It is an inevitability of parenthood that all that goes before is forgotten and replaced in time. Becoming a parent is like being born again. It wrenches you out of the familiar, and places you with others behind, so that you light not only your own charge through a new murkiness, but with other, deeply dependent lives behind you.
But Stephen had wasted too much time during Billy’s first years. He had been caught unprepared for its demands. He mourned the loss of the familiar. And within him, had not channelled love as he should have, but stacked his soul deeply, selfishly like a charnel house, in which, when he now peaks, memories still languish in its shadows.
A few years later and what was empty brimmed with love. But just as Stephen was unprepared for its arrival, he was taken further aback by love’s sudden departure. Billy was in his teens when he passed away in a road accident. The driver was never caught.
‘Nothing is wasted,’ says Sally, ‘everything returns to the ground and feeds the heart from which we grow.’ She misses her son, and the loss has discoloured her dreams. But in telling her husband these things she hopes she will come to believe them in time too.
Onboard the boat Stephen has chartered, they sit and gaze at the unending ocean. He hopes the open waters will aid the healing. That the wind will carry the memories, and the ocean wash them clean. What if he had believed in God? What if he had prayed? Would Billy still be alive today? Stephen holds Sally tight and kisses her. But his heart’s wreckage cannot obscure what lays buried beneath, which yearns to rise from the arid plain of his soul into the salt mist and be drenched in love again. Instead it lays chained to its own rocks, pecked at and suffering the torment of light.
A piece of Sally’s hair has twirled itself around his finger, he grasps at it, but it defies being held, it curls and springs, exchanges hands at will in the wind. And when he finally pinches it between his fingers a sudden gust of sea air, blowing the sails harder, carries the hair into the water. He desires to follow it. But he has no such freedom now. In grief, life has become a web entangled in on itself. It forms, not a linear line of truth, but an enclosed surface upon which he can never approach the edge, but diminish constantly, like the fly, caught and waiting for the spider to claim him.
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