and her younger lover smiles,
and tells her she's many years left.
I have been that younger lover: laughed aside
the fear of aging that you voiced.
Now I see the wrinkles spread
around my eyes like cracks in pressured glass,
hurricane lamp weakened, brought in
too often from the cold,
and wonder how I'll feel
to no more be the light, the nectar.
If I had known the last time was the last,
would I have told my hunger
in the bite of fingertips
against your muscled back?
If I had known how words like spinster
fill the twilight with their beating wings, would I have said so freely
all the things young lovers say
to hold their older paramours to ransom?
You're the last, I promise you :
I never thought this possible.
As long as I'm yours, I remain alive.
I think one of the reasons The Duke of Burgundy fascinates me so much is the age gap in Cynthia and Evelyn's relationship. The two most important romantic relationships I've ever had were with women over a decade older than I was: now, as a lesbian approaching 40, I find myself having to deal with the possibility that future partners may be younger than me. And I appreciate, now, that this dynamic - the age-gap relationship - feels very different from the other side of that gap. Things feel so much more serious, more final. Oh, young people talk a good Epic Romance game: every love is the last love, everyone is The One, every promise lasts until the End of Time. But it's easy to say that when you're young and full of other people's stories. Later in life, with Time's Winged Chariot drawing so near you can hear the music on Time's Wicked Car Stereo, it's harder to credit all those promises. And yet you cling to them, you hope: and maybe the cruellest thing a younger lover does is to make an older one believe there is hope, after they've gotten used to living with its absence. Believe that I love you, they say: and you do, because what's life without love?
And that, of course, is how the cruellest trap closes on you, like the lid of a trunk, a bed that's lifted by a simple spring. And there's no word to say to end these torments: except, perhaps, the one you fear the most. The word goodbye.