[…continued from Part 5]
A month passed and I received my first letter from Lydia. She had immediately begun to write me on the flight to Paris the day after we parted. She had so much to say, but wanted to assure me that she would send me photographs of her work, particularly the zodiac sculptures which she sold to Adrian. She told me about her shared studio space in Boulder where she kept her belongings with her friend from the university. And she explained how I should expect a package of photographs from her friend on her behalf, because the negatives were in Boulder and it only made sense to have her friend make copies and post them to me. Upon reading Lydia’s letter, I immediately wrote her in return. I told her how I accepted Adrian’s contract to design his massive lair in Mykonos, Greece and would begin drawings later in the year. I also wrote about how I gleaned more about her from taking her Aunt Kathleen out to lunch a few times.
After a few weeks, I received the envelope from Lydia’s friend in Boulder. The photographs of the sculptures were phenomenal despite Lydia saying that they wouldn’t do them justice. The details of the bronze finish were so exquisite although exactly what the texture was like I couldn’t say without actually seeing them. There was a mixture of patches of muted patina and patches of polished bronze with markings. I knew somehow that I would see them one day; I only wondered when.
I could not help wondering when I may see Lydia again. She wrote a few more times about a month apart with little news about her commission. I also received one postcard from a day when she took a break to visit the great Gothic cathedral of Chartres. But in the fifth month of her stay, a heartbreaking letter arrived. Lydia had met someone, Pierre, a French philanthropist who fell in love with her art immediately and, in no time at all, with her. I don’t blame him. How could anyone not fall in love with Lydia? And, as sad as I was for our now unlikely future together, I couldn’t blame Lydia either. “You should live in the present and follow your heart,” she would say. At this news, I wanted to cease corresponding, at least for now, because I was hurting and still trying to reconcile my heart’s desire and my intellectual decision to not follow her to Paris.
Lydia’s last letter from Paris that year came just after her commission ended. She was engaged to be married in France. Suffice it to say, I was not invited to the wedding nor could I have attended for emotional reasons. It was a small private affair at Pierre’s family estate in the south of France, a small coastal village near Nice.
I did actually get to see Lydia again. It was at the Adrian’s housewarming, a soft opening and private showing of her zodiac sculptures two years later in Mykonos. I had flown in just for the event as did Lydia and Pierre who I then met for the first time. And I must say, Pierre was quite a fine gentleman. He made Lydia happy – that is what truly matters.
Adrian wanted us both there because he wanted to show his friends the faces, the heart and souls, behind the design of the house, particularly the foyer, and the artwork on display. But, he didn’t see it merely as art on display. Neither did Lydia. It was a vision, an alchemy experiment, realized within his home that resulted in something larger…something beyond the material. The room was a symphony for the senses: the sculptures not only pleased the eyes, but they vibrated with warm and cold sensations to the gentlest caress by hand – and Adrian, encouraged the tactile experience. One could hear music playing; and not sensing the origin for the varied direction of the sounds, some people thought the sculptures were singing. Adrian’s designer selected some fragrant live plants that harmonized in the most intriguing way with the lingering metallic scents from the copper and weathering steel water fountains. That experience – that sensational ecstasy – was the moment that I ironically ceased being a professional architect.
From then on, I needed more to feel happy than anything architecture alone could provide. I was, however, convinced that devotion to the fine arts, specifically painting, was the most efficacious path for my expression – my transformation – of life’s experiences into something productive, something new, something…more than the sum of the parts. And, now the contractor must be my soul, not the pursuit of money. I would no doubt survive. At that moment, a few years too late for Lydia, I had confidence in my ability to thrive on integrity of the heart.
Before I left Adrian’s house, Lydia approached me. We hugged tightly. I wished her and her new husband well.
It has been 40 years since I first met Lydia. In that time I never married, although I had several relationships. A few sporadic letters came over the years expressing how much she valued our friendship and had an eternally burning ember for me within her infinite heart and boundless unconditional love. I, too, had an eternally burning ember for her. That was never a question.
The last letter I received from Lydia was two weeks ago. At the age of 67, she had become a widow with no children. Pierre had died of cancer over six months ago. With all of her family, including Kathleen, having passed on, she was all alone. Sharing all of her feelings about her love for Pierre and her love for me, she made it clear that she did not despair. She felt totally blessed in her life. Her last paragraph had the potency to once again change my life. It read as follows:
Patrick, I fell in love with you when I met you. I never fell out of love with you. I also fell in love with Pierre. He was a loving and faithful husband. My only regret in life so far is not having children. It just wasn’t meant to be. Some things are ‘meant to be’, though. I always knew you and I were ‘meant to be’ together even though the timing and circumstances may not have seemed to synchronize as we expected. Patrick, I believe Pierre and I were meant to live together; but, I think you and I were meant to die together – that is to say, pass our end days in the comfort of each other’s company. I want you in my life…for the rest of my life. I beg you to consider coming to France and living with me. I left Pierre’s family estate behind. It was too big for me. But, I purchased a charming house as large as my Aunt Kathleen’s house, if you can remember. The only thing that can make me happy now is you. Please come play chess with me – I promise to let you win!
I hesitated at first having such an important decision to make. I could either, drop everything and leave for France that night, or I could get a good night’s rest and leave tomorrow. Either way, I was determined to join Lydia and that I did! I began writing this story on the eve of my flight and I’m ending it now from her balcony, overlooking the Côte d’Azur after a sweet breakfast with both the love of my life and the one that got away!
© 2018 Michael Armenia