our most important preparation for the wedding: at the hospital, we had gone for the first scan of our baby.
At twelve weeks, he – I was sure it was a he, Arthur – was to be the surprise guest of honour at the ceremony. After the toasts, I would stand and hold up his scan – his tiny shell of chicken bones and heart – and say: “And now, a final toast – to someone who was not invited, but has taken after his parents and blagged his way onto the guest list. Our future son! Our boy! Raise your glasses – to Arthur!”
And our love would be, once again, amusing.
But love was not amusing, on that day. For at this hospital, when they turned the machines on, that tiny boy was still – frozen in the last pose he ever struck.
Looking like an astronaut whose lifeline has broken, and who is floating out, endlessly, into space. His heart had missed too many beats, and he had ended, inside me, at 13 weeks. These things happen. They are usual. The nurses knock you out, and, when you wake, the boy is gone.
But oh, then, the crying. The crying from a place you didn’t know you had.
“Where’s the baby? Where’s the baby?” I kept asking, muddled from the drugs, as the boy’s father held my hand, and said, “He’s gone, darling, he’s gone,” and wept with me. We cried together like it was a task two people had been given, as one couldn’t manage it alone: both of you must cry like this, when the baby is gone and, with him, everything you had imagined. The next year. Your whole life.
It was Christmas Eve – we should have been heading back to our families, for warmth and wedding preparations. Instead, we went back to our cold, empty flat and ate mince pies, from the petrol station. The radio played The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, and because all songs are about your heart in the moment you hear them, this song was now about the first, last, time I had seen the face of my gone boy. When you pour boiling water into a fragile cup, you can feel the “chink” of it cracking. You can’t see the crack – but you heard it happen. That happens with people, too. You can’t see anything, but they make a tiny sound, as they break.
We crawled into bed, like sad animals, and took on another six yards of the weeping we had been given. And, at midnight – the Christmas church bells ringing – Pete took our wedding rings from the bedside table, where we had stored them, and we pushed them onto fingers, wet with crying. No baby, but rings. A promise. My wedding gown was a bloody nightgown, and his suit, the sweat-soaked jumper he carried me from the hospital in.
The symbol of love is a big, blood-red heart.
With thanks to The Times where this column first appeared.
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