The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 11 (February 1, 1938)
Dream Places — My Dream Place
It wasn't easy to leave the boat last night, when the loudspeakers told us it was time I must go. It wasn't easy, because I was sure then—had been sure ever since you said you were going—that I wouldn't see you again. And your letter told me it was so, and showed me the reason—because you wouldn't ruin my career! Do you think your divorce would have mattered as much as that? Do you think a career matters the least little bit compared with you? Joan, if I wasn't so utterly miserable I could almost laugh at you for that. But it's not a laughing matter.
Such a big sacrifice, darling, and such a useless one. I tried to get old Thomas to tell me where you were going to from London; but he's like all solicitors, and won't talk when he's told not to. You knew who you could trust, Joan. He's promised to forward my letters to you—but I know I can't persuade you to come back. It's odd how an atmosphere communicates itself when people are as much in sympathy as you and I have been. I knew you wouldn't come back, but I didn't know why—and I wouldn't admit to myself that you were going altogether.
Well, I walked home, and found your letter on the mantelpiece. I think I knew as soon as I caught sight of the envelope. I read it and re-read it, and it just wouldn't register—you know how some things won't when you've been dreading them and expecting them without realising it. And you left your gloves. Crumpled up in a corner of the sofa. I suppose if I'd been a woman I'd have noticed that you hadn't got them with you, and gathered how upset you were. For a time I lost my bearings. I didn't know what to do. I cabled John to meet you at Tilbury and try to recognise you from the one little photo of you I sent him. I hoped he'd try—but I knew even then that he couldn't persuade you. How brave of you to slip away like that, just for my sake. A man wouldn't have done that, Joan—only women make that sort of sacrifice.
I couldn't stay in the flat after that. I picked up my hat and went out. The wonderful twilight seemed to be laughing at me—we'd spent so many twilights together. I went into the Grand for a drink, and found myself on the sofa where we sat last Monday. Only last Monday! I suppose I'll feel like that about everywhere I go that we've been together. We've been to a good many places. If I go over to the Bay I'll think of you lying beside me on the beach, your black hair falling all over your face, your face flushed with running, your eyes laughing. They're not laughing now, darling. Why did you have to do this mad, crazy, cruel thing? Crueller to yourself than to me—because a woman feels more deeply, so they say, than a man does—and only a woman who really and absolutely loves a man could have done what you did. But so needlessly, darling. Can't you see? I know what you think about it all—that we'd be ideally happy for perhaps five or ten years, and then the fact of that wretched divorce would make itself felt; that I'd mind people's sustained hostility if we got married and they kept on being as beastly as they have been. But haven't we been enough for each other so far? Do you think I want anyone else but you? That I will in ten years, or twenty, or a hundred?
It's no use writing like this. You'll only say that even if I want to suffer I mustn't suffer because of you. And, womanlike, you won't see that this way I'll suffer far more—and so will you. Or perhaps you won't. It would hurt you to see people avoiding me—it has hurt you—when you could be brave for yourself.
Darling, can't you face that, too, and realise that my main happiness, my only real happiness, is in you? I didn't tell you what I had planned—a little house down by the water—just a section past where you got off the tram when you came to see me: we've been there often. I didn't describe to you the rooms I had hoped for—a big light chintzy drawing room, a formal dining room that we could put your pictures in—all the furniture walnut, old polished stuff; and a study with a skylight where you could do your drawings and I could write my speeches and we could criticise each other's work without in the least understanding what we were talking about. You were always interested in my speeches, darling, I never understood quite why you never came up to the House to hear me make one. I never pressed it—but I often wondered why. And it's too late to ask you now. Oh, it's so silly—we've been so much to each other—all the foolish little everyday incidents, all the trivial scraps of conversation—just the being together, and the being in sympathy with each other, that have gone to make up our life for so long—just stopped suddenly. It's our lives, now, not our life.
I can't tell you much about my page 51 Dream House. It hurts too much. I shouldn't have kept it a secret. Do you think I should go through and build it and live in it, like that man in Masefield's new book? The woman he wanted to marry was killed in a motor accident. I can understand his frame of mind. He could at least be resigned. But it's different for me. I know that you're alive, living, wanting me just as I want you. Shall I build my Dream House just as I planned it? I wanted to discuss it all with you, because it was for you, and even though we did think the same things so much you'd have changed it and altered it and made it better until it was our Dream House and not just mine. It's just about the only thing we haven't shared, and I meant to share it with you more than anything else.
The section's in my name, darling; I did that without asking you, because I knew you'd approve of that: you loved the place. But the house is only plans. Let me see if I can tell you what it was to be like. A long, low white weatherboarded place, with those green shutters we like so much; tall French windows with more shutters—big deep comfortable armchairs in the study—that chromium stuff, but well sprung and padded; and hardly any pictures in that room. And a long lawn almost down to the sea, where we could swim every morning.
It's such a marvellous place—you can picture the house, because you know what the bay looks like. Must it be a Dream Place always, Joan? Think of the tragedy of that Masefield man, living all alone in his grim priory—then think of me in a ruined Dream House in a lovely shimmering bay, the little yacht we've always intended to buy bobbing about at its moorings, the happiness of natural things that you so loved to enjoy with me just mocking my own misery. Can't you come back, Joan?
Am I being hideously sentimental? I don't mind if I am. Sentimentality isn't far removed from real feeling—oh, I can't talk about that. Why must my mind keep running on what might have been, in this dreadful Michael Sadleir strain? But to look forward? My dear, you must have done that. God, how you must love me! Perhaps it's ridiculous, and I wouldn't have you laugh at me—except kindly, as you do sometimes—but I can't get that Dream Place out of my mind, now that it's a dream that can't be realised. I'm not egotist enough to build it for myself. A wide verandah looking seawards, towards the island, a tiny jetty so that we wouldn't cut our feet too much on those wretched stones. A stone floor to the verandah, or concrete, because that keeps it cool; and we would have had the dark coolness of the rooms just behind us through the French windows right in the middle of summer. I had ideas, too, of getting you a baby grand in a year or so, so that you could play Chopin or Debussy to me in the dusk.
Well, dear, it's just a dream. Without you the place would be nothing; but it would have made a perfect frame for you. Let it stay a dream, my picture of you sitting there on the verandah, with the three big pines overtopping the roof tree, waiting for me as I came up from the beach. Your life will be very different from that, and so will mine.
I told Crombie a little of what was in my mind—not much, but enough to enable him to draw the plans. Crombie's an energetic fellow, and ambitious, and has his eyes on London. The human side of life means little to him. But even knowing him, and making allowance, I hated him when he made his comment: “How dreadfully suburban, Jim! What about your ideas of getting to England and going into politics there while you're still young enough? You don't want to be bothered about the loan of a lawnmower, and whether the butcher's called in time. Suburban, Jim! Utter vegetation of the sort any one can revel in—but not getting the best out of yourself!”
Suburban? Well, it's only a dream place, Joan, and I don't see as much wrong with being suburban as I used to. Perhaps he was right. After all, many men dream dreams, and only a few realise them. Could you ever have settled down to that sort of existence? I don't know. It doesn't matter much now, does it? Perhaps, after all, he was right. So that's my Dream Place … “How dreadfully suburban!”
Goodbye, my dear. Forgive me if I regret my suburbs.
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