The Things We Keep
Here’s the thing. I wake some mornings with nothing but a blank space for a brain. I wander around my home, pick up the newspaper, read a line or two and move around a bit more. Then I stop at the window, bid the quiet ocean a good morning, and journey on until I come to this room, the study. The pictures on the walls are from my childhood; the elves, the fairies, the long-eared rabbits, alongside photographs of my children, one of whom now looks after his mother beneath the waves. The room is filled with all kinds of rubbish, absurdities, and other tragedies of technology. This is the chair where my muse was born, the same chair where I met Joey and his family, the chair where I despair…but most often laugh at the tricks of my mind. Last night it was a thoughtful chair.
What do you want with me, Harry?
Why is it that sentence should hurt me so? I kept looking at it. The sound of her voice in words.
The woman is worth more than a few lines on a page. Had she not once entrusted her emotions and found me trustworthy enough to do that. Now she is telling me what? That she is feeling very unattached to me, that she could no longer be in love with me, and the courage of that thought is immense and deep and I’m greatly affected by that notion. Through the night I had tossed and turned in my bed. The ridiculousness of it, the tragedy of it, the loneliness of it, and now the direction of it. This beautiful woman, dead beneath ship-less waves, has confronted me on the page.
What do you want with me, Harry?
My eyes kept focusing on that sentence. I recalled this night only weeks ago, sitting in this very chair. I wondered if I wasn’t going mad. What kind of frustration makes a man attempt to answer such a question? I wouldn’t receive an answer anyway.
She said those words to me on the evening I was going to propose to her. She was telling me that she was the most ordinary of women and wasn’t sure why I should want to know her, as if ordinary wasn’t what I wanted. My life, she believed, was filled with extraordinary people. The trappings of success clogged up my life but they hadn’t clogged me up from the reality of what was good. I had to say something honest, in the best way I knew how, to make her understand me; that ultimately my life would one day go just as far as the ocean went, and that was very far. My life, then, has moved in strange circles and often I never quite know where I am. My mind is nothing more than a national park of underdone thought.
Characters that have walked onto my page, into my life, and have somehow remained. Writing has a deep affect upon me. It’s always so much fun when an idea comes floating by waiting to be plucked out of the air and thrashed down on paper. But writing is mostly about not having an idea and the blank whiteness of paper becomes some absurd monster waiting to devour me without trace of me ever having existed. Hell, that’s a damn scary thought, right? Is this all I am, a maker of words? And if words fail me?
The blank document screams at me: you can’t leave me…you cannot leave me like this!
So, with my hot early morning mug of tea, listening to the shipping forecast on radio 4, I sit at my desk to find something to say, but what?
I think about becoming the writer who has the outstanding ability, the peculiar talent of being the only man in history whoever put down five million words without slapping to life one substantial character in one small base of a story.
Tears prick in my eyes as I fight the memories and the staring blankness of a word document in front of me. Now, these words are confronting me. Bloody hell, I don’t need this right now.
It is a woman telling me how she felt when she was alive and on the earth, and my heart is reaching out to her hoping she can see that I’m not any stronger, not any better at writing, haven’t achieved a damn thing in the world except to know I was loved by her.
Why did I start? Oh yes. All this, to say what?
That only the love of children is worth keeping.