You drink enough so that it blurs.
It makes it easier.
I shouldn’t be able to read something I wrote six years ago that is so poignant and heart breaking that it nearly makes me sick, something that cuts through the bluster, so raw and direct that this artifice I erect, the field around me crumbles and I am given a glimpse into whatever truth lies within.
“Summer had come early that year
It was May, if I remember correctly
We took a holiday together, we were young, free
Enjoying the blissful period in the aftermath of our wasted degrees
That time before life took hold.
I held her hand as we walked, her soft flesh pressed against mine, her scent mingling with the cured air, walked through the dusty car park, up a winding path and along the cliff face that overlooked the cove.
The wind was blowing, a fresh sea breeze – respite from the worst of the heat.
We talked and laughed as couples in love do.
I held her in my arms as we watched the sea, wanting to collapse into her.
The day wore on. Absorbed, time fled before us.
It was 8 o’ clock, no rooms at the inn.
Ill-prepared we pitched a tent for the night.
I returned, walked through the door of the pub, ordered a gin, lit a cigarette and resumed.”
There is a postscript, it is both laboured and uninteresting to me, too weighed down by my then frailty, my inability to engage. The point of this piece is that it is a fiction. She never joined me for this holiday. The girl of which I speak was by then an other. I was alone, as perhaps, I always have been. That breakup, the aftermath informs so much of me it could never be disentangled from my life, but worse, the tragedy here, is that she was never a part of it.
I struggle to look back at the writing from my early twenties. Keep everything at a distance and write in riddles. Stretch language to its breaking point. That’s how I used to approach things. I was still hurt and raw. I was still too personally involved. Sometimes, something real, something honest might emerge, but I was a coward. I could say so much more with an image that I could with a word. It might take me longer, but I wasn’t afraid then, I didn’t have to fear the same scrutiny, judgement of myself, as if these words, the sentences I had constructed were in some way a mirror of whatever fragile thing I kept hidden from the world.
Of course it’s worth remembering here that we’re talking about a man mutilated by his attempts to conceal, to deny whatever emotions had taken hold of him. You see, in this situation, sometimes it is easier to destroy, to wreak havoc upon a body than it is to connect with those feelings, to take from that chaos of feeling enough meaning, enough worth to construct a cohesive, reasonable explanation. It’s easier to put it aside and cut away, exchanging mental anguish for the far more explicit and controllable physical pain that follows.
There are days I look at myself, occasional moments when, unexpectedly greeted with my mutilated body, I am shocked. How did I become this? Yet in some way, this is the only thing that’s kept me alive – this, the ruined body I inhabit, is in a sense, the price I must pay for my continued existence.
I’ve changed, I have become a different person. I look back at the man I was, I see flaws, I see the failures of judgement and the embarrassments, and I like to think I have improved. Don’t we all? Isn’t it comforting to believe that we become better people with age?
I was an awful human being. I treated another as no other should be treated. That is my crime, a sin I can never repent. I am flawed, I am failed. I move on. To me, she was never more than the ghost of something I needed in my life. It was only in realising that in hers, in her life I too was nothing, a moment, a passing movement, that I found myself free. It destroyed me, crushed whatever I believed I was, and from there, I was able to make sense of things. Again, she was no more than a catalyst.
What fate is this? To look over forbidden chat logs, lost messages and reveal a life barely lived, forgotten, because the symbol consumes, sucks the life from whatever human connection you might have? I look back and wonder what life we really had. Not the one imagined, but that truly experienced, because in a sense, I was never really there. For all our multitude of sins toward one another, all of you, all I can say is sorry, but I was never there at all. So many lies that I can barely believe in myself.
But it ends. Aren’t we all alone in the end. Attached, later, hidden in the same folder a lone document reads,
“I saw this man once, glimpsed in fields at the end of time.
The heather ignites, the sky marbled and flowing. I am collapsed. Propped by a tree. Ruptured. There’s something on the horizon, dark, incomprehensible. I close my eyes and see him. He’s alone, smoking and drinking and laughing at it all. How I’d like to be him. How I can’t.”
Why do so many of your names start with S and end with the death of me?