Now to the beginning:
It's Christmas Eve and whilst in the bath this evening it occurred to me that everything I hung my life on up until now no longer exists. My work, my love, my aim and the very reason I ended up living here has gone in just over twelve months. I am not enjoying my pointless existence and my aimlessness is overpowering me as it does whenever I reflect on where I am and where I am not going very fast.
Apart from Dad passing away at the back end of 2008, at least a proportion of the rest I brought on myself; by way of things I did or did not do and things I said or did not say that I should have.
Most of what I did not say relates to my lost love and her little brown eyed boy. Both of whom I disparately miss from my life and continue to love unconditionally.
Since I 'retired' from my job in early November I have been trying to create an associate-based consultancy targeting the voluntary sector. I suppose that due to cowardice, this seemed do-able and likely to lead to success. I was successful in negotiating an agreement with a small homelessness charity (my former employer) and looked forward to getting back to work. For lots of different reasons core documents I needed to do the work were not forwarded to me and after two months of trying, I had been informed a couple of days before that the documents I needed were on a PC which had been given away to sell. The documents were effectively lost. I was reassured that the new manager would try to obtain copies, but I was not confident. Reflecting in the bath, the likelihood of getting the documents I needed seemed absolutely remote and represented a last straw.
It occurred to me that I want to change everything I am. Vague words engraved on the Burma memorial by the Embankment struck me about ‘bold acts being the safest’. I need to do something bold (without being rash or stupid). I want to see new places, speak to new people and have new thoughts. My favourite Ghandi quote springs to mind and I am determined to 'become the change I want to see'.
Given the opportunity, which I am going to create, what would I do? “If I’m going to be aimless, and as a result introverted, isolated and miserable, I might as well be warm!”. I like photography and I liked learning to scuba. I will go somewhere warm, learn more scuba to the point of excellence and take photographs…or something like that.
I have telephoned my late father’s wife, my Godmother and my sister and I told them my bold idea. All have said it's good.
I don't really have a plan but maybe that is the point. No more stifling plans or obligations which only represent 'vanity and vexation of spirit'.
I am now a thirty-three year old man and as I have done so many times before, I close the front door behind me and walk into my lounge. Looking around I see memories and emotions in the things I own. The stuff that clutters the shelves, the tables and the countless cupboard tops in an endless collection of what appears to be nonsense curiosity to those who have not been with me in my journey, but I am full of pointless sentiment. Dust layers these things with a grey film over what could be otherwise shining brown wooden furniture. The room smells stuffy, a combination of dust, unwashed dishes, unmade bed together with a hint of dog and smoke. Maybe the dust could be a meaningful metaphor, at the moment it just looks like normal dust, a collection of greyish-brown dead skin.
In the corner, an upright piano, its walnut burr twists and warps in frozen patterns like those seen when rich dark coffee is watched through a glass just as the milk is skilfully poured or the same as when a dark Irish stout is pulled on a TV advert. At least, that is what the veneer reminds me of. The piano has never been played, not properly anyway.
It was bought when I was a boy and wanted to learn the clarinet. It was said that because I was a sickly child, tall and thin, my mother thought my long hands would be better to tinkle the ivory than let my weak chest suffer the stress of a wind instrument. Now the piano had not been played for twenty years and stands bearing the weight of objects at chest and waist height, a bulky pair of staggered shelves. As I gaze motionless at the hulking object I absent-mindedly ask myself “Except in bad jokes to do with mashed potatoes, are mothers always right?,” my thought trails off without conclusion and I am left with a slight whisper of guilt for even thinking the stupid thought before I look away. A few years ago, I bought myself a clarinet, but even that has not been played.
Atop the piano a beautiful yet dead expression carved into a bust of Peau d'Âne looks across the room towards me. As in the story, I feel like the prince who fell ill with longing for a love denied him. I am haunted now by these things. I am full of loving and loathing, mostly loathing for what I have become.
My house, filled with possessions as if from a set from Harry Potter or Great Expectations, a memorial to a life lived in the past, a collection of random objects; some beautiful objects and most revolting shit. All useless for what I am feeling now. Casting my eyes over the room I see a ghastly 1970’s dark oak welsh dresser, a Moroccan coffee table, my three goldfish tanks, small chests of drawers, and two display cabinets filled with precious, useless, worthless, interesting things. Dominating the room is a dining room set of a table and four chairs and a large low set three piece suite, upholstered in bright red leather. I watch for a moment as scaled fillets of bright orange colour glide behind green algae spotted glass. Silent, they are oblivious.
In this eclectic space I used to feel at ease, each thing bringing with it a meaning or a kind of energy which resonated within me. All of the stuff was reassuring. If the sum of its parts can be greater than the whole, then my sum was substantial even if my life right now had little to show for it. To some it was a sum of amassed crap and that new reality was beginning to dawn in my mind as I scanned the familiar room from just inside the crimson front door.
“Too much stuff, too much stuff”. The refrain was heard over and again as a small measure of loyal friends and loved ones drop by to see how I am, all encouraging me to just move on. There is simply too much stuff. I know that they are right.
How could anyone have lived like this? How could I have expected my love to join me here let alone bring her child? Again with useless hindsight I see qualities within me which I want to rid my soul of. Am I destined to live in the end with newspapers piled ceiling-high, with pathways between trash to ‘my chair’ or ‘my bedroom’? Has my self-imposed selfishness and obsession with things driven her away? Could I ever have learned this lesson with her still here? She did try but the constant whisper of long passed spirits was stronger.
There is too much stuff but the physical world in my home is a little like a reflection of my unconscious and I fear that to forgo the security of things I remember from my childhood and in more recent years of happiness with my love and her brown eyed boy, I risk losing the only triggers to memories I would rather not live without.
In any event no matter how much I know it will hurt, soon I will be gone from this stuff and these things.
In the old Ava Gardener flick, Pandora measures love by sacrifice and so maybe too late, I give up my lot for the sake of lost love.