The first language I connected with you was English. I walked over to you, picking you out from among all the others there, and interrupted your reading. Knowing you now, I realise that I was running a real risk. At least my first observation was one grounded in literature – a comment on Ian McEwan – and not just idle chit-chat.
When I found out your name, I connected another language with you. The Latin root of your name was and still is so apt for you, standing out utterly beautiful there in that drab government-school staffroom. Clara. Clarissima. Bright, shining, and clear.
When I discovered your ancestry, I connected two other languages to you. Chiara is an antithesis to represent the two halves of you – in Italian, you are Light, whereas in Irish Gaelic you are the Dark. I have known you for almost five years now, and in that time we have dwelled in the brightest heights of happiness and love and delved into the depths of despair and depression and pain. With you I have lived the bitter and the sweet, and now I know why those paradoxes are so necessary. They are the necessities of day and night. Cold and hot. Sorrow and Joy. Without pain and sorrow, there is no peace or joy. We move through the darkness in order to love the light even more.
My father gave you a name in our language, on the day that we stood under the trees in your parents’ garden and made our vows to each other. On that day he said out loud what I had felt from the moment I first met you – that you were Khethiwe, the one picked out, the specially chosen one. More than that, you are My Khethiwe.
In every language that I know, ma chérie, to me your name means love – real, total, complex and intense. I have spoken to you and with you and of you in the tongues of men and of angels, and have given you all the love that I can express in words and actions – all the different interpretations of you. Love may not be enough to heal our wounds, or to put food on our table, or to fix all the brokenness that makes up our lives – but it fills me up when I think of you. That is what you mean to me.