The Water Mark (part 5 of 5)
The W§ater Mark Part 5 of 5
He drifted slowly down to the water's edge, it was as if he were walking through the very wreckage, of what earlier had been images of his burning desire for this woman!
'Why,? Why? Why?' He halted mechanically. Stood dazed before the large ferocious waves as they crashed nosily onto the beach, echoing the blood thundering in his ears, brought on by the waves of his turmoil and despair now dashing against his slowly crumbling stunned consciousness.
He bent and bathed his stinging hands in the salt water, then cupped them to his tear-wet face – salt to salt!
What he did next, and why, he would later reflect on, and be unable to work out! Was it the anger, the humiliation, or just the desire to disappear from sight as he looked around and realized people were staring at the only person on the beach who wasn't naked?
He felt something twist inside his straining brain, it suddenly snapped like a metal ribbon with the vibrations that follow – vibrations like a tuning fork that ran the length of his torso and out along his limbs!
He wasn't a strong swimmer (not seaworthy), and the height of those bloody waves would normally have scared the hell out of him. He remembered he heard the cry of a gull like a siren, just before he ran for the surf. He dived over the top of a metre and a half breaking wave, and disappeared into its curl! It whirled him like a dead fish in a washing-machine, scraping his back along the rough stony bottom. He struggled hopelessly against its strong, sweeping undertow. The stiff powerful curl held him, as the procedure was repeated again and again. The light was strange and glassy as it swirled him around as in a bottle!
Then there was a lull, as between two breaths, a slow rocking motion, and his mind suddenly clicked into survival mode, and he began fighting upward towards the source of the light to find the surface.
He managed to break the surface with a desperate gasp, but was swept forward and taken up by next wave. And he saw, to his dismay, he was now about fifty meters from the shore, and yet another next great wave loomed up behind him.
It hit him, but he managed to keep his prone position. And ride it. He felt its great push, as it covered him, but was quickly followed by an even greater drag! He pressed and kicked with all his strength against it... Alas, when he surfaced, he saw he had made little gain. The next wave also ploughed him forward, then sucked him back like a coke. His limbs felt numb – the kick of his legs pathetically ineffective.
The following wave like a moving ridge swamped him, and again turned him head over heels! He felt his remaining energy and will give out; he couldn't fight – he had nothing left! He thought he was about to die. He saw the sharp face of death! The thought took away all sound and breath, and he took water into his aching lungs.
Then suddenly, something griped him around the chest – something stronger than the undertow! Up he went to the surface. He spluttered and coughed and took air. He realized the force was human, he saw black hair, pulling him. Then there was a face talking to him. What was it saying? He couldn't understand, but he clung with his last strength to the shape that held him!
He was coughing and sucking air, his senses were beginning to return. The face…he knew...yes....It was the large face of the Hulk. In a few moments he was being carried like a wet rag-doll out of the surf and onto the beach in the large powerful arms of the Hulk.
Ironically, like a large fish out of water, Thomas lay prone coughing, and fighting for breath on the beach, with the Hulk kneeing over him talking in Portuguese, and gently pressing his back to help him breath. Amanda, and a crowd of on-lookers were standing over him. Her eyes glared at him like brown crystals – her face disgusted, as if he were a damp patch on one of her pictures. She shouted hysterically! 'Why did you do that, you idiot, didn't you see the red flag?' Her tongue was a little red flame in her mouth.
After about twenty minutes his breathing had normalised, and Thomas had recovered enough to thank the Hulk, and apologize to Amanda for giving her such a scare. He felt so tired, he made his way over to the dark honey-shade of the cliff, and fell into a strange jelly sleep.
When he awoke he felt alien, and not at all himself.... he went over to where Amanda and the Hulk were laying. The Hulk, through Amanda, offered Thomas a ride home in his car, which Thomas declined, saying he wanted to walk to clear his mind. Then he thanked the Hulk again, and to Amanda's obvious disgusted – she speaking only his name, curtly and coldly – he took out his wallet and offered him some money.... Which produced, from the Hulk, only a grimace, a tut, and a look to the heavens! In the end it was settled with a handshake and a simple goodbye.
Thomas looked again at the sea's hungry tongue still licking at the shore! He knew he would now always be afraid of the sea!
He began climbing the cliff, which he was surprised and relieved to find, was much easier going up than it had been coming down!
Upon reaching the top he set-off back to town; he needed to think, and his mind was like an electrified spider's web connected to his tortured nerves. He lit a cigarette that made him cough. His lungs ached and seemed too big for his chest. He could feel every part of his body moving separately as if it had been taken apart, then badly put together again. And his ears hissed like a snake-pit.
He'd had a near death experience, and now a pale vision of that death fractured his being. He pictured his white, lifeless body lying down there on the beach. A picture of absence! His mind was still weighted by the fear of his compulsive actions, that had come from a dark-side, which he hadn't seen in himself before!
'I just can't understand why I did that!.... Such an idiot!' he spoke out load.
To drown so – the utter panic – the senselessness – his come-to-naught-life and death! He imagined the sad face of his mother getting the news! It was horrible! His skin felt uncomfortably too tight for his body. He thought how burlesque in death he would have been! A clown making a theatrical exit! And after all, he had jumped; he wasn't pushed.
How the day had started with so much wonderful temperament. And how a few hours later it hung like callus metal to his flesh. But he was alive, and so grateful not to be buried in the deep bosom of the sea.
Being still alive seemed to put all life's problems into a new perspective.... life has no security – when one can simply in the next moment act in such a reckless, mindless manner – go bananas! He had surely experienced his own naked spirit – felt it down there! But by sheer luck he had cheated the jaws of the sea, and he would get another throw of the dice.
And he just couldn't comprehend how, and why he had walked so blindly into the situation with Amanda?
'How can I face her again?'
He had somehow let himself be blinded by obsessive desire. It was as if he had been hypnotized. And Carl had tried to warn him!
Yes, sure she had led him on.... Didn't she? 'But still.... my whole life has been a kind of sleepwalking.... with Julie.... I was like one of those nodding dogs – obeying!' His words were metallic tasting in his mouth.
And Julie had left him like a fly strung up in a web – a spider's dinner! She had tied up all the loose ends before she left!
But he knew he and Julie had never had anything in common! Not at all! And it occurred to him, Julie wasn't his loss – his hurt pride was his loss – his dignity. Julie was just a symbol of that loss. She had not loved him and he had not loved her. Many was the time he had wanted to shout 'No! No Julie!, No!' But he had been too weak, and she had always been stronger, and always the organiser. It pleased him now to think that Carl had metaphorically spit in her face! Carl had seen through her....
But what had happened to him over all those years? How bottled his life had become; hackneyed by sameness – desensitized to the richness everything around him. A long list loomed up before him – a list of the undone, the left-out, passed-over, missed, dismissed, unnoticed, unrealized, over-looked, the many unuttered possibilities of being alive – the myriad details of a life... He had lived as though the entire world was in one place – even losing the pleasure of his beloved books, and writing!
Thomas thought about the time his dad had died.... For that ten year old boy it was if a door had closed on him... As if a part of his life had just fallen away. He felt there must be something that lay in this... had this made him timid?
He stopped walking a moment to collect his thoughts, to try to remember. Nothing came, the tracks of his memory disappeared into the mist of the past. If it hadn't been clear then, why should it be now?
And when he came out here, what had he expected? To live the life of a Lotus Eater; to just forget everything? What is it he wanted, what had he been doing, where had he been heading? He'd only been drifting – following in Carl's wake. He had been eating himself slowly since he got here. If it was for adventure he'd come looking .... well, he had got the full thrill-menace of an adventure.... but it was far more than he'd expected!
And there had been nothing back home... Nothing he wanted – no life there – no direction! He had only been marking time! Denying life! 'A jumbled man in life's loop!' He suddenly felt like a stranger to himself... Only his name familiar.
He walked on, his mind turning over, his thoughts jarring against the hard stone of logic. Then a little awakening voice spoke to him, and it came to him all at once with an electric-bite! He froze like a machine!
Carl and Amanda....'yes!' of course, they were, in fact, an item!
'Yes....! Yes ….!' he knew it! And he knew it in his bones..... 'Sure! Maybe it was a kind of loose or open relationship... two artists... ''She's a free agent!'' – And Carl thought I would complicate things for him! And that's why she'd took a sudden interest in me... Carl's oldest friend... and now, they are both planning to go to London… was that it? Why hadn't he got that sooner?'
He thought of them as a couple. Yes, they were well suited... He knew he had never been for her... He felt again a sudden crush of his feelings. A hard wail sprang from his chest! Tears welled up again in his eyes and he sobbed loudly!
He walked on, wiping away the tears with his still fiery hands, trying to control himself.
'But now! 'What now? Back to England like a whipped-dog?'
He imagined being back in England, living with his mother again, and Sally Owing, the girl from the library with her knowing remarks...
'But I just can't stay...!' He imagined what it would be like when the story got out here. Imagined the endless ragging, the sallies of non-stop wit from Greg and Kent! And he must, as yet, still face Carl!
'No, I can't stay... Humiliating!'
'I'll give notice to the school today – make some excuse-- maybe something with mother.... write Carl a letter, take the next plane home.'
This decided, he dried his eyes on his t-shirt.
'But why go home!' it suddenly occurred to him. 'I have my redundancy money.... I could go where I want.... Rome!.... or even Paris; not too hot there! He needed a chance to make a new start, and see with a new perceptive. He was resolved to try.
It suddenly occurred to him that all this; the all strange baffling trip, the people, everything, could be a story! And for the first time, he could really feel how life and stories were linked. Sure, he had always known all this, but there was knowing and knowing!
Life is a story – and a writer just adds and mixes, and enquires. And it always has a meaning beneath it, and he suddenly knew he would be able to figure it all out... Yes, he could write it... And he knew just how it must be written. He could imagine it. He saw it waiting for his simple reach...
Coming so close to his own death had suddenly opened his eyes – made him understand just how precious life is... He would never forget! If there is such a thing in life as duty, it is to live; not just to exist as he had been doing – but to accept life as a challenge, and to embed oneself in the full richness of its possibility. He had been living a linear life, and now he wanted a parallel one... The life-bell was now ringing loud and clear in his head!
He stopped again to think, and looked out, with an over-the-rainbow-stare at the full-fire-sun-licked sea!
That's what he should do, he suddenly thought. Go to Paris and write his story! Fiery images now filled his brain, and an urgency seized his sinews! He now had an egg in him -- a surprise he could not predict, but he could imagine its content! And at that moment he also realized it would be his first real piece of writing, and his unfinished book would remain just that – it was dead! He thought about all the stories his father, and later his mother, over the years, had told him about his father's war, and he was now convinced it wasn't his story to tell. The writing had no colour – Carl had been right. Writing had to be about real things for the writer, even if the plots were imagined.
He walked on.... Lagos now came into view!