Saturday, August 28, 2010

Freedom

This was a gentle evening in late spring. The sun was sinking over a friendly sea; the world was a slowly turning kaleidoscope; the world was a once hot fire slowly cooling; and there was peace.

We sit on the deck, watching as the spectacle played out before us, pondering the beauty of life, and the inevitability of endings.

We talk of childhood, conjuring up images of days long past: unending holidays in the sun; exploring, free from the prying eyes of parents; the joy of a river fast and wide; a fishing rod that couldn’t catch fish. We remember a brighter world, an enamelled world, that shone with adventure and possibility; a world where magic existed, if you knew where to look.

Later, as night wraps her inky cloak around us, we talk of lost dreams; of painful metamorphosis; of childhoods end.

We talk of teenage rebellion; long hair that mimics the rock stars we will one day be; our desperate struggle against mediocrity; our stoic belief in magic.

We were cooler though, I say, cooler than rock stars. We were young and the flame of youth was still upon us.

The moon is a lantern in a hermit’s hand.

We talk of becoming adults; hair cut short; nine to five; the lure of money; responsibilities; the tearing, cutting nature of life.

Despite the dark, I know your eyes are sad.

You say “As enamel chips away, cold cast-iron is revealed”

And we are silent.

The sea plays her soft music and a meteor flashes across an untouchable sky.

We are smaller now, I say, but we still _are_, brother.

And, as we head to our beds, there is still hope in the world. And, despite the dark, there is still a flame upon us.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Track

The track leads through the darkness of a winter’s night; up the side of a step hill; past noble trees; up-and-up into the emptiness of no trees; along a treacherous ridge; and finally – out of breath and exhausted – the track leads to the place where earth and √¶ther coalesce.

Ancient light shines through the aching corridors of space. To me the unsure twinkling of snow-crystal stars is more solid than the burning city lights I left behind. Lying beneath that vast emptiness – all those light years of darkness – brings me comfort.

For millennia mankind has been casting questions into the inky well of space. Some questions become satellites; they drop out of orbit and land in the deepest part of the ocean. Other questions have broken free and are winging their way to distant galaxies: who knows if they will return answered?

My question is old.

I know it is old.

But still I ask.

“Why?”

My question bursts out of my chest and flies through the darkness with meteoric speed. My question is a gentle creature riding a fiery dragon. My question breaks through the stratosphere and disappears from sight.

I feel lighter as I stand to leave. I wrap my coat around me; set my feet upon the track, but before I leave, I turn my face to the sky and whisper:

“Good night.”

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Quad

Dave and I were standing in the lunch queue chatting, when Dave suddenly went quiet and started making sideways nodding movements with his head that I took to mean, “Look over there.”

I looked in the direction his head was pointing, but couldn’t see anything in particular; so I looked back at Dave and his eyes were wide, asking me a question I didn’t understand; so I pursed my lips and gave a barely visible, Soap-Opera like, shake of my head, trying to let him know that I didn’t know what he was on about.

“That’s her,” he hissed.

I tried on my best quizzical look, which seemed to work because Dave responded with, “You know, the one I was telling you about.”

To be honest, Dave had been going on about some girl for weeks. He’d first seen her walking across the Quad at interval, and I think he’d skipped a few classes to wait down the Quad “just in the hope” as he called it.

Dave had started head gesturing again, so I had a good look around, and this time I saw her.

“Oh,” I said.

“Oh?” Dave fixed me with a stare that said “If you know anything about her, tell me now.”

“Yeah well, I asked her out is all.”

“You?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Well, what did she say?”

Dave was starting to fidget like an ADHD kid on raspberry cordial. I don’t think he noticed that my cheeks were glowing red, or that my hands were getting sweaty. I looked down at my feet, trying to hide my face, and pushed my hands deep into my pockets. I remember there was some moss growing between the paving stones, and a flattened white drinking-straw near my right foot.

“Well?” Dave repeated: almost a demand this time.

“She said she had a boyfriend,” I mumbled. And then I said “I just remembered I need to be somewhere.”

Dave didn’t want to let it go.

“Perhaps she just told you that because she didn’t like you?” Clearly my feelings were not Dave’s top priority.

“Thanks mate,” I said and started to turn away. I’d forgotten about lunch and just wanted to be on my own.

“Tell me about it later then. I’ve got to get her to go out with me.” Dave sounded exasperated.

She was looking at me as I started to walk away.

Her eyes were sad. She gave me that smile that’s not really a smile, where you press your lips together and look the other person right in the eye.

In my mind the lunchtime Quad was silent: just her and me. And there was an ache in my chest, and tension between my eyebrows.

And in that moment, I knew I wasn’t a kid anymore; I felt older; I felt pain; I felt alive.

I walked on.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

A Fist Full of Fingers

Every Friday afternoon, at four o’clock on the dot, someone would plonk a frosty bottle on Shane’s desk, smile at him and say, “Beer o’clock mate,” as if they’d just invented the expression.

Shane would twist his lips into a smile, give a thin, watery, “Thank-you” and turn back to his work.

At five o’clock on the dot, Shane would drop the unopened bottle into his rubbish bin, and head home.

Shane always watched the same movie, a Western, he knew it by heart.

An unforgiving sun bakes a barren landscape and highlights every line, every contour, of the face of a man with no name.

The camera holds this unflinching face, the hero’s face, far longer than is polite. The face is strong and stoic, brave and uncompromising. It is the face of a man who has no doubts and no rules. It is the face of a man not afraid of who he is.

At the end of the movie Shane finds he is still holding the remote, his thumb still on the play button. He looks down at his arm, his hand, and is reminded that he is not a man with no name: he is Shane.

Every Friday night Shane dreams the same dream: a lens-flare world; a wind blown street; a faceless crowd; a gun fighter; an empty holster. There will be a shot. He will fall to the ground. Rattling spurs will come towards him; and the Man with No Name will be standing over him.

One Friday afternoon, at four o’clock on the dot, Shane swivelled his chair at precisely the same moment as a beer was landing on his desk.

“Not tonight thank-you,” said Shane with force.

“But it’s beer o’clock.”

Shane narrowed his eyes and turned back to his work.

At five o’clock on the dot, Shane headed home. He watched the same movie, had the same realisation and went to bed expecting the same dream.

But that night the dream was different. The hot wind felt the same, and his holster was as empty as ever. The same jangling spurs were coming towards him as he fell to the ground. But as he looked up he didn’t see the Man with No Name: he saw himself.

Shane woke-up happy.