It is easy to say goodbye, you just have to pack whatever it is that you cannot live without and then without looking back, walk out of the door, never slamming it, never displaying anger or rage, and stroll off in to the distance…it is easy to say goodbye in such a way, after all eventually you will be found again and perhaps all the hurt that you felt will have disappeared into the ether, lost in the maelstrom of emotional distress and misplaced resentment.
Saying goodbye in such a way is natural, it is understandable, it is not nice initially, for the spectre of your image will haunt those you leave behind for such a long time, but like a photograph that is laid out in such a fashion so the rays of the sun can either bleach it, wipe it dry of the past, or burn it with the aid of a magnifying glass, the detail of forensic examination in the image, the sharp look at where something may have gone wrong, the moment, always the precise moment where the person who left you behind decided they had had enough. It doesn’t help in any way, shape or form to play detective, to put on the imaginary deerstalker and perform skills of detached scrutiny but it certainly keeps you busy, it makes the mind tick over and work out the puzzle without a suitable answer and one day, maybe as far as forever, you look at that bleached photograph, the edges worn, the scars of the sun etched deep into the face of the person lost and you realise that time has wasted and you move on.
There is a rush of water underneath me, gallons of melted ice that had started a journey so long ago that thinking about Time becomes meaningless, becomes absurd to those whose own personal time is running out. It rages, I hear each drop of water scream in joy and pleasure as it rumbles underneath me, it is the fire that unlocks the ice and it terrifies my soul as I look at it from the railings of Rainbow Bridge and only the whisper of the lights of Niagara Falls stops me from feeling nothing but blackness, of the destruction of the void that awaits us all.
Time is meaningless, the prized possessions we so carefully evaluate and store on shelves, occasionally looking at with the semi inquisitive question of where did I purchase you from my beauty, all is eventually dust, it collects deeply engrained grime and fingerprints, the only reason it exists is to remind us that once upon a time we meant something to the Universe and we were loved. Time is meaningless but as the body of water, the millions of gallons, all six million cubic feet a minute that flow and finds its way to the edge of the world, past the iron sign that proudly shows where the original falls lay when Christ was finally dead and out towards an ocean that never really accepts it, never allows the thought that each drop that fell over the rocks of the Horseshoe falls, that tumbled with grace and was part of a process that had been going on for over 12,000 years, each one was shunned and disgraced, whilst all that goes on, whilst that progression never ends, humanity’s association with time is just a flashing illusion, a drive by delusion fuelled by deception and trickery. I hear this below me, the screams of rejection of over 12,000 years and I shake with fear about my own delusion.
The wind is unusually still for a November evening, the sounds of a party enjoying themselves on the Maid of the Mist, the delight as they revel in the thunder of the Earth, of metal pretending to tame the ravage of water, audible and beautiful, destruction at the end of Time managing to be perverse and scenic. Others walk past me, control of the bridge now forgotten, they are charmed by the realisation that the end has come, that the Falls will continue, that due to the process of erosion, the Falls will eventually crumble and die in a rock show that will be unseen and appreciated by anything except for the trees it dislodges and the island which will endure and survive just long enough to applaud the majesty of what it has witnessed.
I often thought about running away when I was a child, nothing to do with escaping a rotten situation at home, of abandoning a family that loved me, I just wanted to see what lay beyond the confines of the area I was pinned down to, to stray beyond the internal boundary that had placed around me to keep me safe, to keep me secure and away from harm. Yet it was an imposed boundary that was also fuelled by toxicity, of the maps and atlases, of city plans and graphic representations to be found in my father’s house, in my grandfather’s study, in the reported news on black and white television and then in even greater detail as colour kicked in…in newspapers, magazines and on the radio, all played their part in opening up the world to me. Over time, I threw off the prison manacles made out of love and irresistible tenderness and started to go beyond the end of the road to play, through the gap in the fence that was hidden by my father’s shed and into the woods, to the stream that ran lazily and without care through it, past the dangers, onwards to the unexplored worlds in which my imagination was gripped and moulded. If there was a Heaven, then it stretched far and away into the distance, it was a forgotten world and I was damned by Time to find it, to prostrate myself and give thanks to a dead God who made it possible.
On my travels I called you Comrade, I called some a companion and others I found exasperating, those who would want to wander the world, who would talk wildly of the things to see, the images made real but who would only go when the work they had started, not even important, not vital, except to feed their habit of consumerism and keeping them in denial. These I had to leave behind with haste lest they lured me back to a world I could not be part of; to them stepping past the boundary filled them with fear but in their bravado they sang with harmony of the days to come. Those days are gone for good and I find myself wondering about them all, the friends I have left behind, that I have lost and deserted, those that I have loved, slept with in the dirt with, been a pauper in the bed of queens and found frightened and confused by determination not to become the bleached photograph that they hold. I let their memory of me hopefully fade, should it still be strong now, should their vision of me be of the day they met me, then they will be heartbroken to see the pale figure stood on Rainbow Bridge contemplating the final act of mankind’s rent of the ground each person treads.
I called you Comrade, you refused to acknowledge to any gender, the binary disposition assigned at birth, you refused to be called mate, love, darling or friend, you wouldn’t even tell me your name as we walked dusty trails, wrote letters of hope to people long since left in the imagination and nightmare scenarios. I called you Comrade and I remember loving you as you talked of Civil War, of revolution and the overthrowing of the shackle of gender, sex and politics. I reached out to you and you held my hand but untouched and unresponsive to any kind act that might involve the taste of happiness. I called you Comrade, you smiled at that.
The wind is beginning to stir, it knows that I am tired, it wants to urge me to say goodnight, to head back to my hotel room and dream of a young woman I used to know, to phone her, to tell her that I am finally coming home, that her wait for me, that shrouded veil she placed over her own secret sex could soon be lifted and like a pilgrim finally finding the church in which he was christened in and praying at the altar, the virginal offering, the release of Time to start anew…one phone call, one moment in which to say I am sorry, forgive this shambles of a man, forgive his dreams and thoughts of twenty years, will you let me come home…I could say that, I could climb down now from the iron structure and fall away into the darkness, get back on a plane and live whatever time there was left for me restoring her photograph, reversing the bleached effect, the scorch marks on my face, the disease and death on my hands…I could do that, the wind would applaud, but time being what it is suggests that soon after releasing the beauty of the world, I would want to start chasing it again…and this time I would take nothing with me, I would walk bare feet, unclothed, naked, alone.
Best to leave that photograph to vanish, to fade where she left it, on the window sill facing the sun, only the company of a wind chime as it tolls silently the days since I left, only the charm of distance as each letter I wrote to her remains unopened, unread, unspoilt, damned by its own existence, touched fleetingly by wandering fingers who desperately wish to believe I still thought of her as each year passed by and each summer’s fading glory reminded her that I once stood in her flower-laden conservatory and told her that all the maps and atlases had finally wormed their way into my soul and death was going to be the only one I could now travel with. In her conservatory, flowers, plants and vegetation bloomed, everything had life, everything had structure and a place to keep her calm; except me, I was the first sign of decay, of blight and the sense of putrefaction which she fought hard against, in which she sprayed and nourished, talked to and refused any sign of imperfection to take hold…I was not natural, I was a physical biological flaw, false, drawn by the synthetic and stimulated by my eyes and not by the nose, the truth evaded me, she believed I was man-made and she was right.
The wind can blow forever, I will not reduce her to tending the plastic and contrived, she is not you Comrade, my friend in mutual suspicion of the world, she is not you Comrade, she sees the beauty, you only saw the rage, my anger in the kiss, my terror in the whisper of the dark and you saw my heartbreak as I we came across native Americans, across the sincerity of The Amish, the sisters in black to whom modern life stopped somewhere along the highway and to whom veered off in the distance, running scared at the threat of backwards conversion and pure revolution. You saw me become scared Comrade, you saw me become frightened at the what the world turned out to be and then as you murmured, you spread a rumour in the dark desert, you faded from my view, you left me on my own Comrade to spend the rest of my life making sure I made it to the final destination.
I buried you under rocks, right there in the desert where you took your slow and final breath, where life consumed you and your smile, your last whispered words of comfort to me filled with emotional blackmail, of temptation and longing, unheard you urged me to find the end of the rainbow, you pleaded to let you go and with care I made sure you were comfortable, the last large stone I placed over your feet and a dime on each closed, cold forgiven eye.
The desert, so far from home, England a million miles and twenty years ago, yet now as I said a prayer with only dust for company and the long lingering death of oilfields in my sight, I wondered where the rainbow was and how long before the pain that took you Comrade, finally decided to take me; I could feel your gift in me, eating away, munching, devouring and after all this time on the road, I welcomed it.
It is easy to say goodbye when there is no-one left to mourn you, when the round of beer is only drank in silence by yourself, when the bottle of Scotch is drank by you alone, when that pack of cigarettes stolen from the keeper of motel is smoked, deeply inhaled and without the care of the gods or of your health, is best savoured at three in the morning when the moon sings sweetly over the mesmerising forest and the scent makes a lone hungry wolf howl in protest.
It is easy to say goodbye when no one will miss you but then my thoughts dear sweet Comrade came coming back to you and her, the woman with my letters, was she even alive, was she with you in the ground, dead, buried and with her own plants covering her grave stone, the letters starting to fade where once they stood proud, objective, clear and pleading for rememberance; who remembers you now, only me as I stand on the metal of Rainbow Bridge, shadowed by the split town of Niagara Falls on either side, buffeted by the wind, urged to make my peace with the world and stretch the meaning of my own life into the black roaring liquid below.
If anything ever made sense it was the discovery of the woods behind my parents’ house, seven years old, the world instantly opened up before me, my narrow vision instantly replaced by the desire, the hunger to explore and with jam sandwiches in a small bag and a whistle that my father had given me just in case I became lost in my own thoughts. I set out to follow the stream that flowed through it, away from all that I knew, all that I had cared for and this became my quest; it should have finished there, at the mouth of the river that it merged with, but my life was now over, it was now all about walking into the unknown.
You made sense Comrade, you still do, your rejection of everything to do with the guiding principles of life, your fixation with a world beyond sight, of internal combustion and whilst you died in that fixation, you died happily chasing your demon out of your dreams, you condemned me to live in your shadow, in the disease that corrupted your final humanity of pissing blood and hacking painful coughs that lay undetected in my ears and away from sight. Now no more, I qualify for final bow myself as the world ends here on Rainbow Bridge, the sense of loss overwhelming, the sense of finding something pure for a few seconds, of having actually lived before I died, not confined now to the road but released into the air like a butterfly freed by a repentant collector; a small moment of freedom, of being at one with the water that spent 12,000 years escaping the confines of ice and freezing snow. I miss you Comrade, I miss my friend more, these people now staring at me, their drinking for the night curtailed by the spectre on the bridge, quiet, unnerving, free, poised for destruction, sentenced to ride the wind in anarchy and rejection, they are laughing, urging me on and for a brief moment I want to climb down and pick a fight with them, punch them, berate them for their callous thought.
Instead I find myself smiling, I burst out laughing and that stops them, that chills them, I can see it in their hungry eyes, my laughter actually causes them pain, if I was to tell them my story now, our combined story and of the disease that runs through my body, of the story shared, of the needle shared, of the purgatory we will share; I will not see 1984 and that is O.K. for as I turn away from the insanity of those behind me, of their catcalls and their slight change of tack urging me to come down, I will float from Rainbow Bridge and all will be clear.
Ian D. Hall 2016