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June 2018. The journey passes quickly along this route I’ve become so familiar with and soon enough I’m landing in Florianópolis. I’m so unbelievably excited to see Raul and be in his arms again that I pass straight through the baggage claim without even noticing. I look up and he looks up and there’s a split second that seems to last a lifetime where our eyes meet and then he runs, he runs to me and wraps me up in the biggest hug and we’re kissing and kissing and kissing and he’s here and I’m here and we’re together at last. His papa drives us home, and we spend the entire journey gazing at each other in the dark, just like we did the night we met.

After a shower and some food we put on a documentary, wrapping ourselves round each other. But it isn’t long before the documentary is forgotten and we lose ourselves in the sweet bliss of each others touch. We fall asleep naked, tangled together in his single bed.

The next day there’s a white horse grazing gently in the land next door. I feel like I’m floating through a dream. But it’s all real, and I thank the universe for so many blessings.

When I was still in London he’d sent me a photograph of a tree in the front garden, vibrant pink flowers bursting into bloom. I’d told him I’d love to photograph him by those flowers someday, and so now I do. When I give him his first photography lesson, he takes my portrait by those same flowers.

I’d always dreamt of having a partner who was an artist, and now here he is. He’s a wonderful musician and when I see the portraits he’s taken of me, it’s clear that he’s also a natural photographer.

His name is quite common in Brasil – in his family alone he’s the third generation in a row to inherit it. But to me even his name is magic. *Raul; it sounds like air, like a soft exhale, a gentle breeze. He tells me when he first heard my name it rang like a bell through his head, over and over, for days until we met.

(*the R is pronouned like a H; “ha-ool”)

His friend Renan passes by to say hello. Raul and I sit together on the floor, stroking the dogs while Renan plays guitar and sings. He dedicates a love song to us, and when he sings a line about watching a film and having two children, Raul holds my gaze, a soft smile playing on his lips, and I know deep in my bones that this is the man I’ll one day have a family with.

Our first weekend together coincides with a birthday party for one of his friends. It’s so utterly impossible to stop kissing each other and basking in the miracle of just being together that we end up arriving close to midnight, dressed in each other’s clothes and joined at the hip. I’m a little shy to meet all his friends all at once, but everyone is lovely and the boys all play guitar and sing so well. We get very drunk very quickly and if it was possible to explode with joy, I surely would. It’s 3am when we trade the party for the bus stop, where we play guitar and sing to the empty streets.

That bright spark of new love washes over everything, and life feels like a film. It’s like I have a newly heightened sense of awareness, a vision that hones in on all the little details of life around me.

Every ordinary moment is precious; starting the day together with yoga on the front porch, walking aimlessly around the construction lots, stopping to gaze, mesmerised, at a smouldering pile of wood. Riding on the back of his grandad’s bike, the vintage red one he put togther himself decades ago, taking turns pedalling and steering if we’re at the front or closing our eyes and stretching out our arms if we’re on the back. Singing together in the dimly lit garage with the rain tapping against the roof. Walking to the bakery together and holding up the queue with our kissing. Walking down the road with our arms round each other and our steps in sync. Smoking in the dark in a half-built house with his friends, gazing at the full moon and the lights in the houses down the hill and the orange glow that lights up the face of whoever is taking a drag.

His lopsided smile that matches mine and the way he laughs in big gulps, like there’s not quite enough oxygen for all his joy. The way he kisses my entire body, always lingering a little longer on my stomach. The way he looks at me, like just being by my side is the best thing in the world.

This here, all these moments and so many more, are my heaven on Earth. And I know that I am finally living life how it is meant to be lived; in gratitude for every little moment. Every little miracle.

artemis surrounded by pink flowers
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