September 10th, 2004


writ in water

We wind up down by the river, sitting quietly, trying to make sense of something that fundamentally doesn't make sense. The mind doesn't want to assimilate it; it's used to the flow of narrative, it doesn't know how to deal with the biggest full stop of all. You can repeat the facts, but they're too big, they just slide off. It's like trying to balance the river on a duck's back.

There are baby moorhens by the riverside, still unsteady on their feet, but alive.

Eventually the accusations creep in: I should have. I could have. I didn't. I thought to myself "I really must". I still didn't. I hardly knew him; what could I have done? Something. Would it have been enough? Probably not. But I should have. I could have. A litany of guilt. There's no sense in blaming myself, but. The wind is rising, and I feel cold, and I feel as though I shouldn't notice. I put my coat on; cold comfort.

So we're there on the riverbank. And the grass is still there, and the river is still there, and when the sun is out the light still sparkles on the water, and the flower that I saw on Sunday, a senseless burst of colour in leaves and still waters, is still there:

all as if nothing had changed. Everything is still there, but I have momentarily forgotten how to make sense of what I see. I can't remember what I am supposed to feel. And the knot of people on the other side of the river are shouting, and from this distance I can't tell if it's an argument or a joke.

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

And we're clinging to each other like the survivors of a shipwreck, watching our emotions ebb and flow like the sunlit waters, and suddenly I don't have any words any more. Because all the should-haves in the world don't give you a second chance; and this one is the only one you get.