A Tale... Epilogue (2)
The light sound echoes around me as I dive into the space below, watching the cascading colours stretching into the distance. My arms stretch out to encompass everything, every sound and every feeling around me then hug them to me. I feel a breath against my cheek then hear light laughter, her laughter, as a bright circle of luminescence passes close by. Chasing after it, it glides away from me, teasing me as it approaches then quickly disappearing behind me, the shape forming into her as I watch hearing her laughter mixing with mine. I have walked from within the wood to find her. She had been waiting.
The wind howls past me as I stand and stare out to the sea crashing far beneath me. My mind is blank and only a single emotion prevails causing a solitary tear to breach my eye and run down my cheek. Thoughts flood into my mind bringing a torrent of feelings causing me to flail and twist, confusion reigning behind my closing eyes. Then it happens so suddenly like the ending of a constant, the chaos leaving a solitary idea. I open my eyes and reach into my jacket taking out my wallet and removing the notes placing them into my trouser pocket. The wallet seems to hold momentarily before falling into the waves; my watch following and every marker of my identity disappearing into the grey mist below. The gold of my ring catches the earthy light before I almost pull my arm throwing it against the wind into the past. Turning away, the past at my back and forever buried.
“Here,” I motion my old clothes towards the man sitting on the step. He looks up and sees what I’m offering. I can see a question forming in his dark eyes, but he takes them from me.
“Thanks mate... I’ll see what I can do with them.” Then he starts looking through them before I’ve turned to go. I turn away and leave him with them and head towards the motorway junction. I look too old to be a student and I wonder if anyone will stop with my covered hand held out to the wind. The jacket is cheap and would allow me to freeze if it wasn’t for the jumpers underneath cutting down the amount of wind slicing into me on it’s way past. My new jeans are thick and I keep the leggings in my jacket pocket in case it gets any colder, especially during the night. The new love of my life is the woollen hat which keeps my ears warm. Much against my belief a car pulls up in front of me.
The suit feels so smooth. His fingers just seem to glide over it. His grubby fingers. Like holding the reed against the rose, he feels the lacking of his own beauty. Only a suit. The man giving them has gone leaving an empty suit. The shirt he can’t touch; so white against his dirt stained fingers. What can I do with a sodding suit? He thinks to himself. Carefully he puts it into a bag. Wanting to sink back into himself, his body resists, his mind starts to awaken as to what a suit may do within a material world.
“Sorry mate, would have a couple of quid?” The youths at the bus stop turned to him, still laughing.
“What’s that?” Turning to face him, the old, dark clothes dwarfing his body.
“Would you have a couple of quid?” He asks again.
“Here you go, here’s a quid and don’t go wasting it on a cup of coffee!” They start laughing again.
“Don’t worry mate. I won’t.”
He notices the tall man standing at a taxi rank wearing a dark suit with a leather briefcase in one hand and a lighter in the other which he constantly grasps and ungrasps.
“Would you have a cigarette at all?” He says as he approaches him.
“Sorry? Oh, right. Here you are.” A cigarette is offered to him which he takes into his fingers. After it has been lit for him he throws an unexpected question into the air.
“What’s the longest word in the English language with no vowels?” The tall man turns to stare at him.
“I’m sorry?” The question is repeated and the tall man stops, turning away from the road and blinks. The sudden stillness is broken with the reply. “I’ve no idea.”
“Rhythm.” They look at each other for a moment and the man gives the briefest of smiles. “Could you spare a couple of quid at all?”
Once again he finds himself at the library. Smiling at the librarian he stores his bags in the corner keeping one with him and starts browsing the aisles. He wonders how many times he has been in here over the last few weeks, reading, taking shelter from the rain. How he hated to leave to go back into the world outside, to try and keep himself warm against the cold, cold wind.
He gathers some of his bags and sits on them as a chair and opens the book the librarian was kind enough to let him have for the day. The doorway is large beside him and he gathers his strength to announce his voice to the open air. He begins, the goal passing him courage in his mind and after the longest time he hears himself finish.
“... DO NOT GO GENTLY INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT. RAGE, RAGE AGAINST THE DYING OF THE LIGHT!” His voice dies down as the few students that have gathered round him outside the refectory start to leave. He stands up from his bag and picks up the empty hat, looking around him at the departing people. A young girl approaches him and places a coin into his hand. He looks at her and finds himself looking into her deep, sad eyes. “It must be awful,” she says. He sees her flawless skin and the pretty face holding her haunting eyes.
“Sometimes, something happens which makes it worth it,” he replies quietly to her and he watches her receding figure into the distance. He opens his hand to see the coin and he knows that all he can do now is wait for the world to catch up with him.
He checks the newspaper advertisements in the library until he finds what he needs and feels an apprehensive smile on his lips after putting the payphone back in the receiver. After talking with the librarian, he leaves the bags behind and carries one with him. Walking through the automatic doors into the store taking in the stares of the staff he picks up the items and pays at the counter, placing a bundle of change in front of the disconcerted employee not catching his eyes. He strides out the store and makes his way to the train station. Paying the toll and passing the suspicious look from the guard he heads into the facilities. The shower feels like a baptism on his body as he scrubs and soaps himself from the past. Slowly, but slowly he feels his reddened skin ridding itself of a world inflicted history. He starts to see a face behind his beard in the mirror as he patiently clips with the scissors. His skin feels raw as he covers his face with soap for the third time and takes another new razor from the packet. Then he finally looks at himself in the mirror and sees himself, not as a stranger but a welcome guest. After rubbing the toothpaste into his teeth with his finger several times he opens the bag and dresses himself in the suit. His boots held together barely show under the trousers legs that he staples to the correct size. The jacket looks large but he sees only the whole and he breathes deep then heads outside into a future not given, but taken.
“Oh, yes. I’ve worked with real ale before and I helped with the cleaning out of the pipes and all that. Unfortunately, the pub’s closed now; you know what it’s like in the capital.”
“You would have no problem with terminating the rent on your current abode with such short notice? We really need somebody to start quickly.”
“No, it’s an easy going arrangement at the moment. I also wouldn’t have much to move in with as I’ve been travelling for quite a bit.”
“The pay rates are fine?”
“Excellent. There’s a couple of other people to see, but I think.. well, we’ll contact you tomorrow to let you know.”
“Thanks mate. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.” Their hands shake and he smiles. A smile that seems to take over his whole face.
He sits beside the phone in the library, anxious and pensive. Praying for no-one to want to use it until he gets his call. As the hours pass he can feel himself sinking, but when the phone rings he still jumps and he picks it up, his hand shaking.
“May I speak with William Brown?”
“Hi, it’s the Book and Stamp here. I’m pleased to offer you the live-in barman position if you can start on Monday?”
His smile takes in the world around him and he closes his eyes as he replies.
She places the coin in his hand and looks at him. Then she feels she has to say something to give some reason for the gift she will not miss.
“It must be awful.” She realises the open ended statement and wonders if she’ll be burdened with someone else’s problems on top of her own. But the reply causes her to pause before turning away and heading away from the tramp with her memory in his hand.
She gets up from her table to the sound of her mother calling her. As she gets down the stairs she sees Michael at the door.
“Tina, are ye coming out?”
“No, I can’t. I really have to finish something.”
“Whit! Yer no da-in yer homework again?”
“Ah, go on hen. The fresh air’ll do ye good.” Her mother says staying at the door.
“Look, just fuck off... I need to, okay!” She wants to say so many things in her scattered thoughts; I need support, I need your help to get out of here, can’t you see that? I need to pass, I need to stay on, to get to college. But she runs back up the stairs, slamming the door of the room. Sitting back down at the table a tear rolls down her cheek as she feels so alone with everyone around her. Slowly she gets up and looks out of her window and sees him idling past street lights on the cold winter evening, his head looking down at the pavement.
Opening the door of the building she makes her way to her room. Entering her flat, she notices it is empty and sits down heavily on the end of her bed, looking into the kitchen then out the window to the rain starting outside leaving spots against the glass.
They are out of breath from running as they reach the bottom of the hill. Looking around then collapsing to the ground in a heap. Their young faces red with exertion.
“Should we keep going? Do ye think they’ll catch up,” her speech is ragged as she speaks through short, rapid breaths.
“Nah, they’re off somewhere else or they’re bored chasin’ us.”
“I’m scared I’ll run into them on my own.”
“When would that be? I’m always with ye.”
“Ah ken. Just worried, that’s all. What about when we get to secondary school, though?”
“Secondrey? That’s weeks away.”
“Sometimes, something happens which makes it worth it...”
“I.., I miss ye,” he looks deeply into his cup of tea, not meeting her eyes.
“Me too.” She reaches over and takes hold of his hand across the table, causing him to look up. He looks into her eyes and sees a reflection of his own feelings.
“Come on,” he says as he motions her to get ready to go. He leaves a coin on the table and they rush out into the cold holding hands, their breath leaving a brief trail of clouds as they see the alley behind the shop and turn into it, holding each other and finding their lips pushing together, his back against the wall. Then she lets go.
“I can’t,” she mutters quietly.
“I can’t get caught,” she says almost to herself as she backs away.
“From what? Who? What are ye on about?”
“From this,” she motions her arms around her, to the alley, to the buildings to life around her, but she knows he only sees his own confusion, that he cannot see the bars she sees when she walks around and sees empty people pushing prams, hears her parents arguing at night. “Please don’t ask me to be like them.” She turns and runs and he does not chase but stands with his back against the wall looking after her.
The boiling kettle interrupts her unwelcome memories and she sees the cloud of steam billowing out. Switching it off she pours the hot water into the cup and stirs in the milk. The chinking sound of the spoon against the china stirs in her.
“Thanks for coming,” she says to him. He is stirring his tea absently as she speaks.
“Nae problem. Ye can only look at so many jobs at the jobcentre before they all start lookin’ the same. My filofax is pretty much empty fer the rest of the day.”
She looks at him and it is like looking at his reflection in a warped mirror. He looks hollow, she thinks. He looks up and turns away from the look of pity in her eyes; starting to feel angry.
“My results came through. I wanted to tell you that I’m leaving for university.”
“Ye left a long time ago. Look, congratulations and all that. Great, terrific. Dinnae forget tae look down on me once in a while. Hope ye don’t mind, but I have tae go now. Glad ye had a chance tae gloat.”
“Michael! I’m not gloating... How could you think that?” He just looks away and takes out a coin to throw on the table. “Don’t worry, I’ll get it,” she says to him.
“Don’t worry, I can still afford a cup of tea.” He throws the coin on the table and walks out, never looking back, then the door quietly closes behind him. She looks at the coin and picks it up, taking a note out of her purse and leaving it on the table. When she gets outside there is no sign of him; putting on her gloves, she heads back to collect her things.
It feels like everything has just crashed around him. He had known since she’d ran away from their first and only kiss that he couldn’t have her, but it couldn’t stop him feeling like the rug had just been swept out from under him. His anger dissipated almost as soon as it had come as he threw the coin on the table and stood to go, turning his back before she could see his eyes redden as he blinked to hold back the tears carrying a heavy feeling of being cast away.
He swirled the beer at the bottom of the pint glass looking at it, before sighing and swallowing what was left. People had come and gone from the bar for most of the evening as he had sat there, groups of couples and single men hunting in packs. Most of them only stayed for few before heading off to the next field hoping the grass would be greener. He knew how green all the fields were around here and most of them were simply knee deep in mud. Slamming the glass on the table he then gets up to approach the bar.
He stands thinking as he waits at the bar. The music is started from the jukebox and he looks over to see a couple of hyenas standing there, laughing with each other.
“A pint and give me a couple of vodkas as well.” When the vodkas arrive, he tips one down his throat then awaits the lager to follow. Starting on the pint he notices the group to his left casting glances over at him. He feels their eyes trawling over him and concentrates on looking at his glass again. He can see them moving out of the side of his eye and starting to make their way towards him. He gets up and makes his way to the toilets, then suddenly bolts through the doors to the outside world. He knows they will be after him shortly and he runs as he has run for most of his life, glancing behind him.
The driver talks away beside me as he has done since he picked me up. Where am I going, he asks me and I cannot tell him as I do not know myself. South, is all I can say without much certainty, to the coast. Shrugging, he tells me to get in. The car is warm and the man himself is large and heavily built, not someone to be afraid of anyone like myself. I don’t offer much conversation except politeness and it offers a distraction from my own thoughts. I feel bulky with my coat still on but manage to make myself comfortable as it is not a small car.
Night falls as we drive on. Pulling off the motorway we head past villages and into small towns with huge speed signs. I look into the night around me, at buildings passing quickly by, then I see a figure dart out and hear the driver swearing as he slams on his brakes and I realise that I am not wearing the seat belt. Swerving, there is a large thud as the car slams and I can feel pain, glass shattering and cold air; all I can see is red then I feel my whole body slam into something hard, things inside me broken and breaking and then I cannot feel anything against me for a time before hitting into hardness again. I am aware of my body, this broken thing that I am... I am being lifted and I can see images, all red surrounded by darkness; the car mangled against a lamppost, the driver being cut from the wreckage by firemen, a figure sitting on the pavement with policemen standing above him holding his head in his hands, the crowd gathering from the public house. The darkness begins to close in on the red images, enshrouding everything, dispersing the pain, the sorrow and finishing the torment.
I am aware of myself in darkness, can hear something making a noise like a snowball hitting a door. I can lift myself free and find the colours of earth and sunshine around me, I see faces above looking down towards me. They do not seem to hear my shouts and I lift myself further and see the gathering of my funeral. It is small, with only our parents present and other close kin from both sides. I apologise to everyone, but my place has not been with them since that funeral so recently where I wept and was the first to throw dirt on the coffin. I say goodbye now as I did not then and the scene begins to dissolve before me.