Heart Murmurs

By Ashleigh Brilliant   |   September 13, 2018

One of the most common themes of all songs and poetry is the loss of love. Usually, it is the loser who is speaking or singing. And more often than not, the love he or she thought they had, has been transferred to somebody else. Statistics are lacking, but I would venture to guess that most of us have had, or will have, this kind of experience at least once in our lives. All I know for sure is that it did happen to me – and it happened just once.

But despite such comforting expressions as “Time Heals All Wounds” and the sympathetic “You’ll Get Over It” – in my case at least, though it happened more than 50 years ago, and even though the person I “lost” has now just recently died, and I myself was married to somebody else for most of those 50 years – I never really did “get over it.”

What I didn’t get over was the pain of being rejected by someone to whom I somehow felt securely attached. And what makes it all even more painful (though it should in some way be a consolation) is knowing now that, for her, it was definitely the right decision, and she had a far better life with him than she would probably ever have had with me.

What currently brings it all sharply into focus was pure circumstance – a need arose to consult my diary for that general period about some completely unrelated topic. I have kept a detailed diary for most of my life – but most of it I have never re-read.

But now, purely by chance, I found myself, for the first time, virtually reliving that critical period of my life – the episode that can so coldly be compressed into a single word: the “Breakup.” 

As no doubt usually happens, there was first a time of emotional separation, followed eventually by an actual separation. Often, there is probably a quick clean severance, but in my case (of which I can now speak with a vividly refreshed memory), it was anything but quick and clean, but covered months of anguish. This was partly because of my own prolonged but illusory hope of an eventual reconciliation and reunion – and (I think) partly because of her almost playful fostering of that hope, when she was already deeply committed to someone else.

We had been together for four years, including six months of traveling in Europe, and, despite many differences, I somehow assumed that we would always be together. The sticking point, however, was the legal status of our relationship. In those distant days, even in this relatively advanced society, to be living together without being married was still frequently frowned upon. And in fact, in the eyes of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, it was downright “Immoral” – as I learned to my cost when I was denied citizenship for many years, after I had made the terribly naïve mistake of producing the woman I was living with as a witness to my good character.

But I felt strongly opposed to the concept of legal marriage. Why should the State be concerned about a private relationship, especially if children were not involved? My partner, however, was more conventionally minded and made her discomfort evident to me in many ways, including at least once uttering the out-and-out plea “Marry me!”

Not until I realized that she was getting emotionally and even physically involved with somebody else did I really take this seriously, and actually propose marriage – but by then, it was already too late.

As for “getting over it,” you can see that I never really did. If I had, I wouldn’t be writing this now. But the circumstance of reliving the entire episode, through the blow-by-blow account my younger self so kindly left me to suffer through, in a diary which had been safely and harmlessly stored away for so many years, has only re-sharpened the pain.

Here’s something I wrote at the time (1962). It has never been published before. I hope you can forgive my rare vulgarity at the end – that’s how strongly I felt:

My love and I used to lie very close in the night,
And I’d wake to find her clinging to me very tight.
Now, it’s somebody else’s body and bed she prefers,
And somebody else’s heart beats close to hers.
Whoever it was made the world like this,
I pray to him whenever I piss.


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