Love is painful because, as you want it to make you stronger, it shows you just how weak you really are.
At the top of Redland Road in Bristol, just where the road begins to flatten out at the top of the hill in between Luscombe Park and Woodstock Road, ten minutes walk down from the Downs a bit further up, there is a bench situated just so that you can see the entire of Bristol spreading out beneath you like an enormous fan or ream of water poured out into the valley. From there you can see all the little lights of the city blinking secretively at you, as if every last one of them is hiding some distinct portion of human revelry that, for tonight, you are only permitted to dream of rather than experience yourself. On the far side you can see the velvet darkness of the enclosing hills that hold the city in its watery place, and they are outlined by the slightly brighter shade of the night sky peering out behind them like the slow transformation of a spectrum of light from one dye to another. Just behind you is Redland Chapel, a grand, neo-classical church fronted by pilasters and ionic columns that is nonetheless hidden modestly behind a canopy of trees and a round stretch of grass, to remind you that the Christian spirit is the foundation of the place, whether or not you can see it. At the right time of day it is a pleasant spot to sit at, say at mid-afternoon when you can see the eccentric mix of students, young families and pensioners that inhabit the Redland parish passing by like dragonflies do by rivers. It is a very nice spot indeed.
At 5am one morning, however – a very different time to the time most people choose to sit on this bench – a young couple, a boy and a girl, had placed themselves there. They had come from up near the university, fresh from a night out at one of the big clubs. They had got home at around 4, and had then made the decision to go for a walk. From Cotham they walked down to the centre of Redland, down Cotham Lawn Road and in between the Victorian, wrought-iron street lamps that laid down descant amber light along Lover’s Walk by Redland railway station, then left up Redland Road to where they now sat. The sky had begun to gently filter through with those red tendrils of light that told them morning was coming, and soon the sun would be high enough for them to see themselves in the true colour of day.
For over an hour they sat there and watched the day break over the city. Early risers walking past on their way to work looked half-interestedly at them, then with a raise of the eyebrows and a turn of the head continued on their way. The couple watched them go, happy to let the world go on without them as they sat and held each other, feeling the stillness of the morning pick up with the waking of the city. They were separate, as if, were they to stay on the bench, time would not be able to lay its harsh fingers on them. It wouldn’t be able to separate them if they just stayed here – right here, forever.
But of course eventually they did separate; they stood up and walked out onto the road – then kissed one last time, with their hands holding each others heads – then walked away, he in one direction, and she in another.