Love lost, read and found
2014 – In the months that followed Katherine’s departure from our life together, one day aimlessly, I found myself taking down boxes from on top of the wardrobes in our room. To be honest, I didn’t know what any of them were, what they contained and why they were up there. Wiping the dust from each as they came down, I lifted each lid and took a rummage through. My wife was such an organised soul, very much the creature of structure to my chaos dwelling self. Two boxes got most of my attention the rest of that day. One that had drawings and letters from over the years that our daughters had drawn, made or written in dedication to us both, and that had been labelled and dated by Kath in the knowledge that years later we’d be glad she did. The other contained a collection of writings and poems I had done over the years but presumed long forgotten and lost. I started to flick through the many pages the content of which in some cases I had totally forgotten or even discarded and most of had made me cringe, and now here rediscovered years later, made me cringe even more, but some of it gave me some pleasure to have it rediscovered once again. ‘Journey man’ was such a piece. As I started to read a twang of regret started to swell in my heart, and I felt each word cut through me. I felt that my life had gone full circle, that in life’s game of ‘Snakes and Ladders’, I had almost had it all, only to be bit by the snake that lived on ‘99’ and get swallowed by fate, and despite all my grief, to continue to play life’s game, I would have to get up and just start all over again.
Journey Man – 2008
Twenty one years ago. Was that so long ago? Had it been so long since he last greeted the call of the alarm clock like a trusted friend. He rolled over but stopped and lay in bed a moment staring blindly at time and savoured the warmth of her scent still present beside him though she had already long got up. He tried to cast his mind back into the head of who he was back then and wondered how that might read. He knew his choice of words might be fresh from today but the actions described of him long ago, wouldn’t betray any real truth. He’s eyes glazed over as he delved back in time and lost himself in the memory…
One random morning 1987…
It wasn’t with an unusual sense of urgency that he responded with, when the alarm went off at seven am sharp. Well sharp according to the clock’s digital display and that didn’t take into consideration the seventeen minutes fast its owner constantly kept it at. Seventeen, because he always felt that fifteen minutes where a good cushion to have in your pocket when always late or facing a squeeze, and two extra minutes because he could never be sure when setting the clock what the actual real time might be and so had on the last occasion, taken a guess instead. He switched the alarm off almost immediately and from its side, picked up the book he had been reading last night, examining the cover and binding, and playing over the last chapter in his mind once again. He found himself desperately wanting to open it once more and escape into a world where time was not master. He resisted the temptation gallantly but in his far off thoughts, those seventeen minutes in hand had already become ten.
He threw on with certain confidence, the trend shy clothes he had picked out the night before which had ‘casual’ supposedly written all over them, according to an insistent but well meaning mother who had bought them with little idea or understanding of any such concept. Still with little time for deliberation he raced through a morning routine and set off on his way to a ‘rendez-vous’. He pondered whether a ‘rendez-vous’ actually needed both parties to be in the know prior to meeting for it to be rightfully named.
Every day for the last month he had walked at break neck speed, sometimes even ran the mile and a half or so to where his path became hers. Once on that same road he would look up and down it for a glimpse of something telling him whether she had yet to come by or if he had missed her and needed to race on in a desperate attempt to catch even a few minutes walking alongside her, before arriving at college, where she would willingly go her way and he would begrudgingly go his.
Today was different! Yes he still planned to race his daily race of chance, but chance this day, would be robbed of its opportunity to cheat him further. Today he would meet her at the top of her road and all of her journey would be his to share.
In a blur of a while he was there and earlier than he could have hoped for. He leant on a nearby wall and then waited. He wondered what she would think seeing him there so obviously eager. She might think him nice, maybe even traditional like a real old fashioned gentleman, the sort of thing her parents might approve of. He also wondered if it might mean anything to her at all. At first he knew her to be sweet and innocent and he had felt himself to be in control. But months of dithering had robbed him of such certainty and frustration was robbing him of patience and clarity of thinking. He knew if he made the move to speak of how he felt, she could be backed into a corner she might not be ready for, with the inevitable conclusion being a rejection he knew his heart could not handle. However if he did not, too many other eager morons were lining up and would be quick to show more than a keen interest in ‘asking her out’!
‘Asking her out’; what does that mean anyway, when all he wanted was to spend every last minute with her and hope that somehow she might feel the same.
He might not have as long to wait as he hoped in the end, he thought as he leant there waiting for his accelerated heartbeat to regulate whilst he tried quickly to catch his breath before she would unknowingly make him gasp once more. He was still far from composed, when she appeared on the road and within seconds she saw him…
The years might have passed but he felt just the same. The rush to demonstrate it had been may have been quelled over time but it gave him much satisfaction still to think that his teenage obsession to conquest, awoke beside him every day, fulfilling the dreams of that once besotted and time driven youth.
A refocusing of the eyes replaced the distant glazed look and the time on the clock offered nothing but the countdown to work. He jumped up of the bed in a rush, in the knowledge that part of his morning journey was still worth racing for. He still had time to enjoy breakfast with her.
2014 – Sat on our bed, I read it once more. Before I continued reading any others, I looked over at the alarm clock and then at her pillow and long empty space, and once again I felt that the alarm clock felt further than ever from being that long trusted friend. Time had cheated me of the time driven youth and here I was right back at the start. This game of life’s ‘Snakes and ladders’ is so very hard, but I know it goes on and the dice I must pick up and eventually roll. The ladders are steep but the steps are in reach, though my rush and obsession to conquer them, are long quelled. I put the box down and laid my head back, Katherine had stored many memories for me that may otherwise have been lost. Some that made me so cringe, but some that reunited me with who I once was and I was glad to rediscover. I turned my back on the alarm clock for a while or even a bit more, and in the absence of her warm scent, I hugged just a cold empty space.
Once again in my life, Katherine is only something that I long for. No amount of rushing ever again was going to change that.