Could I have known Stuart Brockman was a dangerous man? Not at the start, surely. But violence rumbled under the surface all the time I knew him, or tried to know him. There was an undulating presence about him, a tenuous calm trying to be contained, but whether rising from pressures of his own or energized by winds from the shoreline, meaning me most probably, I couldn’t know with any certainty. Thinking back, the threat of violence loomed around the corner and I suppose that was enough to keep me on my toes because sure-footed I wasn’t in the way I see some long married couples striding through their years on sensible shoes, good fitting and supportive.
There were warning signs, I suppose, low-key danger signals like the sound of blow-outs you think might be shots. You decide they're blow-outs because you need to. Or more usual disturbances like the roar of heavy traffic coming through the window, moderately scary sounds but familiar. You even fall asleep to them. Maybe I did sleep through some signals because for certain I was never afraid of him. A warning might have been in his eyes, but I wasn't looking so much as feeling them on me, so his eyes went through me, swept right past all the security checks I'd had in place and when I took notice it was too late. He was already inside, robbing my heart blind.
So what was it about him that made me fall in love with him? And fall is what we do with love relationships, like trip or stumble, or roll head over heels; something precarious. It felt like an accident, surely something I didn’t plan on. Well, he was interesting; not a boring thing about him, always something new and challenging to be with him. No, not that or why not go to the library and find an intriguing character you can spend a week with and then toss in the return bin? I don’t know, it could be because I felt intriguing being with him, I myself a new character. He was so mercurial I had to keep changing right along to keep up. He did keep me sharp and I must have liked that or thought I did. No question, Stuart was smart and he recognized I was as well and that was necessary for me. He was a good lover, too, and could make me feel beautiful and that’s what a woman needs to feel with a man in the dark. And he was good looking but ordinary tall-dark-and-handsome, no exceptional wow components, excepting maybe his eyes which were almost too intense to look at for long if they were on you; and his smile, that glint of sunlight bursting through the clouds that warmed right down to my toes when I was the one to move the clouds aside. But finally, if it came right down to it, the hook that brought me to him and kept me there was empathy. Yes, empathy, because like it or not, I seemed to get right in there with him, taking on his regrets, his malaise, his terror; I shared the darkness of his days and his unforgiving nights. I cared about him. There’s no escaping empathy. It’s the most human of virtues; I don’t know how I got it and I wish to hell I never did.