Unbelievably, it has happened again.
In my original notes for 4th December 2020 (intended for my belated Advent Blog) I began by mentioning that it was the birthday of one of my sisters.
Using that as a jumping off point I drafted a poem which started off with a nonsense name for my sister which had arisen in an exchange of text messages just a few days before when she contacted me on what would have been my late wife’s birthday.
The problem (not really a problem) is that I have looked again at that rough draft poem I started almost six weeks ago, and have decided it has the bare bones of something quite different for me which has the potential to become a good poem.
So, as before, I cannot include it here in case I wish in future to submit it for publication somewhere else.
However, by happy coincidence I have rediscovered yet another piece of CNF prose which was published some years ago on a Scottish Book Trust site. Although the month in which the story is based is some distance from the Advent Season, it is a story which has now become a winter meditation for me.
One stormy night in August 2015 I awoke from dreaming and felt compelled to write down immediately an account of the vivid nocturnal events I had just experienced; this is a personal record kept secret until now.
I drove to my best friend’s house at some ungodly hour. I wanted to speak to him but only got the opportunity to speak to his wife, also a dear friend. She was in a bad way, upset even before I opened my mouth, irrational when I tried to converse. Everything I said seemed to annoy her, get her more upset and angry, and the whole thing escalated quite out of control.
Don’t ask me what we discussed during the two minutes that she went from upset to explosive. I honestly can’t remember; nothing of consequence. All I can tell you for sure is how the exchange ended. She was screaming, shaking and in floods of tears as she ordered me out of the house, telling me never to come back. I kept asking what was wrong, if I had done something wrong, but got no answer only screams and tears. Then she handed me a half empty bottle of liquor, Jack Daniels I think, and pushed me outside.
I felt broken. I hadn’t got to speak to my friend. His reliably civilised wife, whom I also treasured, seemed to have given up gentle manners for screaming hate. I was walking away from their house, in the dark and rain, puzzled and desolate, wet and cold, with a half empty liquor bottle in my left hand. I had no idea what had just happened.
I got back to my car. As I checked the rear view mirror I saw a dark silhouette caught against the light of their doorway. An easily recognised silhouette, it was my best friend, a beloved man. I wanted to stay but pride and hurt prevented me. How dare his little wife, supposed to be a friend of mine, eject me unceremoniously from the house he shared with her! Surely he must know something about it. Was he complicit? Getting his wife to do the dirty work? What did he tell her to make her so crazy? As the anger rose in me I put the accelerator to the floor and shot away, the sound of spinning wheels throwing up gravel.
Soon after, aware that I was being followed along the country roads and fairly sure even in the blinding rain by whom, I pulled into the courtyard of a small public house. I got out of the car and rushed to shelter in the canopied doorway of the pub. A familiar vehicle parked behind mine and I was joined under the doorway by my best friend. He did not waste time but got to the apology straight away. No explanation, much slow head shaking and sincere words of regret. I asked why she’d behaved as she did, and he appeared to try to put together some words, but it was just mouthing, mouth motions without any sound, words I could not hear or lip-read.
I had to be content, and was content with the sincerity of his gaze, the genuine regret expressed not only in his eyes but his whole demeanour. I didn’t know if she was sorry but he was and he seemed to be trying to tell me that she had her reasons, nothing to do with me…
Then, as I started to wake I experienced again feelings of puzzlement, desolation and growing anger. Next there was a welcome moment of contentment that my friend still cared, still loved me, but this was replaced in an instant by the distressing remembrance and realisation that he and his wife, my two beautiful friends, had both passed away within the last year.
The sadness returned tenfold and I wished I was still asleep.