You should come visit, you say. Or better, live. There is life outside of your far-flung island.
I am fond of the challenge of my own green isle, at once Empire and own. I do not think I could be comfortable in England, lying at the mouth of Europe, gazing down into its black throat. So instead of answering the challenge, I demurely ask after your wife, the babies. I enquire about the practice and its patients.
Our silence has weeded up in the last six months, a glossy tangle of green and shadow. It is the nature of a weed to flourish where it is least welcome, more because of, than in spite of our efforts to control it. We tend carefully to our relationships, creating fertile ground of conversation and laughter, and it is here that a silent weed can thrive the best. It sleeps beneath the rich, black soil; quietly expectant, ruthlessly patient, until it chokes the life out of the other flowers.
This is where we make our mistake: silence must not be filled. It should starve. But we are both young enough to pretend not to know this, and so we try to lead the other into a rash promise. Who will visit first? Who will leave last? We are both stubbornly set in our points of the Commonwealth, I and my Britain brother. Neither will admit to their love of the other being enough to pull them from home, and so we fight our tug of war. Come visit, I say. Bring the children. You laugh and tell me that I will soon regret cocooning myself into an experience as small as New Zealand.
Ours is a painted comfort, a trick of the eye, so that it is more real than life itself. We slip easily into conversation, but it has been too long since we last spoke. The silent weeds have flourished, and we cannot wade too deeply into that undergrowth, for fear of what we may encounter. We talk some more about work and school.
For a moment, I think about cocoons. How warm, how safe they must feel. How dangerous and brave it is for the caterpillar to cage itself like that, not knowing how or why until the moment the thread begins to spin out. Finally, I think about the moth that emerges from the cocoon, so impossibly different to the creature that risked all it was for something it never knew it could be.
We nourish our silence for a while more, and murmur our goodbyes. Before I hang up, you tell me that the invitation still stands. You miss me, and feel as though you hardly know me anymore. Of course, you actually say nothing about what you do or don't know, just that you miss me. Come stay, you urge me. The invitation still stands.