Posted at 21:41 on 4 May 2009 by Pandora / Blake
I came home from a magical May weekend to discover this beautiful post by Abby Williams. She wrote a 250-word story for a writing challenge, "based on a dream I had a year ago about Pandora telling me she'd 'dreamed about the linden tree again.'" Of course I am a sucker for hearing about myself, but I would have found this story compelling and haunting anyway.
It's funny that I should be associated with the linden tree. I can't remember if Abby wrote to me about that dream when she had it, but linden has a special meaning for me. The tea is well known for its healing properties; I prefer the taste of it to camomile and often drink it at the end of the day. But mostly I drink it for the profound sense-memory associated with it, of the first weekend I played with Tom.
I was nineteen, still an undergraduate, and it was our first date. We'd ended up in bed sometime the previous year, in complicated circumstances that led to us falling out of touch for a few months. When we picked things up he decided to do things properly. My young self was thoroughly, expertly woo'd. I can still remember the tingling excitement of receiving his love letters in the college post. He dressed me up, took me out and swept me off my feet.
Here's what I wrote in my personal journal when I got home:
Everything about the last three days has been almost feverishly acute, from the moment I collected my post on Friday to find a white lily corsage had been delivered for me only an hour before, chosen to perfectly complement the antique jet-beaded jacket I would be wearing that night. And then that moment when we stepped through the doors of Simpson's in the Strand wearing full Victorian period costume; the way he passed his umbrella and top hat to the cloakroom attendant with absolute gravity while I couldn't keep from grinning. And the champagne cocktails and madeira and wine and port and cigars, and the most extravagant dinner I have ever had bought for me, and not getting to sleep until 6am (at which point he had to go to Oxford to see his other partner) and sleeping until mid-afternoon in his bed that was specially built to comfortably sleep four (including provision for two of them to be tied down to it), and making myself linden tea in that huge empty house and reading the Iliad in a room smelling of pipe tobacco and sex.
And, of course, the utterly inexpressible contentment of having to sleep on my front each night so as to avoid putting any weight on the new bruises. And, then, this morning, coming back from the bathroom wearing Thomas' black silk dressing gown to find the low-backed, oaken chair arranged exactly as it had been on Friday night - white silk scarves for my wrists and ankles, a red knotted one for my mouth - and my sheer, animal terror at the thought of my already welted and swollen skin. And him sitting in the armchair with the cane resting, unobtrusively, on his lap, waiting for me.
Linden has long been "the tree of lovers". When I drink it now, I'm taken straight back to that sunny, sleepy Saturday, almost five years ago to the day. Lazing in his bed, still half-drunk with desire, drinking linden tea and falling in love with him.