1 March 2013


A short tale of failed love


There is a right, fundamental to a free person, to which I wish to lay claim: the right not to suffer in silence. Each of us, man or woman, young or old, by virtue of being human has the ability to suffer.

My suffering is the most poetic of life, lost love. I am sitting here at my desk pen in hand now feeing a distinct pain because I have lost a relationship which I valued. For anyone who feels pain, there is suffering and that suffering saturates the whole of the body of the sufferer. And for those who suffer there is a need to create a voice to represent that suffering to a wider audience.


I had been a teacher in the small town for less than a year when I was first told about Sabina. I thought very little of it. Hans, one of the students in my evening class, had an elder sister called Sabina who would be teaching at my school the following year. It seemed to me that everyone in the town was related to someone else somehow.

I first met her outside the bank in the main street. The graduation photographs of students and teachers from my school were displayed in the window of the bank. I had stopped to examine my own picture.

‘Hello, Mr Otto,’ I turned around.

Hans, my student, walked up to me with a young woman at his side.

‘I’d like to introduce my sister, Sabina. She’ll be teaching at our school next year’

I formally returned the greeting and said that I looked forward to having her as colleague. She smiled; I shook hands with Hans; and we walked off in opposite directions.

Looking back now at that first meeting, I have few impressions. She was young, twenty-two, ten years younger than I was then. Her flowing fair hair, alluring blue eyes and attractive smile were what I remember. A long coat, more suited to a late middle-aged woman, hid the rest of her body. We parted and I didn’t see her again for six months.

Not long after the start of term there was a party for the whole staff of the school. I can’t remember why now. I was talking to Sabina. It was late. Most of the other teachers had left except for some male technology teachers who were getting increasingly drunk.

‘Sabina, do you want to come back to my flat.’


So she came.


Six months later spring had not yet started; it was cold outside. I was waiting for her to return with her brother from her father’s. It was Sunday evening. What did she tell me? She’d be back between four and seven. I look though a window as a car parks outside. No, it’s not her. Why is she late? Perhaps she’s gone to her flat instead? The car’s broken down? They’re not coming back till tomorrow. I really want to talk to her this evening and it’s getting late now. Perhaps I’ll drive round to her flat just to see if she’s there.

There’s a knock at the door. It’s not her. It’s a friend. At least I’ve got someone to talk to. It’ll calm my serves. If she comes now, she’ll come with Hans, so I won’t have the opportunity to talk to her alone anyway.

They’re here; they’re just late. She says she had a good time but there’s something the matter. I can’t talk about it. No privacy. Can I clear up my things? No time for a bath or to change clothes. Hans is pushing for her to go back to the flat. Can I suggest that she stays here? No, I don’t want a row with her in front of Hans. Anyway all their luggage is in the car, and I’m not tired. So I’ll go; I’ll sleep at her place, at the flat she shares with her brother.

At their flat I don’t want to talk to Hans now. If I want to be with her, we’ll have to go to bed in her tiny room. It’s late anyway. Christ, she’s cold with me. Have I done something to hurt her? No, it’s her father; he said something. I tell her I love her; she tells me that I’ll leave her. Yes, she wants to hurt me. She denies it. She is kinder, but still cold. I suggest we go to sleep.

The alarm clock rings. Do we have breakfast together? No, she’s still asleep. The other clock rings. No, she wants to sleep longer. I get up and get dressed. I kiss her; there’s no response. I feel hurt. I leave the flat. When will I see her? I don’t know. We haven’t been alone or intimate since last Thursday night. I’m lonely. Do I have the strength to go on? Of course I do. Do I love her? Yes, I do. I want to get nearer to her. But now I’m on my own and my strength comes from inside me. The morning is bright and cold. We have moved apart, just a little. I hope it’s only temporary.


Sabina was the perfect little girl, but when she was three years old her brother Hans was born and she became jealous. Mother father and granny all loved little Hans, and if Sabina did anything to hurt her little brother, she was punished. In time she learnt to win love by giving love to her little brother. Soon she loved him more than anybody else.

Sabina’s home was a theatre of conflict. Her mother remained the passive and dutiful daughter of grandmother. Sabina’s father resented the intrusion into his family unit. He was denied love and respect, so took to drink and stayed away from the family home more and more. His periodic return to the family dwelling signalled a night of raised voices with Sabina’s mother.

The little girl lay in bed terrified. She became her mother in each fight. She loved her mother, but hated her weakness. One day she told her father to stop hurting her mother. Her efforts were not rewarded; she was taken into the bedroom and spanked.

Just after Sabina had started school her father left; so apart from the little Hans, she lived in a community of women. Adult men were strong, violent sometimes, and a complete mystery. She longed to know men. It was not to be, however, as mother and grandmother – now themselves denied any other meaning in their lives – would live through Sabina. She would be the model schoolgirl untouched by male treachery. Her sexual longings for her father and men were to be frustrated and punished.

When Sabina went to university she sampled unparalleled sexual freedom. Nothing restricted the good-looking Sabina except the suppressed guilt instilled by mother and grandmother. She started relationships with older men, but they did not last. She found that she loved her father, but only at a distance; as men came close to her, she was haunted by her mother’s fear of her father. Sabina, failing to see into her own subconscious, moved from one older man to another, hoping to find one who would not generate that fear, but always without success.

The one man she loved without fear was, of course, little Hans. But he too soon grew older and began to resemble her father. Hans started drinking and smoking, and Sabina concluded that she had lost her little Hans to whom she had devoted her life through protecting him from her father’s influence. Her love was incestuous; she had to find another Hans to love, a ‘Hans’ who was so weak that he would not grow into her father. Thus as Sabina grew older and stronger, her search shifted from the older man who would protect her to the younger whom she could protect. She no longer wanted a father; she wanted a son.


Dear Sabina,

I am writing to you because I don’t want to suffer in silence. I love you, but I have lost you. It hurts a lot, Sabina. I get pains like knives cutting through my stomach. I dream about you; I can’t stop thinking about our separation. At heart I am a sentimental person who has not fallen in love very often. I can’t believe that the eight months we spent together are over. I can’t forget all the plans we made together. Why did you destroy everything? You’ve hurt me very deeply, but I love you with all my heart. I can’t help it.


One night she called at my flat. In such a small town our paths overlap, and complete separation would not be possible even if we both wanted it. We talked. I told her that I wanted her back, though by now our separation had continued for too long to make that seriously possible. I told her about my pain and that I still loved her.

Suddenly my doorbell rang. I was annoyed by the interruption. I went to answer it. In the shadows of the night in front of me on a bike with a back-turned baseball cap was a boy who looked about fifteen.

‘I’m looking for Sabina.’ I let him in.

Was he really her new boyfriend the one who understood her? I’m introduced to him. He is in fact eighteen. Something is funny. In my head I had created an image of a mature looking young man, who was confident in himself and who reached out in his personality to exceed his age. Instead, a young, nervous and insecure boy sat there fumbling as he picked up the tea which I had made him.


Sometimes life can descend into metatheatre, by which I mean we in our lives are propelled to act in a performance with neither plot nor audience.I am a thirty-three. My life has recently been taken over my mental agony. I love a twenty-three year old woman, and we enjoyed an intense eight-month affair together. She was beautiful, interesting, clever – and as I recall so well now – very skilled in bed. I wanted to keep her forever, but I lost her.

When she started an affair with another man I started to suffer. I couldn’t sleep well at night; I woke up after dreaming about her, only to find in the cold light of morning that she was with me no longer. I became distracted at work and would gaze into space thinking only of her. I romanticised her flat, her bed and all the places we had gone together. I bored my very tolerant friends by pouring out my feeling of pain.

All of us have the right to love. Love is not magical even though it is very pleasant to romanticise it in metaphor. Love is the human need to attach oneself to another mentally and physically. Mentally, we need recognition from the other that we are special, needed and important. Physically we need human sexual contact to take control of the other and to bring that other person, whom we have elevated into a part extension of ourselves, into our domain. With Sabina I failed..

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