It was not a long love affair; we barely made it to spring. But all through autumn and into winter, we spent every other night together.
I am not good at this season. I loathe the cold, the blanched land, the flatness of a winter sky. I have to look hard for its joys and hold on to them: rook caw, sharp light on rosehip, the morning frost crowning the blackthorn.
My new love felt like one of them: I liked that he had hair the colour of a conker, and the way he wore a bright red scarf, so that, sometimes, from the corner of my eye, he looked like a haw, like sustenance.
He hated winter, too. The first time I visited his house – this all happened many years ago – I found his living room filled with tropical palms and exotic corals. On rainy afternoons, we sat huddled together in pub corners, drinking Guinness and talking about the warm places we loved, about Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico; about the summer to come. We stood before Gauguin’s Bathers at Tahiti in the Courtauld, and the ancient cycads at Kew; we sat glistening in saunas; we checked in to a fancy hotel and took a long, hot bath.
One weekday in midwinter, when the season had grown ridiculous in its bleakness, we made a plan: we would both take the day off and create a tropical oasis in my flat. It seemed, by that point, the only feasible way to make it through; London was miserable, the days were short, the faces looked pale and sad. It was so cold that my street stood largely empty, the shops shuttered early, and the sound of footfall ricocheted along the buildings.
By the time he arrived at my front door that morning, I had already cranked up the heating and filled the house with flowers. He brought ice, tropical fruits, a small elephant’s foot palm. We spent the day in bed, drinking piña coladas and listening to João Gilberto records.
It is hard for a relationship to carry between seasons. The fevered romance of summer can falter in the new lucidity of autumn; what seemed bright in March can tire come August.
Ours was no different. During the months we spent together, everything felt heightened. There was the complicated relationship with the mother of his child, his growing possessiveness, the fact I did not wholly believe some of the stories he told me. Everything cast long shadows, the way it does in winter light.
As spring drew closer, something seemed to shift. Perhaps, now the world had begun to feel full again, with bud and blossom and light and scent, I needed more space. One evening, after a dinner he had spent once again talking about his ex, I told him I did not feel there was enough room for me in the relationship. He shouted at me in the restaurant. He shouted at me in the street. I cried, and walked home alone. It was hard to find our way back to any warmth after that.
Once, he told me that the morning after he had first stayed at mine, he sent his friend a postcard from my street, telling him he was having a lovely holiday in Bloomsbury. At first it made me laugh, and later it made me feel sad, but with time I have come to think that perhaps this was all we were ever meant to be: the warm taste of rum on a February day, the flicker of palm-shadow on unsunned skin, a brief summer fling in the depths of midwinter.