‘Soft, For the Music Dies.’
Soft, for the music dies within this room
Where once the bridge that Heaven sings
to man, returning him to grace,
is an empty space.
Soft, for music never silenced never can return
and we the living must, its passing mourn
sighing in the gloom.
Soft, still within the silence lives the love
he crafted here upon an earthly stave;
the song, moon slivered nights and sunscaped days.
Soft, threading memory stakes the muted claim
which we, the living, tearful, bear the blame
denial of our grave.
Soft. Dying music’s timbre strikes the note
discordant; chaos bring the age of truth
to him; returns all harmony and places times innocence.
Soft, here lies the living ache, seek the dawn of melodies.
Each day his love reborn sustains undying hopes.
Find the person
who takes all
of your words
for ransom and agrees
to hold your dripping
ice cream cone
of a heart for as long
as you will have him.
Find the person
who turns sadness
at your feet…
I drink from your love’s cup
endlessly (thirst becomes
desire) and know that
I shall never get
So you see, I had already made two (totally unrealistic and unsuccessful) bids for freedom, and now this Simon was heading my way…..what could it mean? My insides were like jelly, it was like being in love again, right at the start, when you’re a bit breathless and you do a small wee. AND I didn’t even know the bloke, though it felt like I always had.
‘The train arriving on platform 2, is the 14.06 from Paddington.’ I (apparently) was running up and down the platform like a fucking eejit, going “Where is he? Where is he? I can’t see him! Where is he?…...” David was standing, arms folded, by the barrier. What premonitions did he have? And, then, at 18.15, April 4th, 2007, as I said, I met the man who was to mend my heart and break David’s. There he was, in his too – small jacket and big red shoes, and I was lost. Gone for good at that moment.
“Oh HIIIIII!” I screeched.
“Hello,” he said, in that honey voice and leant in to kiss my cheek.
“I’m David,” said David, holding out his hand.
“Good journey? Train’s on time. It’s been sunny here today. Have you eaten? Would you like some tea somewhere? A café? Or a pint maybe? Are you tired? Do you want to run away with me and keep me close in your heart in a place where no one will ever hurt us?”
I didn’t actually say that last bit, but I WAS babbling like an idiot as we walked to the car. I don’t remember the drive home, other than I had my hand on his foot all the way, like staking my claim, sneaking my fingers up his trouser leg, or maybe offering comfort. I could see him in the mirror too – and oh FUCK!! He’s looking back! Blue eyes fixed on my reflection. I looked away, burned by the intensity of his stare.
We got home, had large gins. Dinner was ready. He’d changed and was wearing very loose pants, Indian style. He was somehow at my end of the table and – dear God – we were able to play footsie under the table. If David detected anything, he didn’t show it. Dinner passed in a wine fuelled haze, and the next thing I know, Simon was lying (very provocatively, I have to say, you naughty man) on the settee, and I was right – he wasn’t wearing any pants. And David made his move. I was horrified! Mine!! He’s fucking MINE!!
The ‘we don’t play separately’ rule seemed cruelly inappropriate but there it was, so I had to join in and get what comfort I could. We went upstairs, I was drunk, and we had some sort of sex, the three of us, and after, went to bed. Me in the guest room, he in my bed. The only time that the stranger in my bed was welcome and I was in the next room.
The next day, we had a wander round town and then went to the beach and took a lot of photos in which, looking back at them now, there was such a clear and present connection between us; the way we stood, looked, posed, laughed, all pointed towards US being the couple and David the visitor.
We had drinks, overlooking the sea, and were joined by Paul, a sometime acquaintance and the man who was booked in for reiki the next day.
“Paul, this is Simon. He’s a reiki master too, but is trained in Seichem. I’m Usui trained as you know. It might be good for you to have us both treat you tomorrow? What do you think?”
Paul agreed, and we went back home. I can’t remember the evening. Did we do anything? I don’t know, I was only enthralled to have this splendid man in my house and in my life, even just for a short while. It wasn’t long before Simon went off to bed, early, on his own. I think he wanted to avoid another sex session, which he clearly hadn’t enjoyed.
The next morning we did what ostensibly he had come down for and set ourselves up in the study to try to sort out the website, though it was clear all we wanted to do was to have sex again, on our own, but….’we don’t play separately’ and my luck was already massively pushed. We fiddled about with pictures and text frames and hyperlinks and CSS and made the best of it. Paul arrived at 2, and we began our reiki session. Paul had no idea of the cataclysm that was about to unfold above his head…
All was going well, Michael turned up on cue, I was treating Paul’s neck, Simon his feet. The reiki filled the room and it was both tempestuous and healing. Then, I was bidden to stretch out my hand towards Simon, who did the same and our fingertips touched. I am not linguistically skilled enough to describe what then occurred – if you picture what may have passed between Adam and God, when their fingertips touched, as imagined in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. A bolt of pure energy exploded between us, through us, each into the other. It was terrifying, and powerful beyond words, but glorious and exultant and exhilarating and magnificent. We snatched our hands apart, both a bit stunned, like we’d been electrocuted by pure love, but unsure about what had just happened. When we eventually talked about it, after we’d stopped pretending it hadn’t meant anything, it seemed a clear message from spirit that we had met our true soul mates; both open to spirit in that moment, we were able to transmit the true essence of each to the other. It was indefinable but without any room for doubt. We BOTH knew what had happened, but what the fuck to do about it? NOW what?
Even weirder, the next day David said:
“I’ll do breakfast. Why don’t you two go out for a walk? 20 minutes?”
“Erm, yeah, OK. You want to?”
“Sure, yeah,” said Simon, glad to get me alone whenever he could.
So off we went, through the hedge, up to the Beacon; a bit of sightseeing always calmed things down a bit. There’s a little area with picnic benches where you can sit and look far down West, where the eclipse had rolled up that day, back in ‘99, scaring the bejeesus out of us all. We sat. Opposite. Our hands touched and with no prompted thought I said:
“We’re going to live in France, and I’m going to help you run a healing centre at your house. Aren’t I?” Actually it wasn’t a question, it was a fact, a thing I KNEW.
“Yes. We are,” he said, and once more terrified, we leapt apart and said no more.
We went back to the house to finish the website (to sit really really close together). The site wasn’t too bad; bit amateur really but it was by now, of course, completely irrelevant.
“I’m just going down the shop. I won’t be long,” called David, and out he went, leaving us alone. Again. Upstairs. What the….?? I knew the shop, the local was just a few minutes and so there was no time to make love, not like we were both aching to do. So we kissed, and as he ran his fingers along the length my cock, he smiled, and said, “I am looking forward to when I can have that all for myself.”
“I love you,” he said.
“I have HIV,” I said.
I hadn’t planned to say anything. At least not yet. Not till we were somewhere safe, and he was mine, but that would have been absolutely the wrong thing. He needed to know before, so he had a chance to run. To be horrified. Disgusted. Afraid. Like I was.
There was a beat. A silence. And into it, I expected to hear the slamming of laptop lids, hurried excuses, eyes that were just a moment ago boring into mine, now downcast and avoiding meeting, business arrangements made to pay for the work done so far, ‘Thanks, but no thanks’….
But not this man. Not this brave, gentle, honest, solid man.
Then he looked at me and said,
“That’s OK, It doesn’t matter. I love you. That’s all that matters,” and the front door opened and David was back. We sprang apart, erections wilting, red faced. What have I done? That’s that then. Still better to know now than make some stupid mistake and THEN have it go tits up. But I didn’t know him, this man. This man of courage, this man who loved me. He meant what he said, and I had to trust it. But it wasn’t mentioned again. Was that a good thing or a bad one?
That evening, we’d planned a meal, en plein air, round the chimenee, for which I was cooking Mexican. The works. I know it wasn’t his last night, but we were planning to go out on the last night, a proper Cornish pub meal. I couldn’t bear thinking about it, so I had some more gin. You KNOW what happens, Bray; you and gin are trouble. Anyway, I wanted to quell the panic of him leaving on Sunday. How would we ever put our plan into operation? Then, another weird thing: David said. “Why don’t you two go and have a walk before dinner? I’ll do the prep?” So off we went again. Alarming! What was he playing at? Trying? Trusting? Trapping? Dunno, but I just wanted out of the house, with Simon, for a wee while, probably for the last time, particularly now, after this morning’s liddle revelation, before he left on Sunday. We climbed over the stile, walked up the field to the top and as the sun set over Treningle, my house, and my marriage, we held hands and knew, somehow, we were to be together.
“We’ll have to wait, to find a way. I have NO idea how, or how long. But there will BE a way. YOU know what happened in that room,” he said. The sun grew redder and the air cooler. “Come on, let’s go back. I’m starving!” I said to steer the conversation away from the “thing” so huge it was uncontemplateable.
“We’re back! Ready to eat everyone?”
I put ABBA on full blast, (‘The Winner Takes It All’), poured myself a glass of forget- me- juice and, watching David and Simon sitting chatting, through the window, began to cook dinner. All the red pepper pieces were the same size.
The tracks went down (‘Dancing Queen’ being caterwauled as I cooked), the wine went down and the sun went down. The chimenee was roaring, the table was set, the fajitas were done, the beans refried, the guacamole whizzed to a fine and spicy delight and….I wanted none of it. I wanted it all to go away, to be over and to be alone in Simon’s arms. But. “HEEEEERE we are!” I yodelled, carrying out the food. We ate, the music played on, we talked about the inconsequential, the drinks went down…..then we ran out of chat and sat and watched the flames, mesmerised, in a row, with David in the middle.
Deliberate? Just how the chairs were? I don’t know. What I DO know is that he was between us and, as I got more and more pissed, I got more and more desperate to touch Simon. What could I do? Lean across? Ask to swap seats? I know. I know – I’ll just say, “Excuse me, David, can I sit next to Simon as we’ll be running away together soon.” Fortunately, Simon decided that he really didn’t want to share me at bedtime again and excused himself and went to bed. Probably just as well; my gob was gearing up to run away with me, the pressure was so enormous.
“’Night…..” Peck on my cheek as he leant in and I could smell him, feel his weight on my shoulder. “’Night David,” and he was gone. Leaving us together alone. I’m not sure why David suddenly started touching me, rubbing his hand up my thighs, proprietorially? As a reminder? Just horny? Whatever the reason, and I am ashamed to say, dear reader, that I found his touch offensive and wrong and I pushed his hand off. He put it back, nearer the top of my leg, nearer my balls this time and I said, “Will you just fucking get off me!” A little too fierce. A little too tell-tale. But, he did. Then he went and fetched the brandy (Dartington) decanter.
“I’m having a nightcap. I suppose you want one?” he said in that ‘don’t you think you’ve had enough already?’ kind of voice.
“Yes, please, if that’s alright. … a bit more than THAT. If that’s OK with you?” He’d poured enough to just make a film on the bottom of the (Dartington) glass. Remember, I’M in in control here….. “Thank you.! He poured more. “More, if that’s ok?” By this time the glass was half full of neat brandy (Courvoisier) and we sat in silence, pretending that the flames were interesting. Actually they were. The brandy was fierce and I was becoming unmoored. The man I adored beyond all else was just 20 feet away, sleeping now no doubt, for now at peace and untroubled. More staring. More silence, as wide as the bed which now held my love.
“I’ve had enough of this. Shall we go to bed?”
“No, I’m fine. I’m staying for a bit. ‘Night.”
“OK. Don’t be long. And make sure the fire door’s shut. And the water feature’s switched off. And don’t forget the light. And bring your glass in. I’m sure it’ll be empty.”
Go. Just go.
Alone and drunk, I wondered if he had any idea why I was so unhappy so suddenly? Everything was so exciting a couple of days ago. I supposed not, in a drunken kind of way; we’d done nothing untoward.
I heard a rustling from next door. Then I had a brilliant idea!
“Hey! I can hear you! And I can smell dope, you naughty girl! Roll us one?” Utter madness. A decision that could only be made by someone already robbed of sense and reason. She passed the joint over the wall and I took a drag. Instantly my head began to spin and I felt disconnected from the world.
“Go easy, you twat,” came the whispered reply.
Another drag, further from reality. Another slug of brandy. And suddenly. Whoooo. Suddenly I was done. Enough already! I couldn’t really see properly and standing was proving a bit tricky as everything was all slopey. Oh fuck! Suddenly my head spun really fast and I lost my balance, and toppled over, luckily landing on the steps by the gate and not the fire. Wait. Pause. Breathe. Breathe.
Everything slowly came back into focus and gingerly I tried to stand. Shut the fire door. 20 paces to the steps. Switch off water thing. 10 steps back to the door. Switch off light. Good boy I am. Fuckity arse. Forgot the glass. Ne’er mind eh? Need a pee now. Like NOW. Fortunately, I had installed a handrail on the stairs. Came in handy as I hauled myself up to the loo, in that being Really Quiet drunk way. I had to pee like a girl as I’d have needed two hands to wee the boy’s way and I had to hold on to the towel rail. Fuck, was I drunk. And stoned. The whole room was lurching and spinning as the THC in the cannabis thwhacked me in the brain. I felt AWFUL and sorrowful and regretful and my life was shit and nobody loved me and I needed some cheese. Yes, that was it. Cheese.
Hauling myself, I felt my way back downstairs to the kitchen for cheese.
What was it again? I stared round the kitchen, swaying, and threatening to do that funny run that drunk people do, that we all laugh at when it’s not you. I wanted….. um… I don’t know now. My eyes stopped swivelling and came to rest on my phone, on the worktop. I moved towards it, oops, bit too fast, misjudged the distance there. I know! I’ll write Simon a lovely text so he will see it in the morning when he wakes. I wrote:
My darling Simon
You are sleeping not ten feet away and I am in the wrong bed. But don’t worry because soon we will be in France together. I love you like I have never loved anyone else. It will be hard to say goodbye on Sunday, but it will only be temporary. I don’t know how long, but be strong.
With all my heart. XXX
Aww, that’s nice. He’ll see that tomorrow. Bed. I now need sleep. Not cheese! That’s what it was. Cheese, but I don’t want cheese now, I want bed. Not cheese. And, before I ended up sleeping on the kitchen floor, wove my way back up the stairs to bed.
Leaving the phone on the bench, open. With the text unsent.
05.15. A time, easy to remember. Something kicked my foot, and startled me awake and I was facing the clock. That’s how I know. Woahhhh my fucking head……sleep. More sleep. Then something kicked me again. I opened my eye, and swivelled it in the direction of where the pain was now coming from. And there was David. Holding my phone. Not really knowing what was happening, I raised myself, carefully onto one elbow – Jeez, brandy gives you the WORST hangover – and looked at him. What? What you just standing there for? What’s that in your hand? What are you showing me? Focus. Focus. My phone. It’s my phone.
“What?” What are you doing? Is that you kicking me?”
“Why have you got my phone? Has somebody rung?”
“Uh? What? What are you saying?” Fog clearing….
“HOW FUCKING LONG?”
“What? How long what?”
“YOU AND HIM. HOW LONG HAS THIS BEEN FUCKING GOING ON????”
And he shoved my open phone in my face, where I could blearily discern ‘My Darling Simon…’. The beginning of the text I left on the work top. The one where I didn’t press the ‘send’ key. Oh my days. You know the feeling when you are utterly busted, completely fucked with no possible recourse or excuse? That moment when the blood drains from all your vital organs, and leaves you with no breath, just a feeling of imminent death? That’s what I had then, and realising that there really WAS no way out, said:
“Three days. That’s all. Three days”. That was kind of true, but not really, as it had been going on for weeks, even months or even years if you factor in the time the planets had been spinning and bringing us to this moment.
“Down fucking stairs. Now.” David rarely swore, so I think he was probably a bit mad at this point. I stumbled out of bed, feeling real bad. Really sick, hungover, tired, but not scared. That was the remarkable thing. This could have been a trigger for all those times my Dad had thrashed me, but this time I didn’t care. I was SO clear in my intentions, he could do or say what he liked – it just WAS.
He was standing silhouetted in the window, the orange halo making his features indiscernible
“Three days? THREE FUCKING DAYS AND YOU’RE GOING TO FRANCE?”
“How? Where will you live? What on? You don’t have any money.”
That much was true. I HAD money, but never had any access to it. He always managed the money; when we went shopping for Stuff, he always paid; when we ate out, he always paid. He always joked: “he’s like the Queen – never carries any money. Ha hahaa” Yes, you control freak. That’s because you never let me have any. And again, I let it happen. So. Not really your fault. Mine. Stupid mine, which has led me, finally, to this moment.
“How will you get there? You don’t even know him. Are you fucking mad?”
“I don’t know how. Or why, or when. All I DO know is that I love him and I WILL be leaving you. For him. Sorry. But that’s just the truth.”
“He won’t love you. Not like I do. Anyway you’ve got AIDS.”
And that, dear reader, was the end of all things. If Simon had left tomorrow alone, there is now no way I could ever stay here with this man, who had just said the cruellest of things. I had never fully recovered from, or forgiven him for, the Monstrous Lie, but had married him anyway, but that, that was the worst thing he could possibly have said. And it was the end.
“Sorry. Nothing else I can say.” Actually there was, but noticing the clenching fists and increase in breathing decided it was in the interests of self-preservation that I didn’t. I just sat, naked and shivering – cold, post adrenalin, fear, all three – on the settee that had seen so many betrayals and waited.
“WELL HE CAN FUCK OFF. FUCK OFF OUT OF MY HOUSE NOW!! GO AND WAKE HIM UP! AND YOU! YOU FUCK OFF WITH HIM! BOTH OFF YOU! FUCK OFF!! FUCK OFF OUT OF MY HOUSE!!!!”
I thought about reminding him it was OUR house, actually, but given the circs….
So I went back upstairs, found my clothes from where I’d stumbled out of them earlier, and went in next door. The room of more betrayals.
“Simon,” I whispered, “Wake up. Wake up.”
“Gnnnnnnn….. Oh, good morning. Why’s it still dark? What time is it?”
“It’s early. Come on, get up. We have to go.”
“Go where? What’s wrong?”
I’ll tell you as we go. Just get up. Can we go to yours? In London?”
“Here’s the phone. Ring your landlady and ask. Do it now.”
He sat up, this man to whom I was now committed and was risking everything for, rubbed his eyes, and said, “Has something happened?” Somewhat of an understatement…..
“Just ring home and see if I can stay for a couple of days. We have to leave. Now.”
After a muffled conversation, which I only heard through the bathroom wall from where I had gone to collect stuff, he said, “She says it’s OK. Are you going to tell me what’s happened?”
“David knows about us. I’ll explain as we go. I have to get a cab. Pack your stuff. Hello? Bodmin Taxis? Yes, Parkway please. Immediately. Thankyou. I’ll see you downstairs.”
“I need my Barclaycard.”
“My card. I need it. There’s a cab coming.”
No response. Just a back, implacably turned towards me. My card was on the worktop. I picked it up. “OK. Well.”
“I’ll see you then.”
Simon came down the stairs and I herded him, dazed and confused, straight out of the front door, and into the waiting cab.
On the way to the station I explained about the text and what happened after, and you know what? He just said: “Well, there you go. Reiki has a funny way of working, but work it does…”
We were in a bit of a state of shock – I had no idea what would happen now; we were together; it was out in the open; I had no Plan B, But, after a strong coffee and politely telling a well-meaning, but really really annoying man to FUCK OFF and no, we weren’t interested in seeing his model railway, we boarded the 08.20 to Paddington, holding hands all the way to London, as we hurtled towards whatever new life awaited us.
The Japanese do not
disguise their breakage,
gluing back the broken pieces
with a special lacquer
dusted with gold.
I would be much more willing
to show the world my scars
if my flaws could ever
look that beautiful.
When I am ready to forgive you,
there will be golden seams
running through my veins.
There is beauty in repair…
Madeline Stuart, a young woman who stands as a role model and advocate for diversity in the modelling world, was kind enough to answer some questions for TROU. Below you will learn more about her work and her views on romance, dating, and everyone’s favourite fairy tale films.
TLM: Would you please tell me a little about yourself and your career for any readers out there who aren’t familiar with your work?
MS: I’m Madeline Stuart, I’m an international model with down syndrome (the first ever), I love to dance and I spread the message of inclusion and kindness throughout the world. As for my career, it continues to grow rapidly everyday! It started in April 2015 when a photo of mine went viral after I lost 40 pounds. From there I grew all over social media and I was asked to walk New York Fashion Week, Paris Fashion week, London Fashion week and so many more. I’ve travelled all over the world working in the past 3 years and have loved every moment.
TLM: What are your sources of inspiration that helped get you to where you are today?
MS: My mum. She is my biggest inspiration! She also handles all the business side of my modelling, so she is such a big help on where I am today. My own determination and strong will also helped to get me to where I am today.
TLM: I saw that you shared a lovely picture of you and your boyfriend on your Instagram page. We, at TROU, are all about inclusive love stories, would you like to share with the readers your own love story, or experiences being in love?
MS: I have been with Robbie for over 3 and half years, I didn’t realise but he had a crush on me for a long time before we started dating, I had a lot of boys that were just friends and I did not really have any romantic feelings towards any of them but Robbie grew on me and I ended up falling in love with him. Now I could not imagine my life without him, we talk every day when I am home and try to talk when I am travelling as much as possible but it is hard with the time difference.
TLM: Do you have a favourite love story, poem, or photograph you would like to recommend to the readers?
TLM: What advice would you give to someone interested in dating a person with Down Syndrome, or other types of challenges?
MS: The same advice I would give to anyone, be kind, be honest, be true. Everyone is the same and everyone one wants to be loved and respected, people with Down syndrome don’t come from a different planet.
TLM: In your opinion, how has the entertainment industry done with representing love stories of people who live with physical or mental differences?
MS: I think there is lots of beautiful stories out there about people with and without disabilities.
TLM: Do you think social media has helped people become more aware and accepting of those living with challenges?
MS: I think everyone lives with challenges, just because I have down syndrome does not mean I have more or less challenges than you, my challenges may be just a little different sometimes. On the whole, [everyone feels] self conscious sometimes. Do you struggle to get out or bed in the morning as that pillow is just so comfortable? Do you put on weight if you eat too much chocolate? These are all challenges we all face in life
If you are asking do I think social media has made people more accepting of disabilities than the answer is yes, people are scared of those things they do not understand, so the more people see images of people with disabilities the more they realise we are all the same inside and we all have different packages on the outside, just like you and me. I also think it has definitely helped people become more aware of inclusion.
TLM: What are your personal favourite, inclusive or diverse, social media accounts the readers might be interested in following?
MS: I love Melange and Winnie Harlow.
TLM: Many of us grew up watching Disney fairy tales or reading fairy tales where the prince rescues the princess. If you could write your own fairy tale for Disney to make a movie, what would you add or change to make it more inclusive?
MS: I would definitely add more people of diversity, whether they be gay, trans, coloured, different cultures and I would also like to see more strong women because in reality most of the time women are the ones saving the day, looking after the families and running our world.
Dislamer – “Madeline Stuart’s answers were written with the assistance of her mum, Rosanne Stuart”