Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I Opened A Can Of Worms

I didn’t need to notice the brooding clouds that tipped over the tops of the surrounding cliffs like peeping Toms to know that my chase my futile – or that I was in trouble. I was never going to catch Jack; not only was he faster than me at clambering over the slick, glistening rocks, at taking such a treacherous route towards the coves, he had the strength to keep up a momentum that required visiting a gym every day. I used to stand and smoke my cigarettes in their doorways, just to show my contempt for those that gave up so much their time in these places. Another regret? As I leaned over into a clear rock pool, hacking up my lunch of five-bean salad, it was turning out to be. Not for Jack, but for me.

I recovered enough to call out his name, my voice hoarse as my vomit-burned throat tightened. I coughed again, spitting a caustic taste from my mouth. I’d never wished for a moment that this would happen. What had made me come here, to this desolate place with its amphitheatre of cliffs, endless coves and crashing waves to share such news with Jack? What protection was it really offering me? I’d already made one mistake and, now, another was unfolding in front of me. There seemed nothing I could do to stop the rollercoaster. I wanted to get off.

I watched as the rock pool I’d been upending my lunch into – not a bad place for it to end up, as it hadn’t been much tastier going down than coming back up – rippled and distorted. I felt wetness against the back of my legs. It took me a second or two to realise it was the sea encroaching. Here, amongst sharp, talon-like rocks, was not the place to be when the tide is moving in. I’d venture that it’s not a place to be, full stop. Period, as our American cousins so like to say; as it seemed I was coming to a bloody end it was more than apt and the irony wasn’t lost on me as I chose to continue. Only when I’d made up some ground did I slow down some, better to prevent any more cuts and bruises that mottled my palms and shins. The saltwater was a constant reminder as it was.

This part of the world is famous. Not just for the job losses when the local fishing industry collapsed in the mid-Sixties, or the rife drug abuse that blighted it for much of the next ten years, but also for its breath-taking coastline. That’s how it’s always described in the brochures: breathtaking. I’d moved here eight years ago, long after the problems had ceased to be and the place had reinvented itself as a holiday destination. I was looking for a change, a break from the city and the way it hurries people to an early grave. And I’d found it; not at first – let’s just say that the locals were distant – but after some time. I felt accepted, at last. I felt I had roots.

Of course, I was saddened to leave behind my good friends, but they all promised they’d visit, and often. And they did. At first. Once it became clear that my new place wasn’t somewhere they could just pitch up, any old time, without prior notice, they stopped. It was a long drive, they said; lots of people from London drive down now, the roads are always jammed, they implored. Because if it weren’t for those two things they’d be around like it had been before, when I had the flat. There was the convenience of the flat being central, I conceded, but I thought there was more to our friendship than just somewhere to crash, or come back for a quick snort to perk up the night before hitting the clubs. I still believed that, even though no one has come down for over three years. It’s not as if I’ve been banging on their doors, I visited sporadically and always “only for the day”. I wanted to leave the city behind, not the people I loved, but it seemed that it wasn’t going to turn out that way.

Except for Jack.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Starting Point

I knew that following Bill up the hill was a mistake; he was far fitter than I have ever been and before too long he’d disappeared over the nearest summit while I was struggling to catch my breath. I was bent over a large boulder, my hacking cough disturbing a nesting pair of buzzards, resting nearby this early morning. I took a deep breath and pressed on.