P. and T. kiss in public. A swift, light peck on the lips, so full of tenderness and respect. T. squeezes P.’s hand and he holds it, drawing strength from its warmth and reassurance. I watch them in awe. They are a handsome couple. Tall, slim, with undeniable presence. There is something unique about them. A beauty I can’t put my finger on. A quality of being fully alert, fully in the present, fully alive. The beauty of survivors, of those who have grown a garden full of flowers despite life’s storms and gales. A silvery glow surrounds them. Silver dust particles float in the air and gently land on you if you come close enough.
At T.’s eightieth birthday party, the many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren she and P. share have erected a marquee in the garden, because the house isn’t large enough to accommodate all those who have travelled to join in the celebrations. There’s a jazz band. The place is heaving with friends and relatives of all ages. These aren’t just guests. They’re individuals whose lives have been in some way or other touched by P. or T., or both. A friend comes up to me, who has known T. and P. for several decades. “They truly enrich other people’s lives,” she says. I agree.
All of us there have a speck of silver dust embedded in our skin.
P. has an authoritative yet velvety storyteller’s voice that changes fluidly from North American to English. I love listening to him reading poetry on the radio. I also love sitting at their massive, round, pale wood kitchen table, sipping whisky and listening to him explaining life, death and the universe according to Samuel Beckett. His lean face is lined with furrows life has filled with passion for words, ideas and, of course, the theatre.
We are sitting in the lounge, by the fireplace, P.’s blue-green eyes light up and he gets carried away expressing his admiration for Tennessee Williams. He has forgotten that there’s a bowl of olives in his hand, and that it’s slowly tilting. T. comes out of the kitchen. She presses her lips together. “P.!!” she finally snaps with loving frustration. He rushes to his feet, his bushy eyebrows raised, and begins to pass around the olives.
When we go to stay with them, I feel as though I’ve come home from home. Digging into the heartiest, richest, most comforting cauliflower and cheese you’ve ever tasted, w give T. our various bits of news. To everything I say, she reacts with intensity. Her surprise is genuine, her shock outraged, her sympathy deep-felt, her delight joyful, her excitement passionate, and her laugh like a gurgling spring that rises from the depths of the earth. There is an impish twinkle in her dark brown eyes.
T. and P.’s friendship is not a static feeling, it is an action that carries, depending on the need, hugs, advice or weapons to defend you. If they wrap you in their friendship, then they don’t merely stand and watch your life but take part in it. For them, to love is to get involved, and not be a dispassionate bystander. They will nurture you, and fight for you. They are the kind of friends you know it is an indescribable privilege to have in your life. A glow with silver particles that land on your skin, and become embedded in it.