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Each Time He Held My Hand


I giggled the first time he told me he loved me. “You can’t say that. You’re leaving,” was my insensitive reply.

“Just because our time together is short, doesn’t mean I can’t love you.”

We met in a bar one Sunday evening in late March, at the end of a perfect spring day. It was a place I actually preferred to avoid, but on this particular evening, I was keen to be with my friends. I recall walking to meet them, buoyed by the optimism a new season brings.

I’m not even sure how we began talking, but at the end of the night, he reached for my hand. “Let me walk you home,” he said.

Australian born to Italian parents, he’d been living in London for several months but was due home by the end of the summer. I remember calculating how much time remained before he would have to leave.

We soon became a couple. Knowing he was leaving actually gave me the courage to let my guard down. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had a fear of being abandoned. To protect myself, I would walk away if I felt another’s heart grow too close to mine.

It was a somewhat crazy, but carefree summer, and it felt good to love again, even if it took me longer than him to reveal my feelings. And whilst I told myself I wouldn’t be upset when he left, of course, I was. But this relationship always had an end date. We just happened to know ours.

There are many things I would do differently – if I had that time again – but it’s such an important chapter in my story. So whilst I have some regrets, it’s a chapter I hold dear. I’ll always be so grateful for him, because each time he held my hand, he reminded me of what’s important to me in a relationship.

My first husband wasn’t a bad man, but he wasn’t comfortable showing affection, and certainly not in public. I recall how often I felt alone, simply because I longed to be hugged or to have him reach for my hand. It wasn’t his fault, I grew up in a tactile family and it wasn’t until years later I realized the mistake I’d made in pretending that affection didn’t matter that much to me.

But that summer, I was strongly reminded. I believe I was not only meant to meet this man – who would soon be gone – but that he was sent to me. Mine for a short while so I’d feel safe enough to not only love again, but to understand the kind of love I needed, crazy as that may sound.

Sent to remind me of what it felt like to be loved by another; someone who would reach out to hold my hand. And he wouldn’t just reach for it. Frequently he would pull it to his chest, and hold it pressed against his heart.

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Esther Zimmer is an Australian writer, lifestyle coach and personal stylist based in London. She believes everyone has a calling, and it’s not necessarily just one thing. The home she shares with her husband, David, is filled with art and books, and her favorite pastime is packing a bag and heading somewhere new. Esther writes about life, relationships, body image and travel and can be found at

14 thoughts on “Each Time He Held My Hand”

  1. Your last line makes me think of James… Sometimes when he was driving, he would reach for my hand, pull it to his lips and kiss it. He would always look at me out of the corner of his eye while he had his lips pressed to the back of my hand. He did this the morning he died. A nice memory from that horrific day. xoxox, Brenda

  2. You had a magical connection with another human being. And it sounds like you have it in proper perspective, too. A special memory!

  3. I can’t even tell you how much I love this sweet story. I really relate to your line about how realizing your mistake in pretending something wasn’t important to you. I’, too, have done that–it goes beyond compromise or the give-and-take of a relationship when it’s a denial of your basic needs. I definitely think he was sent you to you to open you up to love and trust and help you see the WAY you need to be loved. XO

    • Lee, thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comment. Sadly, I doubt we’re alone in pretending certain things aren’t important – when they are. I’m grateful to be older and wiser but to have also learnt this lesson from my ‘summer love’. Esther xx

    • Thank so much, Jen. I believe we all deserve to feel loved in a way that feels right for us. I’m married now to a gorgeous man who is as affectionate and loving as I am – but that’s partly in thanks to my summer romance – it taught me exactly what I wanted and needed! Esther xx

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