No Strings Attached

Our little wooden cottage was set up on the coast of the Summer Vacay, not very far from the sea. A walk with grandpa, enjoying the tranquility and warmth of the evening in silence forced a lot of questions in me.

Halfway through the slowed-down wobbly steps assured me my answer was ready as soon as I shot my questions. I watched the creases of the boardwalk as we furthered and he said,
‘Look up there. Can you see the path narrowing? Do you see the deep blue ocean looking like a speck of grey dust from here?’
I watched from the boardwalk, and as he said, the mighty ocean did look like a speck of grey dust, from our standpoint.

‘On my first visit to this beach, I thought the ocean was that size. I stopped at the starting point of the boardwalk, and cried to my parents saying I cannot go further. But mommy said “No dear, do not limit your love for the ocean, it’s mightier than it seems from where you stand”.’

‘That’s how love is, son. If you choose to see it only from your stance, you do not get to see its full view. You are going to be disappointed, you are going to be adamant without exploring the truth.’

‘Do you mean to say love has no limits then?’ I asked him again, yearning for an elusive answer.

We reached the beach and sat on the bench that used to be grey. I scrutinized his wrinkled face for an answer but all he had was a smile I assumed to be out of shyness. The 6 PM sun glistened on his transparent skin, the evening felt romantic although not carnally.

‘As highschool sweethearts, your grandma and I used to have many bad days. She was a tornado dressed in an enchantress’ clothes and me, a poor victim. There were times we thought we can’t go on together. Squabbles, spiteful conversations, and finally would end up distancing from each other.’

I listened to him speak with his eyes fixed at the sea. He was recalling details of his voyage of love, I assumed.

‘One day, when we realized we needed to split, we called up our friend who was also a counselor. He made us both sit on the same couch your grandma and I play cross puzzles now. I was not ready to talk and so was she, in her most unwavering attitude. He said, “It’s just time for a perusal of your six years of togetherness.”‘

I looked at him curiously. ‘What sort of a perusal?’

‘Like going back to the drawing board, he handed us a checklist full of statements and confessions that made us question the six years we spent together empty, not knowing where our relationship was heading to. It questioned the torrid kisses that ended us in lovemaking in the oddest places. It made us dubious about the random compliments we threw at each other every morning to our intimate conversations we would never let anybody hear and worst of all, it made all the moments we thought true into pretty little lies.’

I waited and listened.

‘It was a checklist full of limits to love. I checked almost all that was mentioned. She did the same. We were a little appalled. Not sure if we had been in a relationship or a contract.’

‘You see son, the sky is endless and so is the ocean at the horizon, but we don’t see them counting it as a limit. Because it’s only a beautiful line where the sky meets the mighty ocean. Love is like the horizon and us, the sky, and the ocean. For those who see the horizon as a limit, cannot see the beauty of it during sunrises and sunsets but, for those who see it as a line of fusion will see the unconditional beauty it beholds.’

It seemed to me like he was working with those words he learned from the novels grandma read to him every night. It was like a jigsaw for me to chain his words and put them into deep thoughts.

We fell in silence again and watched the glory of the sun sliding down the skyline like a child hiding behind a curtain. The color of the sea turned an unusual purple, the seagulls settled on the blue boat that never set sail.

When the smaller seagull left the edge of the boat to fly away, grandpa got up to leave. I was not complacent. I sat there wishing he’d have more to say.

‘When we realized the truth behind the checklist of limits to love, I realized one thing, son.’ He called me closer so our backs turned to the sky that had already started changing colors.

‘The limits we set to love to create our own space had only created distance, not just physically but emotionally. And I realized, to be in love, is to be yourself. But to be in true love is to be yourself while letting the other person be.’

We walked up to the cottage again and I noticed grandma standing at the doorway, from far I could tell it in her yearning that she had missed grandpa already.

It started to make sense, all at once. Every fanciful expression he used to enlighten me at the beach.
‘There you go,’ he waved. ‘My only limit to love waiting for me with tea,’ and laughed.

So it is what limits to love is then, I thought. As I watched the old couple laugh together and embrace in a hug.

You being her only limit and her, yours.

Nuha Faiz

BA undergraduate. Teacher by profession, reader by birth and a writer by choice. I bond over anything well-written, aesthetics, food and cats.


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