Walk by the sea (68)

She broke down as soon as she lost him from her sight, and from then on, the evening went by in a state of stupour occasionally shattered by uninvited moments of clarity. They were as painful as that cloud of certainty looming above it all. Nothing she could do would ever bring him back. He was lost to the darkness forever, and it was her fault.

She drank what Sara gave her to drink, with a pill that slid down her throat, tasteless. Back in the home of her son whose enquiring glances she couldn’t help but notice, everything was much simpler. Sitting down on the couch, allowing Eileen to bring a blanket on her feet, drinking whatever she was given. She felt heavy, so heavy, sinking into the couch, further down into misery. It was all very final, and increasingly so with every passing minute.

-Mom, who was that man?

She didn’t even look up, she didn’t have to. She could perfectly imagine her son’s incredulous, and already judgemental glance.

-Jo, please…

-No. I have to know. He obviously managed to send my mother into a state of shock, I think I have every right to know what is going on -he went on stubbornly against Eileen’s gentle protest.

-It seems you do care for me a bit, then -Mary smiled without feeling the smile.

Jo stood motionless with his fists unclenched but frozen. Mary noticed Eileen step closer to her husband, reaching out for his hand. She was probably trying to stop him and save him at the same time, and Mary envied the kind of relationship they had: no blame placed, no remorse awakened in the other, something she had never been granted. Understanding, patience, a real interest in who she really was were all unfamiliar emotions, until he came.

-He is someone I deeply cared for… -she slowly said, wondering why the past tense, as she was perfectly aware of her unchanged affection for him.

-Okay… -Jo replied with a nod, uncertain whether to walk closer to his mother or walk away and not wanting to know more. -I think I am getting a suspicion which doesn’t make me that happy…

-Why? Why do you care that I was in love with a man your age? -Mary lifted her gaze, suddenly reckless.

Jo gawked at her and made to turn around, but he was faced with a relentless Eileen. The eyes of a much younger mother literally forced him to look at his own, old mother once again.

-I… I don’t care, to be honest -he tried to sound indolent but the nervous pitch of his laugh gave his real feelings away.

-You do… you think I’m a scandal… the shame of my village… and you know what? Only bad things occured since I hushed my inner warnings… I have been mocked at, rightfully so, and I don’t think I can face my friends ever again… but the worst thing is, I hurt Andrew, and I hurt Joshua. So when I view the balance of things, I think I will have to agree with you all -she finished with a wide gesture of arm that almost knocked over the empty glass.

-You say things which aren’t true -Sara pleaded, squeezing Mary’s hand. -No one thinks you’re a scandal, and you know well that Andrew will never hate you… nor will…

-Please stop -Mary’s voice and knees quivered when she stood to leave the living-room. -I know you mean well, and I am grateful. But there’s nothing I can do to reverse all the harm caused against so many people, including myself.

-Wait, ma… that’s it? You give me a few sentences and you intend to shake me off? I deserve a more detailed explanation, I think… if what you say is right… that I care for you… then I need to know more -Jo sounded just as shaken, but seemingly resolute to find answers.

-More…? What exactly are you interested in? -Mary steeled herself before her son, daring his inquisitive look. -Your father was gay, I had been left unsatisfied. I found someone much later, later than I was expecting him… he was lost, I was lost, we found each other. We were happy for a little while. And then the inevitable happened. We realized, or rather, I realized that it was not meant to be. End of story.

-I don’t think so, mom… judging by the state he was in, and the state you’re in, I would say this story is weaving itself on -Jo grabbed her by the arms. -How could I judge you? I don’t even know you. My mother, at the age of fifty-seven, finds a man half her age, and… what were your plans, anyway? Did you two ever talk about the future? Or was it just sex?

-Jo! -Eileen all but screamed, but her grip was shaken off.

-That’s alright, dear -Mary swallowed her tears and slowly walked past them.

She had no answers for her son, because he was asking the very questions she found impossible to face. Maybe it was just sex, after all. That seemed like the least complicated theory, and definitely the least harmful one. There was no jealousy in sex, nor an unhealthy desire to steal the other’s soul, nor was there the troubling notion of time, that worrysome stranger who always came, unfailingly and without knocking.

-I’m sorry mom, I didn’t mean it that way -she heard Jo’s subdued apology.

-I know you didn’t -she mechanically replied.

-Come back and let’s talk, please -he begged her, his voice closer in her ears.

-I don’t want to talk about it any more -her weary reply shot back at him. -I don’t want to talk about him any more. He stole my heart, I pushed him into ruin, we basically destroyed each other. What is there to say? I should never have laid eyes on him in the first place.

-There’s no point in regretting the past -Eileen walked around Mary and held both of those fragile hands that wanted nothing else but to rest and wither. -The question is, what can you do to benefit from it?

Mary shook both of them off but the words she muttered mostly to herself were lost on everyone but Sara, who caught their meaning and walked after her friend, giving Jo and Eileen an imploring look to leave them alone.

Back in Mary’s bedroom, she sat next to her old friend, wondering what to do. Wondering if there was anything to do. Even her usually unflinchingly high spirits were dampened by the most recent occurrings, and in between thoughts of a possibly irate Andrew and a probably desolate Joshua, the vision of Jo, the perplexed son and Eileen, the helpless daughter-in-law barged in.

-Quite a mess you have on your hands, Mary -she sighed, stroking the soft skin of Mary’s hand.

-I want to go home -the latter whispered, ignoring what Sara just said.

-To England?

-I miss my home… I miss the sea… I miss what I had… it wasn’t much but it was mine. Quiet mornings, quiet afternoons, quiet evenings, a little painting here and there, and a knowledge that even a screwed up old hag like me can have a few peaceful final years in this shitload of life.

-Whoah, Mary’s talking dirty… people do change, after all -Sara leaned against Mary, then started rubbing her back gently. -You’re not screwed up and life is not just a shitload but we can certainly go home. My ticket is booked for Monday, nevertheless, we can arrange a flight for both of us for tomorrow. Will that be alright?

Mary nodded, then took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

Sara was dying to bring up the fact that Joshua was probably a bigger mess than Mary was, in which case there were emotions that needed to be handled or at least discussed. She knew that for Mary, going home to England would only mean running away from the accusing stares of her conscience. She saw how Mary helped him up, and the gentleness of that small lonely touch between them sent electricity up and down her spine even now. She knew they had not faced their demons yet, but she was scared to bring the subject up, Mary was so obviously in pain…

-Do you want to sleep now? Shall I make you some tea? -her practical self asked.

-Yes, tea would be nice, thank you. Was that a tranquiliser you gave me? I feel so tired…

-I’ll bring the tea right away -Sara said, avoiding a direct reply which only confirmed Mary’s hunch. It was alright. In their place, she would have given herself a tranquiliser also.

She lay down to face the window and the silvery crescent shining in the sky. From the distance, the sound of waves came to her rescue, the familiar voice of the water-gods. They spoke to her in a language she did not yet comprehend, but she knew that one day she might. The sea was the only place that really made her feel comfortable, and even her tattered logic deducted that if she ever was to receive answers, they would have to be sent to her through the sea. Behind her closed eyelids her sea-paintings danced and bowed and turned like repeated and indignant reminders of something she had always failed to grasp. For now, she lay in between a state of alertness and that of oblivion, allowing the murmur and splash of water reach her ears, fill her whole being. She thought of her beloved sea and the thought of being reunited with her old friend made her heart race frantically. She was so immersed in her blissful thoughts that she completely ignored her son who stepped into the room softly only to leave right away when he noticed his mom was asleep; she ignored Sara who placed the steaming cup on the night-stand, and she even ignord the remaining happy thoughts, stifled by her subconscious wish to rest.

The dreamed of pact she signed with the one she still resisted believing in would seal her fate and would bring happiness to her in ways she did not imagine possible.

Without her knowledge, creatures of the unknown started their tireless work on the yarn of her life, undoing knots to straighten it for her while she was sleeping the sleep of the hopeless and lost.

They sent her dreams of the sea to soothe her spirit which, even before the awakening of the flesh, would start on the road of healing.

The obstinately recurring figure of a mild-eyed, black-curled young man they simply allowed to take shape in her dreams, knowing full well that some courses of fate are best left untouched.

And so she dreamed of the sea and of him, her happiness unreached by bias or prejudice, and the strength she gained in her dream would enable her to cast away fear and stand on her own feet once again.

All in good time.

(End of Part II)