My view of you, skewed by experience and the dark slanted line of the bonfire structure growing between us, did not change, mangled by dusks imaginings. To everyone else you were a curmudgeonly old battler but not to me, I knew it was just a crust, a gruff exterior,the grit of crumbs on a piece of warm buttered toast. Other people, they didn't know how to approach you, didn't know what to say to disguise their own embarrassment at your misfortunes. They had not figured it out, the secret; that it wasn't about what you said but whether you were able to just be, listen for the wisdom and peace. There is communion in being with you, and even standing out here in the rain with you, silently, I could see there were angels in the margin of your notebook. There is far more to you than the eye can see, rays of sunshine at the heart of you. Already the tensions that had been spilling out of me, the frustrations of butting heads with my peers, literally and figuratively, as I kicked uselessly at the wood when I arrived, were beginning to slip away.
You always had a way to occupy my idle hands, my idle thoughts, and if I waited long enough you always instructed me.
"Rub off your sharp edges and fit in. Take time to find the right
angle to approach someone. I know you have it in you, you're here
aren't you." And there it was, a beacon of hope in the murk, a way
forward. I was not required to reply, explain myself, just build the
bonfire with you and consider the truth. You continued changing gear
imperceptibly. "Triangular shapes make the most stable structures, wide
and solid at the base. You want to make sure that the fire falls in on
itself, not over you."
I watched the angles of the
mangled branches knit together in a loose weave, manoeuvring them into
relationship with one another and went to collect more of the brushwood
from the side of the pond. The rain had stopped now, as you said it
would, and feathered flies flew into the stillness of the water's
tension, landing in the last rays of sun as it peeked from behind the
sluggish grey clouds. The angle of the sun was so low that it lent the
flies halos even before they were gobbled by the fish. I stood there a
moment contemplating what had passed. The summer seemed so long ago now,
the days of skinny dipping and paddling, of stolen kisses behind the
reeds, of laughter and splashing, days where the pond would daily be fed
with wet swimming costumes and hot limbs. It would come round again, I
knew it would, as sure as the freckles on my nose, but it would not be
the same. Innocence can only be lost once. Now the water was a shadow in
which temptation swims.
I turned back and watched your
elongated alter ego angled over the grass as you bent to strike a match.
It began with smouldering and dry grass turning to glinting strands of
tinsel and then the timber caught; a blister of heat and fire and life
in the dark, a glow of ethereal mathematics, of fortune and physics. And
there you stood, head bowed with age, arthritic knotted hands mangled
together on the fork handle, your secret joy dancing in the waxing
lights of it.
The copyright of this post belongs to Holly Khan