To read the handwritten letter click here.
Sunday 16 September, 2012
It has been a month since you last wrote and there have been times when I have considered simply ceasing to write; to stop all remorse and barricade it behind a wall in the darkest recesses of my mind. And then forget about it. Pretend it never happened.
Memories of twenty years ago are sullied and smudged by what I did to you. I imagined the girl you were two decades ago and I was that boy. How foolish he was. How foolish am I.
You said in your last letter why I can’t let go or say goodbye, bring about closure. Perhaps it’s the right thing to do: say our goodbyes and close the book on our friendship because I cannot give you the comfort and security you long for. I remember saying to you in a previous letter that I felt partially ashamed of what I have and what you do not.
And yet you throw the accusations at me that all I had to do was ask you to stay. You could have made that choice yourself. Over the past eight months or so we’ve been writing I’ve been trying to put together an image of who you are now. It’s like sorting through puzzle boxes to find the pieces that fit. The boys have a tendency to mix up their puzzles and half the time is spent sorting out what goes where. Piece by piece a picture emerges and you transfer pieces from one box to another when it doesn’t fit.
Even when all the pieces have been used there are always gaps, incomplete pictures where you guess what should fill in the missing space. And I can see all the gaps I have in the picture I have of you. The spirited girl I knew in high school, troubled by the spectre of her mother and the demons that haunted her, someone full of vibrancy and joy despite the darkness became an undercover narcotics cop. And it nearly killed you, the darkness threatened to swallow you whole but you stood there and yelled into the abyss and broke its hold.
But I imagine you took a permanent marker to the image of yourself and blacked it out.
And that’s what I want to do to the memory of that night: take a black texta and black it all out.
But isn’t it funny with puzzles: you create a picture but your eye is drawn to the shapes of the individual pieces, following the lines and curves and creases, distorting the image slightly. Then you notice the dog-eared pieces, the creases from unintended folds.
And I won’t be telling Rebecca about my adultery; she doesn’t need to know about it, nor do the children. This will be my sin and guilt to wear around my neck. Our marriage is good and solid and I don’t want Rebecca to have to endure the shame of my actions.
Why not let Zeke fill the gap? He is obviously attracted to you and wants to offer you some security and validation. Just as I’ve been holding on to the memory of you for twenty years, you’ve been holding onto the memory of me for the same length of time. Maybe we simply both need to let go and let it be. If you want normal, try Zeke. He seems to be able to provide you with the home, security and comfort I can’t give you.
But there are things I have to put back together.
Father’s Day a couple of weeks ago showed me just how much this whole thing has affected me. We were having it at our place and I went to get Dad from the rehab hospital. As I was taking him out to the car in the wheelchair I imagined you pushing him as you did the day after the reunion. And still Dad’s words of “You’re an idiot, Jude” sounded back at me. I may have been idiot for missing the obvious 20 years ago, but I knew I was an idiot for my actions.
Dad noticed the silence in the car and said, “What’s up with you?”
I fobbed it off with, “Nothing” and felt like I was 17 again and learning to drive. Back then Dad asked me about you, just after they gave you the guitar for your birthday. I know they had argued about the gift and thought they were doing the right thing. As Dad directed me around the town, the L-plates sufficiently displayed, he asked questions about you: what were you like? What did I like about you? As a 17 year old, getting grilled by your father was embarrassing. And like any teenage boy I answered with monosyllabic responses. But he looked towards me, and I felt like he was about to say something. I glanced over but he looked away. I don’t know what he wanted to share but he obviously decided to refrain from speaking.
Now, taking him home for Father’s Day, he did the same and I felt 17 again. Even in my own house with Rebecca, Jordan, Harley and Flynn, and Mum, I felt like I had transgressed everyone and everything.
Dad sat at the dining room table as best he could and hated being the centre of attention. Harley and Flynn wanted to show him their drawings and their new toys while Jordan simply sat beside him and held onto his left hand. Mum shooed the boys away and left Jordan with Dad. They didn’t need to speak; he turned his head and smiled at her, that half-mouthed smile and Jordan stroked his arm. She is so like her mother: considerate and compassionate.
But the withered husk that is my father scares me. He has made some progress with the physiotherapy but lately he seems to have given up. I don’t want him to go but it looks like he has decided this is not worth the effort.
He mirrors how I feel; stuck in a single spot, slowing decaying as the world continues to revolve in colour, yet seeing only shades of grey.
I imagined you sitting where Jordan was, holding my father’s hand. And that was the moment I knew I had to keep it from Rebecca. Around me the kaleidoscope of life kept refracting the light and how I now saw things.
Taking Dad home that afternoon he looked at me again and asked outright, “Is everything between you and Rebecca ok?”
“All good,” I said.
“Everything ok between you and Ella-Louise?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “She came down for the reunion and we caught up.” Sort of an admission, but not the truth. And I was 17 again.
“She seemed upset,” he said.
“Did she tell you about her past?”
“Yeah, she’s done it real tough,” he said.
Then he did it again, looking at me as if there was something else to say but he looked forward again and fell silent.
Even in his broken physical state he has a strength I don’t have. He looked after Helen and me, and took in Rebecca as one his own when we married. I realised he held you in the same esteem; if he could have taken you in as a daughter he would have.
What can I possibly offer Jordan, Harley and Flynn? I am not the man my father raised me to be.
Remember how we stood on The Point in the high winds and leaned forward into the wind and pretended we were weightless? I feel that if I tried it now I would be tossed over the edge to be mawed by the frothing ocean.
I settled Dad back into his room and was about to leave when he looked at me, having decided to say something that was on his mind, “Make sure you treat her right, son.”
I know I am at fault for what happened the night of the reunion, and at some point I have to accept the fact that I cannot be what you want me to be for you. And you have to accept it too. Can you let go any more than I can? Could you bring closure to your own life and forgive yourself? If you testify in the court case will that bring an end to something for you? An end to a part of the darkness?
It seems we have tied ropes around ourselves, knotted it with memories at every opportunity only to have it become a tangled mess like the lengths of discarded fishing line we would find around the rocks. What if there is no other way to deal with our past and current present than to hack through the ties that bind?
I walked around the house and everything has changed yet nothing is physically different. The boys’ toys are still scattered around the lounge room floor and Jordan’s room is shifting from little girl pink to pre-teen shades of black like autumn leaves. There’s still a spilt in the lounge room carpet and the bathroom sink drips and stains the basin no matter how many washers I replace. I make love to Rebecca, consume her as I have before but now it feels like I taint her body even when I touch her breast or kiss her lips. I don’t imagine I am kissing you or you taking me into yourself, but I feel myself withdrawing from Rebecca emotionally and mentally.
Maybe “goodbye” is the only option we have and I will not abandon my wife and children.
But I cannot abandon a friendship that was so significant to us both. I don’t even know what to say. There was a time I could speak with you for hours but now I find words are like eating a mouthful of sand after being dumped by a huge shore break.
I know who I am and what I want. Will you admit you can’t have what you want and take responsibility for your history? It seems like the moment you left Piper’s Reach you wanted to run, to escape, to find, to become what you wanted to be with or without me. Reminds me of Cyndi Lauper and “Time After Time.” You always knew where you could find me, where I would have been waiting.
But you waited 20 years. I can’t make the second hand on the clock unwind. All that remains is a shoe box of memories and the regret of a lustful infidelity.
Whatever happens for us to seek closure, we should seek it out. We each have our own mess to sort through and deal with.
What’s your call?