December 12th

These blog posts are thinning out to say the least, partly because I'm busy, and partly because I've already said a lot of things I wanted to. Which is better, repeating yourself endlessly, or staying silent once you've said your piece?

Quote of the Week

  • "This house has been far out at sea all night, |The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills, |Winds stampeding the fields under the window |Floundering black astride and blinding wet |Till day rose; then under an orange sky |The hills had new places, and wind wielded |Blade-light, luminous black and emerald, |Flexing like the lens of a mad eye." - Ted Hughes, Wind

Monday, 28 July 2008

Illusion Broken (part I)

He had once loved another.

He had not met Rachael for some time now, but retained an image of her in his mind, a symbol of his greatest hopes, and his deepest fears. She was beautiful, and in his once-naive mind her beauty was even greater. He saw her as an oasis of hope; compassionate and driven among the desert of dull, selfish, unmotivated souls around them. He had found, at last, one whom he had to respect – and was at the same time elated and terrified.

They spoke often, their intellect drawing each other together. But he knew, as a child knows since its birth how to draw breath, that he would not have her. Sarcasm was his armour to hide old wounds that had never fully healed, but it repelled her along with the others whom he feared opening up to, and they spoke less as time went by.

He knew he wasn’t good enough, but comforted himself in the thought that he would rather she reject him for not being good enough, than accept him out of pity. He wanted to earn her love – and so over the years he slowly exorcised his demons. He analyzed major decisions, judging them by what he felt she would do. He learned to take the barb of insult without flinching, to take defeat with grace rather than anger, to win battles within himself rather than with his fists, always hoping for one day when he would be worthy. When life became gruelling, she became his purpose, his raison d'existence.

He left for distant shores before that day came, clinging to the hope that he would see her again.

Meanwhile, his personal crusade continued. Within a year his demeanour had changed from angst-ridden to purposeful, from cynical to understanding. The old wounds that he once needed to hide had almost completely disappeared, and his cynicism resurfaced only rarely from the depths of his past. He had, in his attempts to remake himself, victoriously confronted each and every skeleton in his closet. But that did not change the fact that she was ‘the one who got away’, and those close to him thought that there was a hint of sadness in his voice when he spoke of her. He eventually shied away from relationships, not wanting to have to compare his current girlfriends with her, for the one in his mind's eye always won.

Life was good, confidence was returning to him, and it seemed the great battle was finally drawing to an end, when one day he tried to recall her face, and realised, with a start, that he could not....

To be continued.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

A Gulf between Two

He was sitting with his friend in a quiet corner of the dining hall. One of the staff entered, leading a small group of people. She was with them. He hadn’t expected that.

A deep sadness began to well up within him. She saw him, smiled and waved quickly, before going to the other end of the hall with the rest of the new staff. He waved back, mask on to hide his wound. Under his guise even his friend next to him could not see it. They continued their conversation as the well of sadness continued to rise. His mask slowly began to crack.

His friend noticed the change of mood and implored. He gave in, his emotions gradually seeping out.

“This isn’t right. She deserves more than this.” He said it quietly, almost to himself.

With a baleful eye he watched as she put on an apron handed out by the senior staff.

His friend did not know her well enough to have heard her story. He explained under gentle interrogation what the other needed to know. After some minutes he could see that he comprehended his plight.

Anne was remarkably intelligent even among the university students, a fact that both of them noticed when they each met her. While not physically stunning, she had an aura of quiet strength, built up gradually by years of enduring hardship. By a cruel twist of fate, she had failed her examinations when others less intelligent had passed, and thus had to remain in university while he returned home. With little money left in her account, she had decided to seek work, and now here she was, in the same hall he and other students had paid thousands to live in.

And there he was, powerless to help her despite the endless good fortune he reaped. He felt guilty. He played with his food and waited for a chance to speak with her.

Some minutes later, the senior staff member was called away – he had his chance. He walked over. For an instant, her smile reached across the chasm and gave him a jolt of warmth.

He greeted her, somewhat stiffly from behind the mask. She returned the greeting with warmth. Somehow he knew she sensed his discomfort.

“Hey, can you skive off a few minutes? I’m in the hall for another hour,” he said.

“I can’t I’m afraid, this is my first day at work so I can’t afford to slip up.”

“Okay, I’ll give you a ring later then. We might be able to meet in the next few days.”

"Will do.”

Their short conversation came to a halt as the staff member returned.

“Better leave you to it then,” he said as they exchanged smiles again. He moved off as the staff member began giving assignments to the new arrivals.

In his room, the terrible sadness descended upon him again. Though they might cross the mental gulf occasionally, and perhaps even bridge it for a time, it always threatened their tenuous connection.

Frustration at their circumstances took him, then anger. He quelled them both quickly – there was no use being angry – but the deep sense of loss continued. He wanted to reach out and hug her, to shelter her from the storm with his own body.

He looked out of his window at the sky and saw – as one instantly sees everything when lightning flashes across the night sky – that the battle was hers to fight, and that what she needed was a good friend, not a lover. The best thing he could do for her was to be that good friend.

He would lose a limb if it would have helped her, but what he needed to do was far more difficult. It would be one of the hardest decisions of his life, and he knew he would wonder about that choice in the future.

For her, and only her, he would do it anyway. He would stay on the other side of the gulf he placed between them. Such was his love.