It’s strange sitting here thinking of how people see my life. You know that roller coaster emotional journey involving books, my girl, motorcycles, the miles covered, and places seen over the last 14 months. Messages and emails, social media, and other such things (even phone calls God forbid), reach out to me across the miles.
Within my meanderings people have wondered about such a journey. You know the ‘healing road’ mentality involving a book cover showing some long desolate landscape in a far off place to act as a visual metaphor. Such stories themselves can inspire or depress, make us laugh or cry, demonstrate injustices, or make us curl up on a sofa dreaming of all those ‘what if’ moments missing from our own lives. Much of life, in reality, is made up of these tales. And we all live them in one way or another.
In my own story, people’s care and compassion reaches out across time and space, continents, and even language to embrace me. It largely happened because of a life I once lived and lost, recorded on the printed pages of a book. The contact often supported, encouraged, and even soothed me at times in my quiet rage. For people who know, understood. It is true that you have to live the death of a partner to fully and completely know the devastation it leaves behind.
Generally however, many people use the phrase ‘living the dream’ for my current meanderings, my motorcycle travels. I hear other things like ‘adventure’ and I even laugh sometimes, more so recently I will admit. I laugh in a good way at the bantering term ‘international adventurer’ used by some dearest friends. But they are all, in reality, wide of the mark by a long way. If you know, you know. If you do not, it doesn’t matter. Words will probably never suffice for how bad it is.
But know that dreams on the outside can be hiding the darkest nightmares, the ones you scream to wake up from, but can never do because the gods interfered in a way they had no right to. Where even the waking leaves you with such powerful residues there can be no escape as you plough through successive days, weeks, months and then years. The waking doesn’t end the pain, it merely transforms it into something else.
And it is from this land of dreams, I write
It is a place of smoke and mirrors, of perceptions and misperceptions, for sometimes it is possible to wake from those nightmares to see things clearly for fractions of a lifetime. It is a called a ‘light bulb’ moment, an event forever engraved into your memory. Acid etched, you will carry it with you for the rest of your life, to the end of your days. Even if it is just for the briefest seconds, minutes, hours, I have learned, truly, it is possible to be alive once more. Transient perhaps. Fleeting, it’s true. Brief in the ages of a lifetime. But entirely and completely brilliantly bright, I can only stare at being wonderfully, spectacularly alive under its gaze. Standing in awe at how it feels, truly had I forgotten. Wow is all I can say. Or in the texting language of everybody but little ol’ me OMG.
And because it matters what I write sometimes, this update was born in a room sitting in Poland looking out onto a spire. Here I now wonder, think, projecting potentials, possibilities, the perhaps and maybes of tomorrows in a way not before envisaged. Raising questions and answers for things not thought of for so long. A future.
Clouded; for sure. Uncertain; most definite.
It is there. I can see it. More importantly I can feel it. For the first seconds in the longest time I can hear the silence of a look, the smell of a touch, the sound of a colour.
And yes I know, looking in from the outside I am still living ‘the dream.’ Yes, I am financially independent and psychologically strong enough to wake up alone in the morning under foreign skies and not know where I’m heading. I don’t know which roads I will take, I know nothing about where I will next eat, sleep, or even talk to another person. But it isn’t enough. Nor can it ever be. Something is always missing.
Sometimes it can be days, or even weeks before I have conversations and the loneliness can be crushing at times. I’ve sat in French forests for a week and not seen a single person, only being driven out when I ran out of food – the nearby stream supplied enough water but it didn’t fill an empty belly. In my worst earliest days I’ve sat looking out of a tent for a month in the Orkneys watching a blade of grass grow. Sounds very Zen-like, watching a blade of grass, for a month, chanting Ohhhmmm but it was the only thing I could manage to do as the weight fell off me, on me, about me, in a world that had collapsed.
And so time passes and here I am 18 months later, with 14 months of wandering here and there, there and here. I have fulfilled final promises involving high places and said more goodbyes than anticipated, more than I ever wanted. I absolutely hate goodbyes as I never have enough tissues ready to hand when they occur and have to resort to my sleeve. And at times you can never even anticipate them as they strike so randomly. Bloody things. You try riding a bike through a wall of rain only you can see. It’s no fun I can tell you.
Anyway, going home occasionally across all this time, invariably I would set off again when the loneliness came back within days of being surrounded by familiar things. Within those familiar things still sits nine bags of clothes in a dining room thousands of miles away from where I write this. They are beside a box containing 19 pairs of shoes that I could describe to you here and now but I know it would just bore you. Suffice to say I know each item intimately; its history, each dressing room
remembered, each shop visited because that is me, and it was us. Now there is only me, and there is no ‘us’. It’s the way it is. So the miles accumulate, they build up as I watch others tell the world about their travels while I sit and understand a truth of my own miles.
You see – I am decisively indecisive. Or should that be indecisively decisive?
I laugh about this term as it covers a multitude of sins. I can hide behind its incongruity. It has layers of meaning, like my photographs, and even my words at times. Hidden messages and meanings, like an onion, peel one back there is another sitting there, winking at you, going HA!
And so onwards, another truth is dragged out from the closet.
In effect cowardice drives my actions. There I’ve said it. Phew. That wasn’t so bad was it? Damn. Who said that? What do you mean my world ranking on the dare-devil, international hard rocking biker scale will suffer? Bugger. Really? Ahh well. Nothing lost, nothing gained. I never believed in it anyway.
For you see while I am on the road I can avoid making decisions. Decisions about what to do with a house full of possessions and memories. They exist behind a door I keep avoiding but cannot part with. How’s that for a rock and a hard place? Even more damns and buggers at this point should provide graphic expletive filled punctuation. At which I shall now say – Bless me father for I have sinned and it has been nine life times since my last confession. There, I feel better already as I look out the window at the church nearby.
But. You may well counter that surely being on the road involves decisions and it could be true. I can hear a voice from the back row shouting:
“My God man suck it up, after all, you’re supposed to be an adventure hero. You stride purposively, dressed like an itinerant Robo Cop, in a mish mash of Mad Max clothing. Worldly possessions, ha, you laugh at them while gleaming in dusty travelled armour, on a machine as old as some unfulfilled political promises. Cleaning your nails, with a screwdriver, you live the dream man. Sell the dream ya twazick, not the reality, otherwise nobody will ever take you seriously (if they ever did). Smuck. Get on with it. Ya git.”
But none of this is for me as being on the road is just easy. It is not a hardship, it is not difficult. It just is. It is something I can do. Easily. For I know and understand a fundamental truth that some other ‘long-time’ people know. Things always work out.
You will find somewhere to sleep, you will find fuel, food or water. You will get breakdowns fixed one way or another and somewhere along the line you will smile at something. It is just a matter of waiting. But it will happen. It only takes patience and my mother always said I was first in the queue when God gave that out. And mothers are always right. You know that, don’t you? If not, just ask your mother if you can – she’ll tell you she is/was always right. So for periods of time I just have to be patient. ‘Cos my mum told me so. And I can still hear her telling me not to argue with her, ‘cos………… yep, she was always right.
Right. Where was I? Ok, got it.
The worst thing that can happen as you travel on endless roads is a crash, you know where you get badly injured and end up in a wall of pain, or you have to sew your leg back on using some spare buttons carried for such eventualities. C’est la vie.
People have said doesn’t this stuff bother me, crashing or dying alone in some foreign country? But they do not understand that dying isn’t the worst. Not for me anyway as it actually doesn’t matter if I die. Not now. Melodramatic perhaps. But true. I lost that worry somewhere along the ways. And being alone just is. I’m getting used to that. It’s safe and it can’t hurt me, it does, but it doesn’t.
Now, try and stay with me here.
Within these conversations about travelling, or even dying, I watch from the sidelines of other people’s lives. Sometimes my presence causes a ripple as I pass on by, but rarely do the ripples reach back to me as my radar allows me to side-step anything bar friendships. I do know people who have thrown themselves into new relationships quickly when they experience bereavement. Like drowning people reaching for an emotional life raft with which to survive their own pain, they latch onto an anchor. There is no right nor wrong about it, it just is what it is to different people.
But for me, it cannot be.
I say this as part of me shattered under the weight of Cathy’s death. It’s just a fact. Something broke and I tried across the subsequent months at home to fix it. It just didn’t work.
Within the miles down subsequent empty roads I am still trying to fix it, trying to fix myself in some way. I carefully do this until I am able to do any new relationship full and complete justice – assuming anybody would be bothered anyway – without too many echoes of the past intruding. That would not be fair, nor just, for anybody who took on the loose cannon called me, this unpredictable, daft, damaged emotional wreck. Wandering along looking to meet myself somewhere along the ways like some goddam – muttering to self – lunatic, or be-bangled hippie only missing the pony tail…… well, hair would be a start but let’s not go there as it’s just too depressing. Hardly an attractive offering as a potential mate………… but I do have a redeeming feature. Such as it is, it is all I can offer. It’s all I have to give.
For it is true I only know one way of living.
If I ever meet ‘that’ person again I will know it, I will feel it, and then I will abandon myself within them. It is this ‘getting lost in another person’ that, sadly, people lose without ever knowing it. You know where you are excited at the prospect of even seeing them? The butterflies, that ‘stomach’ feeling? It drifts away over time in predictability if you let it, not felt in its loss until it is too late.
I see it around me and it’s sad to watch, to see, to understand. It’s crippling on a social, emotional, intellectual, and physical level. And people do not even know it’s happening as they drift through years of unknowing. Not seeing it. Not feeling it. Gone and forgotten.
I see how people miss their todays as they become lost from themselves and significant others in the mists of time. Then one day they wake and discover they have not only lost themselves within their own lifetime, but they have lost others as well, for they too have drifted away on other different currents of forgetting.
And so life becomes a succession of ‘perhaps tomorrow’, drifting, losing, ebb and flows of next year without ever understanding that those tomorrows may never come. They may never appear as they could be stolen by the whims and winds of fate.
No more tomorrows.
Yet they still live their lives by those tomorrows they may never see. This truth I understand for all my tomorrows were lost. In many, many, ways, I still grieve for them. For I could never have them no matter what deal I tried to make with saint or devil. It would never be. And I tried every deal and bargain that could be made.
In my own future life I wonder of those tomorrows, how they will appear, the shape, the context, the people involved as I look about me. Wondering about those lives I pass through, the more I look, the more I now see who I once was. Sometimes that person causes ripples in other people’s certainty, sometimes something more, as my own ‘self’ raises from where it hid more and more as time passed, but now returning from a place I have lived in for so long. Each day these ways are becoming more entrenched, more certain within the mirror of other people’s eyes; the joker reappearing from the cupboard where I locked him away within a vortex of loss. The person who made her laugh so much as a world circled beneath our wheels.
A glimmer. Unexpected. Unwanted. Unknown. And God it feels good. Scary. Frightening. Bad. Awful. Wonderful. And more. All together. It sneaked up from out of sight and ambushed me from within my peripheral vision. Compressed into this newness, this seismic, cataclysmic raft of sudden changes a future beckons. A future forbidden in many ways; by my heart, mind, and intellect but still there. Waiting. Watching. Whisperings of what might be.
A smile. A glance, the briefest of touches, the wondering renewed, the potentials. Each fragment like a jigsaw piece whose complete image is hidden from perception, from understanding. It feels like being awoken by a strange sound in the middle of the longest night, from within the deepest sleep. Confused, disorientated there is no up, down, left, right, as they are all jumbled through a brain’s fog and it takes time to understand all the events of what might be.
And so you watch the night sky in its certainty, and your own confusion. The stars drifting through their cycle of change before returning to the beginning once again. Like you. Like me.
Looking up into that night sky, instead of down as for so long, within this shifting, drifting, existence I meet a person I once knew. They became a stranger to me yet returned right now, right at this moment when I need them most.
“Greetings, can it be you…… really?”
I feel the nod of affirmation, I hear the sound of a smile.
‘How are you………. really?’
The questioner feels the same touch I do, sees the same smile, feels the same movement. Each are different, but familiar, like the before times, yet not. Old habits reappearing where they are no longer needed as eyes are seeing. Yet it is so, so, hard to repress these things, suppress them, hold down, retract from doing before even starting. Learn. Relearn. Watching. For this. For that. Pacing, racing, facing, newness causing confusion in simple things. Thoughts.
Things are simple and it is only in asking for simple things do we experience happiness. The things people often forget or lose across those years of existence, rather than truly living. Involving a touch. A smile. A glance.
Meaning conveyed in a million ways by the movement or feel of a hand, the speed of the way an eye blinks, the way it looks at you or does not look at you. Everything wrapped up in the fleeting fractions of time and behaviour, the touch in some way that says ‘you are the centre of my world, for me there is nothing but you’.
And I have known such things as I have lived them. More importantly, I have been lucky enough to understand them. As my girl did.
Feeling such things while sitting watching the sky pass above night lit cobbled streets, horses’ hooves clatter, and the warmth of companionship feels luxurious beneath a woolen stole placed to ward off the chill.
Meanwhile, in the silence potential tomorrows that can never be comes a whispering;
‘Hello my friend, welcome back from where you’ve been, I have missed you.’
Like a breeze blowing through a barren landscape, through a life, its caress is beautiful, awe inspiring, welcomed, recognized by its absence. Affirming, fulfilling, reminding of life sitting waiting for you somewhere.
For you. Somewhere. Waiting.
A voice whispers in my head:
‘How are you my friend? I used to know you. How have you been? I lost you there for a while. You’ve changed, yet I can see you. You are the same, but not, in so many ways.
Now come, embrace, remember who and what you were. For joined, we once danced together in remembrance of the songs we have sung in our lives. And within those songs were both times of good and bad, happy and sad. They made you what you are, those greetings, the partings, those tears and that laughter. They made the person she loved.
I say again. Greetings stranger. I missed you by your absence. And the sadness is I didn’t know such time had passed without you. We have much to discuss now that we have met again.
Look into the mirror of those shattered dreams. There you will see what could be. All you need do is open your eyes to see the beginnings of a new here and now. They exist within those stolen seconds, awakenings of a somewhere else you would like to be. Be brave. Be bold. As she did.
For I know you.
Now, together, we shall slowly and gently resume this dance we call life.
But I ask. Shall we now go home or carry on to talk more of missing time across different miles? No matter. At least we shall now travel together. You and I.
And from somewhere I can hear the sound of a smile I once knew.