To read the handwritten letter click here.
Monday 23 July
Once I began to write yesterday I felt so many things rise to the surface. It was a struggle to keep it all contained. Last night was a restless one as I kept turning over in my head all the things that happened and what it means.
All I can see in my mind’s eye is the new house you are building in Coranderk. Piece by piece you are rebuilding, stripping it back to the bare skeleton before putting your own touch to it. I can see the foundation you have established for yourself, a new form to build. I know the past has been hard for you but this has given you peace. I hope that coming back hasn’t eroded your new foundations.
Back here, the exposure to the elements has made everything as brittle as exposed plastic. Remember those fragments we used to find along the high tide mark? They were bleached and snapped in our hands. We often wondered where they all came from.
Fragments of a whole, broken down by the weather and the elements. You could feel it around the town when we were in school, running your hands down the railing at school on Monday morning; that thin film of salt crusting on your hand. But this you notice the rust at the joins of the railing, eating away the foundations.
It leaves you with a choice – repair or leave. Those who stay prefer to repair, putting a façade over the decay. But the rot eats away from within until there is nothing but a withered husk. Even if the old is torn down and replaced by the modern, the soul is gone.
Twenty years from when you left, you had a chance to strengthen your core. I think if you had stayed, you would not have had the chance to rebuild yourself.
Maybe in coming back, all that you have done for yourself is at risk. And it’s all my fault.
I asked you back because I wanted to see you again. Not to drag you back, but to catch up and reminisce, share something of the past twenty years face to face.
You were so gracious to let a few of us come over on the Thursday night: Rebecca and myself, Adrian and Beth, Mandy. We all tried to convince you to come to the reunion but I knew you were set on not going. But it was good to catch up as a group in a more intimate way. I know you were uncomfortable but everyone was interested in finding out what had happened.
Knowing you had arrived on the Wednesday I drove past the McCracken house and saw your car parked in the driveway. I wanted to stop in but had to get the boys from soccer training.
I wanted you to walk out the front door, to see if I recognised the girl I saw leave on a bus twenty years ago.
Coming to the house on Thursday evening was a nervous thing for me; I felt sick to the stomach. But when you opened the door and your smile was right there the way I remembered it, I felt young again. Here I was, back with old friends.
And yet I saw a stronger version of you. There was no longer any doubt of fear in your face. The pain of loss and suffering I knew was hidden behind your eyes but I sensed a fire burning within.
You spoke of walking around town getting the feel of a town twenty years older. The conversation flowed like the tides and washed into the evening. As we left you pressed a business card into my hand. I didn’t look at it but pushed it into my pocket with my phone. Only when I was back home and the kids and Rebecca safely in bed did I dare read it.
“The Point. Saturday. Midnight” was what it said. It burned in my pocket all through Friday and Saturday.
Throughout the reunion I felt your absence, that something was missing. I noticed something though. Grace lives her life in the model of high school: structured, timetabled, posturing for social prestige. She’s damn good at what she does but everyone else moved on with their lives and matured and developed or stagnated and drank themselves into oblivion. Her thinking is trapped in the confines of the last year of high school while everyone else got on with living.
All those familiar faces now either fatter or sleeker, balder or gone short cropped and still the need to drown the night in a sea of alcohol.
Mr Harding our old principal was there too and we convinced Natalie’s husband that he was groundsman for our school. Especially after he hurled all over Mr Harding’s shoes.
I kept checking the time, watching it edge closer to midnight. I was glad Rebecca had come down with a bit of a cold so she left early. Some of the guys wanted to kick on but I said I was going to head home.
The coldness of the night air was a rude shock after a few beers but I remember the air also had the feeling of another storm. The storm on Friday was an old fashioned winter blast and it hung around all Saturday. I was beginning to think you might not go because of the weather.
At the bottom of The Point I could not see you even when the arc of the lighthouse swept over.
Pushing against the cold and wind I made my way to the top. There you were. You turned and watched me approach. We stood two feet apart and you looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t touch me. I’ll shatter.”
Suddenly you were the fragile girl I first took to The Point – scared, afraid, unsure. I offered you my hand and you took it. We walked back down the hill like we had done so long ago.
Returning to the McCracken house, because it was too cold to stay outdoors, was my first mistake. But it was like we were teenagers again. Rage was on the telly in the background as we chatted, filling in the gaps, dredging up memories.
Yet in the back of my mind, your words from The Point echoed, so I kept my distance on the lounge.
Somehow we came to be talking about your life undercover and I made mention of your scars.
“Here, I’ll show you,” you said.
You were sitting on the lounge opposite me, the heater and TV between us. Turning your back you raised your t-shirt.
The pattern of scars on your back, for me, became the physical embodiment of what you had said. Standing I came closer, drawn to the red tissue on your back. I risked breaking you, but I felt I could heal you by touching your scars.
You flinched when I put my forefinger at the top most scar near your left shoulder.
“It’s ok,” you said.
I continued to trace the paths of scars across your back with the tip of my finger. Once I crossed over the strap of your bra, I needed to complete the tracing of your scars and to somehow bring healing to the wounds. You didn’t resist when my fingers unclasped and let the straps peel back slowly. You looked over your shoulder at me and nodded.
Continuing to trace your back I let my hands cover the scars. Moving them felt like ridges of sand shifting. I thought I could massage your flesh until it was perfect again, unmarked by the scars of the past.
Every part of me knew I was doing wrong. I was not healing your scars; I was piling on the transgressions but I cared not.
Then I did the one thing I had never dared when we were young. Gently I kissed your bare shoulder. The warmth of your skin melted on my lips so I kissed you again.
You moved forward and pulled your shirt over your head and I watched your hair cascade out from under it. Clutching your shirt to your chest you slipped off your bra and leaned back into me. Against your neck I smelled your perfume mixed with the salt blown in by the wind while you were at The Point.
I wanted to devour you and kissed at your neck, tasting the salt, feeling it leech into me.
My hands came around, circling under your ribs before moving upwards and caressing your breasts. My appetite grew even deeper and I lusted after you. As my hand slipped lower towards the button of your jeans you stopped me with your hand, before turning over, discarding the shirt.
You looked down at me and it was if the fantasy of my dreams had come true. I wanted to be looking down on you, as you had once imagined. My hands slid to your hips, followed the curve of your buttocks and pulled you closer until your nipples rested near my mouth. I gorged myself on your breasts, casting aside any fear of breaking you.
I became drunk on the vision of your nakedness, debauched in satisfying my own pleasures. This was the last dying breath of a mean sucking in the vestige of a future he cannot possess.
As we lay on the floor, spent, I looked down on you. Was it how you imagined? The futility and lust of youth consummated and wasted.
You gently pushed my off you and headed for the bathroom. I dressed quickly and left my own note for you on the reverse of the card you gave me.
Rebecca was still sick on the Sunday and I told her there was an afternoon catch up at The Whalers.
We needed no words that afternoon except to read the lust of the flesh. I ate and drank my fill of your body.
But then I left. I had to leave, for both our sakes.
I left without a word, my own version of twenty years ago. I didn’t want you to see me leaving nor watching me go. I imagined you at the door or the window of the house, watching the car drive away as I watched a bus depart.
I went and had a beer before going home and the storm that threatened the night before broke as I headed home. I got drenched just getting from the car to the house.
Yet now I simply feel guilty. Guilt over what I have done and guilt for how it may have affected you. Your silence suggests wounds that I have cut deep.
I couldn’t see you again before you left although I drove past your place a couple of times.
This is so trivial, but I hope the repairs to your house come along quickly and you can get it finished.
I am so sorry, yet I dare not ask forgiveness for I cannot forgive myself.
I am sorry I was not your “always and ever,”