Personal Jesus


The morning was cold, sharp, biting. The sun ripped through the azure blue sky belying the depth of the winter ravaging the rest of the country. Even being this close to the vast ocean hadnít brought the temperature up enough to fend off the attack of the artic. Snow drifts covered the sand dunes furthermost from the sea. A slight wisp of cloud accented the sky. The air was filled with the pik pik of the oystercatchers sifting the sand for worms to supplement their opulent diet, the cry of the Kittiwakes nesting on the cliffs of small protruding rock islands, the crash of the surf breaking on the shore, the smell of the ozone, and the metallic aftertaste of regret.
It was í65 when I walked along this beach last. Memories of another era flood through my mind, some uncontrollable and unwelcome, others strangely warming and friendly. My eyes picked over the discarded memories, forgotten trash polluting this once wonderful place. Just seeing the white picket fence behind the dunes made me laugh as I caught a quick glance of Jack Allen, chasing the kite that had managed to rip itself from his hands and make a desperate bid for freedom. He fumbled for the trailing string with his eyes following the path of the once leashed prisoner; the fence went unnoticed until it was too late. He crashed through it, hurting himself in the process, but more importantly reducing the fence to kindling. We spent the rest of the summer, white washing all the fences surrounding the beach, as punishment for our carelessness.
My ears heard the sounds and voices of the past, telephone calls patched through by the operators of long ago. Gulls mindlessly wailed and screeched as they flocked above me, interrupting that echo of our laughter, reminding me of a concert that Helena and I went to at the turn of that decade. We were jostled through a 60 minute Beatles set by thousands of screaming fans, whipped up into a state of hysteria by the mere proximity to their heroes, squashed against each other and waving their hands around in the air in an attempt to catch the eye of their idol, in the hope that he would notice them. We never heard a single song.
Helena was more of a Stones fan; they werenít as puppy soft as the Beatles and were controversial, which was more to her liking. She was like that, rebellious to the very end. If there was anything remotely anti-establishment, Helen would be there. Later she would have been in the front row spitting at the Sex Pistols, moshing with the beastie boys, and grabbing her crotch with Eminem; always just on the southern side of controversial.
The crash of the waves against the rocks brought home thoughts of Vietnam. Iíd sat near this very spot all those years back, reading the paper and considered the consequences of the President Johnson ordering his troops into South Vietnam. With hindsight, it seems only fitting that my own personal crisis would coincide with the horror that was to unravel there over the following 10 years, and that this place with its unusual memory triggers would be the beachhead of my invasion, my attempt to drive back the advances of the forces of my past.
I walked toward the sea and then stopped on the edge of the rock pool; eroded over millions of years by the assault of an unrelenting sea, I examined the contents of a place that I had visited many years before. The surface reflected a familiar but innocent child, untarnished by the years of anguish and self loathing, trapped like the solitary patchwork brown and cream bullhead that flittered along the sandy floor of its saltwater cell; Imprisoned by bars of seaweed and guards of limpets, anemones, and crabs. The boyís fresh, vibrant, blue eyes, full of passion and hope, searched my soul as I ran my hands through his long brown hair, free from the deathly infesting grey, and there was unmistakable enthusiasm in that smile that I hadnít seen in the shaving mirror for many years. It seemed that the pool had captured an idyllic moment that I gad long forgotten, in a way that no photograph afterwards ever could.
The sea air was fresh and welcoming and I filled my lungs with it, hoping to detoxify myself quickly of the dirt and grime of the city. I drank greedily as if Iíd been deprived of its mystical cleansing properties for so long that I feared I would never again have the chance to submerse myself in it. Renewed, I searched the sand that I had played on so many times as a child and lost myself in the hypnotic ebb of the ocean breaking against the shore. I watched the sanderlings chasing the waves, frantically trying to capture the titbits stranded by the outgoing water. I considered the consequences of the decisions that have influenced my life, the memories that I have been running back and forth from, and I found memories under the pebbles I picked from the barren and uneventful childhood beach, before angrily tossing them into the surf. I am ashamed of my life and how it has turned out and I wish it could have been very different.
The house had been in the family for almost 100 years and I had become the custodian of the sole family asset when I turned 18. The wooden house and the land surrounding it had been left to me in my fathers will. During my childhood my family had spent many of our holidays staying at our second home, away from the city and surrounded by our seasonal friends. It had always been a retreat for me during my angst ridden teen years. Whenever times became hard I would either hitch cross country or take a train journey to the cost to stay in the secluding beach front hideaway. It was the place that I always turned to in times of trauma, a place where I could lose my self in the simplistically beautiful views and the vastness of the wide water. I could rejuvenate my anxious mind with the soothing tranquillity of the scented ocean breezes, and the calming surroundings would force me to give up my worries and fears, placing them out for the scavenging gulls to pick at. It was a place that had become my sanctuary, my Eden. But on that day, the keepers of my garden were not smiling on me, they allowed the fire to enter my world and ravage everything that I held so dear.
I never returned; just the thought of the place made me nauseous and my body would automatically go into a self defence mode and start to shut down. This, I believe is how the blackouts started. My mind terrified of allowing me to retrace the events of that day would take evasive action and throw me to the floor in a perverse way of saving me from myself. I would often come to many days later, in a hospital ward with no recollection of anything that had transpired. I would check out of this mini break hotel and continue down my slow road to destruction, until the next time I felt the need to revisit.
It was only as I approached forty that like so many other people, I started to think about my life; what I had achieved, what I was worth, sorting through everything, researching my material, and preparing myself for my inevitable mid life crisis. My mind kept invoking its self defence counter measures, stopping me from scaling the wall that I had spent years building and I found myself spending more and more time in the company of doctors and sick people. Eventually, I managed to drag myself kicking and screaming to see a shrink; And that, brought me here, back to the beginning, back to my place of trauma.

Written Without Prejudice
written without prejudice
Stories to go to bed with
stories to go to bed with

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