A story I wrote for uni. It's a little maudlin.
There’s this song out there that goes along the lines of “it’s funny how we don’t talk any more”. I struggle to understand what’s so funny about it. Is it funny serious or funny haha? It has to be serious. I wouldn’t be out here walking among these trees while the sun is making its sad way down the sky if it was funny.
In reverie among the trees, wondering endlessly and aimlessly, with that song coursing through my head. Can’t get rid of it now – it’s doing an eternal jam, rising up and down, bouncing about like something important crying for attention.
There’s a grove of hoop pines up ahead. Try as I may, I can’t see any hoops in them though I do admire the symmetry of their proud crowns. Permanent statues in this time of flux, immune to the doubts and anguishes of humankind. Their leaves are like pine needles, carpeting the ground, providing a trenchant barrier between sky and earth. I stoop to pick them up and note the sun filtering through nature.
Another day ends.
Long afternoon shadows make for sad, dark eyes. I can see your eyes now even if they cannot see me in return. Am I blind to you? I guess I have been for days, weeks now. There’s only so much scope for wondering where the time went. What was shared, what was spoken, what was avoided.
‘You need to address it,’ she says. ‘Walking and running away won’t help. All you’re doing is postponing things.’
That’s when we had something to say to one another. Reminding me of our first meeting when I saw her legs emerge from her metal chariot. Where was it? Shopping mall? Cinema? Another plane of existence?
I had nearly run into her lovely car with the shopping trolley. Clumsy, clumsy me. She, the straight up comedienne, lightly throwing heavy words at me, smiling at my silly shirt and scuffed Doc Martin low cuts. We talked and talked and talked. Coffee, smiles, reminisces, hand holding, her small dry hands absorbing my nervousness. A sweet grin here, a furtive lustre there. Meagre things of beauty.
I am letting the sun go down on me. Why should I fight it? This afternoon in the quasi-wilderness belongs to me and no-one else. The cicadas, the bell-miners, and even the high grasses along the river bank – they all step aside for me. I press on. Each step takes me farther from her and close to – what? The afternoon sky is the colour of unknown, the doubtful future.
‘Jimmy, I’m here for you always,’ she says. Hackneyed speech, given with feeling if no imagination. Always is a long time I tell her, a banality to match her own. Good, we’re equal now. Stand tall, stand ready, for here it comes. I can’t stop it and neither can you.
Another day ends.
I have Joy Division and Faith-era Cure songs scatting through my head now. Songs of heavier steps and leaden weights replacing fluff and new-wave synths. Earlier, I was playing this game on my computer, some cheap highly-rated thing I’d read about. Cost me five bucks. You don’t have much to do in it to except walk around some forsaken Scottish island looking for the way up to the lighthouse that sits so proudly at the top of the hill. Too easy, really. No violence, no guns, no drugs, no controversial themes to get certain types worked up.
Now I’m doing the same thing. Wandering through the trees, trying to find my own lighthouse. Perhaps I can get there and put its lights out.
‘What am I supposed to do?’ Lisa asks. ‘You really want me to come home to this? I mean like, every day? It’s not fair.’
Do what you’ve always done, you pillar of strength. Just simple presence counts for so much. Being there aids when conversation turns to the weather and woolgathering. Sometimes I don’t want to hear you, but give me your little hands.
But it’s not all about me, is it? There’s you too Lisa, in our inviolate duo.
‘You’re avoiding the truth,’ says she. ‘Just putting your life on hold. Hoping that it will all go away. You know like…’ She waves those darling little hands, my $3000 ring on the left one, sparkling in the evening lights. ‘Like it’s going to be swept under the mat. You’ll wake up and everything will be hunky-dory. If you don’t care about yourself, do you seriously expect others to as well?’
The river past the trees resembles liquid gunmetal in the afternoon fall. Burnishing steel rippling from source to sea, while transient things like myself step lightly, caring more about video games and late 70s post-punk than I do about the thoughts and feelings of the delightful one who wears my $3000 ring.
I’d say sorry, but it’s the most pathetic word in the English language. Next to the word soon. When sorry and soon are used in the same sentence? That’s pure tragedy – what’s been said cannot be unsaid. Or taken back. The air mightn’t remember cold words delivered with futile venom, but I do.
It’s all worthless. Nugatory, to use a big word. The gunmetal river, the pine trees, or even the cicadas crawling up the trunks, emerging from their decade-long hibernation in the brown earth. All meaningless, all nugatory, all of life’s little labours rendered into stateless motes. Here today, gone tomorrow. Evanescent. Another big word.
Still, it doesn’t mean anything, me being out here, Lisa being where she is. I’ve given up. All there’s left to do is wander now, let my feet take me where they will, and give my mind the freedom it’s cried for all these years. The uncaring and indifference of nature, blissfully incognisant of the little human walking so quietly in its midst, while the sun drops slowly to the dark line. It’s just as uncaring. The antics of humans are of no account to the sun. I doubt the moon cares much either. So who does care? Lisa? No. Me? Question without an answer.
Another day ends.
‘I’m glad we never had a family,’ she says. ‘Staying on the Pill was a good idea. The greatest idea I’ve ever had. Why would I want kids to someone like you? You don’t care about anything. There’s no light in this house.’
So there we go. She says I don’t care. The penny has dropped – it went kaboom when it hit the floor. The earth dies screaming. Then again, maybe not. It’s just going to me that ends that way, eaten from within. Screaming. Finalised, superannuated, redlined. One brief flicker gone from the oblivious world.
I’ll be sorry soon.
Lisa will soon be sorry.
It’s far from funny when we don’t talk any more. It’s a profound violation of good order. It’s a headlong scramble that I can’t stop.
Why would I want to? Maybe in my perverse moments of lucidity I like knowing that I’m on a fast-moving one way road. That what I thought was infinite is now finite. The immortal is now mortal. Pennies are dropping everywhere, big ones, round ones, valueless ones. Some even have Lisa’s face on the obverse. She’s not smiling.
‘Just go,’ she says. The breeze is shaking the mango tree next door, kids are getting out of school. My mind is empty of emotion. I’ve won this battle though I’m not sure if it’s worthy of a victory dance. I’m not a good dancer. I have no rhythm. ‘Get out. Go where you need to go. I’m done.’
Across the gunmetal, a girl is riding a mountain bike along the riverside trail. Alone with her fitness and happiness. There’s a broken wine bottle off the path before me. I can’t read the label. It’s faded but perhaps once it signified a work of pride, a product lovingly laboured over. The vintner said this is from me to you. Love, cheers mate.
I’m never going to see you again.
The thought pierces my faux-calm, my pretending. Penetrates the weak shield that I had constructed. In the peace of twilight I stop. I want to say something, even if it’s only for the benefit of sky and wind. My mouth opens and I turn on the spot. The girl is no longer on her bike. She’s sitting on the far bank, two hundred metres away, the bike resting beside her. Looks like she’s on the phone. I wish I knew her number. Say g’day to her. How’s your day been, sweetheart. Keeping fit?
She doesn’t care either. I’m blind to her too. I wonder if she has sad dark eyes. There’s nothing to be gained here. The sun has reached its dark line, falling out of the sky, and the shadows become long, and I get stretched out as well, like a Modigliani.
I wish I could have said more. Smiled more. Said everything will be all right, even when we all knew it was far from it. I’m sorry Lisa. It’s both a terrible word and a terrible sentiment, but too bad, you know? I’m sorry.
The sun has died. Another day has ended.