A Walk Through Memory

” Love me but do not own me: Celebrate but don’t possess me;” I see her smiling as she said it; the last words I heard spoken by her face to face. Off on an adventure, never to return, crushed by a lorry in some freak accident, and silenced for eternity: a girl who made being fearless possible in my life: who faced down any challenge but intimacy.

I dared to love her but not to use the word. To thank the stars this girl, who lived for wilderness and open ended questions, had used me as her anchor and her reference point: “Conclusions” she told me, “Are only for the elderly,”   and yet she would always return to me: we all have contradictions and perhaps I was hers. She would live in any moment, in any life, as long as she was free to leave it: now she had, and I was left to live in a world no longer magicalised by her interest.

“If you want to understand something, never try to own it:” that was her mantra. She, who loved the wilderness above all things, loved me because I left her free to wander through it, but without her noise and cheery exuberance, the stillness that I dwelt in, the place she called her sanctuary, has now become an emptiness experienced offering no release.

“Oh Charlie” she had told me, “I stood among the elephants, and they just let me, and we watched the sun rising together, species joined with species. Can you imagine such a moment?” and I could, because the image was printed in her eyes, bright with life and joy, but fearful of possession: that was my gift: to love her, but just for who she was and in the moment only. I, a man of no apparent distinction, was made extraordinary by her presence, and won her trust by not seeking to control her.

That face remains with me fifty years later, as all around me life seeks to find my measure, but they will not find me here. I am living in her sunshine, and in those eyes which still smile at me from a treasured photo. Now eighty-seven years old, and long past the time when people take an interest, I sometimes catch the excitement when she returned, and smile to myself, and to the puzzlement of strangers: become a man who nods to himself, and, without warning, when lost in reverie, talks out loud to a girl he loves, as she walks through his memory.

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With A View To Hope

I have spent my life journey largely looking out of the window at passing events, fascinated by the spectacle of existence rather than having any thoughts on a destination or purpose. “Clever but not present” a teacher said about me to my father on one occasion and I can agree, at least, on the “Not present” bit as that has been increasingly apparent to me in my life.

Some people I started the voyage towards maturity with, friends at one time or another, can now boast about a prosperous business, or career’s in some professional field marked by significant appreciation, large detached houses in well-ordered streets or a home somewhere deep in countryside while I have dabbled in a number of professions, but remained in none: somehow keeping myself just beyond “Beggar’s Lot” where the seriously disengaged and unlamented live in unsought circumstances. I now work on the forecourt of a petrol station where the great and good, the disregarded and the social barbarian join briefly in their search for fuel.

The people I work with are among the nicest I have met, and defend a life of simple values as best they can, while working long hours on the minimum wage to sustain their families: that quietness, the modesty and a certain caringness for others, are often absent in some customers, engrossed perhaps with more urgent concerns in their drive-through life.

My landlord Richard, grumpy, invasive but kept at bay by that vague air of erudition which has made my life more civilised than I deserve, looks at me with bewilderment but is tolerant because I always pay my rent on time and make no noise, which is not so true of some of his other tenants, all of whom are younger than I.

In the midst of this, I sit in my room researching, as I so often do, the lives of the pre-Raphaelites and John Ruskin who was one of their champions. It is a curious interest, perhaps, and one which does not involve a rich social life but through an internet forum, inhabited by those who enjoy all things to do with Victorian history, I have come across Anne, who shares my love of obscure topics and joined me, via the internet, in an investigation into the origins of the impressionist movement.

Gradually our interest in each other progressed beyond the intellectual but she lives in Newcastle and I in London and neither of us has the money or the freedom to visit the other. Yesterday we Skyped for the first time and it was wonderful to look on the face of someone I thought to be of value who felt the same about me.

Can I find a way to live nearer to her, and would it be too forward to suggest such a thing? Here I am, somewhere between hope and frustration, but sensing the birth of courage and a determination which has always been foreign to me. I cannot write of what I do not know and should not form plans based on a fantasy but regardless I can still dare to hope and hope may be the pathway to my dream.

Posted in creative writing, faith, Fiction, Humanity, Life, Peter Wells, Romance | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

A Secret Grief

In these last days and hours before my final breath may I, Gordon Richard Carlson, lay my guilt and thoughts before you as a matter of conscience, if not regret, so that I might meet my maker free of worldly deceit, if nothing else.

I was, and largely remained, a man of detail, head of the Office Of Statistical Analysis in the county where I live. My wife also worked because I was, by her own admission, incapable of supporting a household of any standing by myself.

She was punctilious in all matters of social standing and appearance, insuring maintenance of the marital home in everything but intimacy: no carpet was uncleaned or dish unwashed, no book undusted, though not read, and everything maintained to standards of unfeeling excellence I always thought. Does that sound too bitter or too harsh?

To me she was correct in everything which did not involve mess or unleashed joy and I lived by those dictates while quietly shrinking inside myself, unaware of my own circumstance till events conspired to provide me with an alternative.

As the demands on my department grew, staffed only by me, I was offered an assistant who would help me with my work. Clarice Brown, ordinary to the casual glance, that was her view, was beautiful to my shy and awkward gaze. She grew to love me, as I did her: being together gave purpose to our days. Our feelings grew silently over time as duties conspired to entwine our lives and then our hearts.

She was a younger person than me by eighteen years and the product of a strict and controlling family, still living with her mother and father, and I was a man just past his fortieth birthday, sited somewhere beyond hope, but gentle I like to think, and caring of the unregarded in a way which gradually gained her attention and then her love. We formed a conspiracy of private and diffident urgencies unnoticed by the world.

One Friday, and recklessly, I pinned her up against the filing cabinet and told her I loved her. She knew all about the barren pieties which were my home but, faced with this commitment and sincerity, I felt her pious resolve melt and then we kissed. We kissed more each day, two souls who found purpose in each other’s lives. Our hearts bonded in secret desperation until, over the coming months, as intimacies grew beyond anything I had previously known we became lovers in every physical sense.

I loved her then and now. We discovered what life and urgency might bring to those who think that “Ordinary” is not a world they seek. Finally I decided, regardless of the cost, that I would leave my wife and marry her, and walk the path of knowledge without guilt.

I bought a ring, premature I recognise, to pledge my love, and prepared to place my life in her palm and tell my wife that all we had was gone but Clarice did not come to work that day, or any day again: an accident had robbed me of her life and longed for destiny.

By some bewildering chance, our love and intimacy had grown without it being public knowledge so when I was told that Clarice Brown had been involved in an accident and killed I merely nodded and said, “How sad” because privacy of emotion is the last sanctuary of the disenfranchised.

I attended her funeral, together with my wife, and passed on our commiserations to her family; giving my own feelings the weight they deserved, which is no weight at all.

Now thirty-six years later I slide away from life, breathless and without strength. My wife, punctilious to the last and ignorant of my feelings, visits me in hospital every day, noting the cost of my daily treatment. We have, and had, no pets, because pets can make a mess, and no children because that requires intimacy, unsettling at best, but we have a house, paid for now, and paintings of value I believe, which she will possess when I am gone.

But if there is a hope in life’s eternities, Clarice will greet me at the gates, kiss me with that warmth she always did, and walk with me across Infinity. If there is hope.

Posted in Affair, creative writing, Fiction, Love, Middle East, morals, Peter Wells, Romance | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

An Out Of Body Experience

Recently, during a period in hospital, things were dicey. I had a seizure, lost all consciousness and had an out of body experience. As I fell, yes fell, out of my body, lying in perfect stillness on the bed above me: yes above me, I felt an odd and uncomfortable heat and, turning round, saw a gentleman lacking every charm known in the sentient universe grinning at me in a salivating manner. His eyes seemed to be saying ”Your secrets are safe with me even if your future isn’t,” and I felt myself drawn nearer and nearer to a furnace where the screams of eternal agony could be heard.

I fought to stay away from the flames and the unpleasant gentleman, eyes apart, said nothing and made no movement apart from opening the furnace door a little wider to facilitate my ease of entrance. Just when I thought all was lost I woke screaming so loudly, the doctors told me, that they thought I had had some adverse reaction to the medical treatment.

He grinned at me in a neutral way, although his body language suggested he was thinking “Welcome back to us, I’m speaking to you in my professional capacity only: we make no comment on your character or possible worth.” Strangely, the nurse standing behind him had a less engaging look and I have a dim memory of attempting some indiscretion with her before I was engulfed by seizures. I’ve always had a love for the opposite sex, normally unrequited but, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” has earned me a few nights of pleasure over the years.

I’ve done nothing awful in my estimation and lived by the teaching, “God helps those who help themselves” which wisdom I have always been happy to pass onto beggars, old ladies who sought my help to cross the road and those irritating buskers who stand too near your table playing a musical instrument while you are drinking your morning coffee.

I’ve done my bit for humanity in the full glare of publicity but real charity begins in secret and at home I’m sure you’ll agree. In short I’ve lived a normal decent modern life, free of murder or unnecessary vandalism and thought a seat sited somewhere near the top table in Paradise was mine for the taking.

Finally, and unusually at a loss, I ring one of my ex-wives with whom I am on something like speaking terms, and tell her what happened and how I feel, and she replies, “You are a waste of air Trevor: nothing more or less” and puts the phone down. No wonder I divorced her then, or she divorced me to be honest, but I ask you. “What’s that about?”

At a loss I settle down in the pub, sitting alone as is often the case and take a cautious sip from my drink. A gentleman sits down beside me, looking faintly familiar, and says, “No doubt you are thinking about you’re out of body experience” and I look at him, alarmed of course, and say “And who are you?” “Dr Death” he tells me, “Sent out on patrol by those above to view the last moments of souls near the end of their earthly existence which is why I’m sitting here with you.

“Do I have time to redeemed myself?” I ask him, suddenly filled with an uncomfortable awareness. “No” he replies, “I was meant to be with you about eighteen months ago but got delayed by other and more interesting lives, otherwise you might have. Nothing in life or death is perfect I’m afraid, least of all eternity. There are just far too many of you now, and cloud space is limited so burning you is a much more efficient option unless you have been especially good, which you have not, and then there are the elephants and whales of course”

“Elephants and whales” I said, and he replied, “Oh yes, I keep forgetting you humans think you are the most important species in the universe” and chuckled lightly before departing from the table as I depart my life: still begging for one last chance but stuck with the consequences of my previous conduct.



Posted in character, creative writing, faith, Fiction, humour, Life, Peter Wells, writing | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

A Lunch To Remember

I met Andrew Lascelles when I was an undergraduate at Kings College. I was an average student on the fringes of the room at parties, went to most lectures but as an attendee rather than person of note. Andrew had a very different profile: always a tad quicker than most others by any measure, a leader and shaper of opinions, and a master of the telling phrase with a nuanced perception which made him the standout figure of his year.

He had that charismatic, luminous quality which engaged the interest of many girls, including Lucy whose attention I sought for in vain during my first two years as a student before turning my attentions to Carolyn, the woman I later married, whose qualities were less evident to the casual glance and possibly to others. He, Andrew that is, was marked out as the man of the hour and of the future, and so it has transpired throughout a career during which he has been admired by those who do not know him.

Some decades later, now a titled gentleman of letters and sculpture of note, he was walking down the towpath near his home towards a lunch were I was to be an unexpected guest and replacement for a late absentee. At the lunch he told us he had spotted a tramp or “Homeless gentleman,” depending on your terms of reference, sitting on the bench surrounded by his worldly belongings and, pausing near him to admire the river, was moved to say, “You must enjoy this view”

The homeless gentleman, ex-businessman, raconteur, husband and philanthropist; now current drunk and as invisible to those who had previously known him as he could make himself, raised his eyes to this passing acquaintance and replied with surprising precision, “Every perspective comes at a price,”

“And so it does, and so it does” said our engaging artist, before walking off along the path and towards the restaurant where some old friends and others, were waiting to meet him. Sir Andrew recalled the tramp’s comment, realising it would provide him with an interesting “Hook” on which to hang a conversation.

Sure enough, once we were nicely settled at our table, and one or two remarks had been exchanged about the view and the thickness of the table cloth, our knowing artist told us of his recent conversation with a seated “gentleman of the road” and the illuminating reply he had given.

“Did you give him any money,” said one of his friends, slightly provocative it must be said, to which the sculpture replied, “I don’t patronise my fellow man,” which may have been insightful, before taking a sip of his well-chosen wine.

I was at that lunch more by chance than merit as I’ve said, and clearly unrecognised by him after some decades. After he had finished his discourse I asked him “What do you think it is which makes a nice man, as opposed to a person of mere ability?”

“Kindness and Understanding” said our noted figure with barely a moment’s hesitation, and I, driven by some lingering animosity no doubt, responded, “And is that what you showed to that gentleman?” He did not reply but his wife, now called Lucille, gave me a hard stare in which there was a dawning recognition.

Posted in ageing, character, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Peter Wells, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

On The Forecourt

“Life, to the interested, will always be interesting, regardless of your circumstances,” I tell myself as I work on the forecourt of my local petrol station, guiding customers to a fuelling booth or parking bay, dependant on their purpose. Are they going to fill their car with gas or wander into the shop and play themselves a symphony by Simoné de Calorie, before buying a “Slimmer’s choice” chicken curry in readiness for a cosy evening for one in front of the television?

Of course, some people buy food for more than one, demonstrating a life full of emotional richness and a family who dote and live on their every word and glance but others, like me, exist alone, apart from television and a close friend called “Microwave.” Each day I yearn for a smile from the lady I work with, who manages till number four, and whose sense of life and tragedy seem to mirror my own. I’m simple yet complicated, defined and yet confused; a muddle in search of the perfect note but most of all I’m lost.

What can I offer her; with my lack of wealth and a sub-standard career apart from those insights into the experience of living which interest no one apart from those bored by the commonplace. She is beauty in my eyes, and her expression rich in that tragic awareness which speaks of a profound understanding. Can I risk telling her I want to know her, or should I do what I always do: smile politely at her as if she is a character in a film while keeping my hunger to myself?

Each life is a single brushstroke on the canvas of experience, lost within the body of the painting we call history, yet some of us, myself included, long to be seen as that touch, that contrasting insight, which defines human experience, or perhaps, if we are truly wise, we don’t.

I have created a largely hopeless existence, apart from conversations with artists and philosophers of note, so that when I worked as a ticket collector at a provincial railway station I said to Descartes, “I think therefore I am, but I smile because I know” and nodded at him as if I’d added an extra cadence to his words, seeing if he understood my addition to his wisdom or just continued to sip his coffee at the Café Eternité without acknowledging my existence: perhaps he did or perhaps he didn’t, but we’ve no way of knowing either way.

Be that as it may, the object of my affections, to put it discreetly, was in a pub one Saturday lunchtime when I came upon her, me being somewhat the worse for wear, and ignoring the presence of her friends said, “If I were braver, and capable of time-travel I would whisk you away from this place to a café where Descartes, Monet and Gaudí were sitting discussing the importance of landscape, or the way the peripheral can become urgent depending on your circumstances, and introduce you to them as the defining beauty of our age.

She, as you may understand, just looked embarrassed, and explained to her companions that I was that odd man who worked on the forecourt at her garage. I smiled at them as if I had been joking, which is amusing given it was one of the few times in my life when I have been sincere.

Posted in character, creative writing, employment, Fiction, Love, Peter Wells, Romance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

A Silhouette Of Love

Value her as he did, and love her as he did he could not promise to value her always, and that scrupulous thought forced him to walk away and not look back. That look she gave him then, empty and yet charged, would haunt him all his life. As if he had, with unconscious wantonness, trampled on some sacred ground: her sacred ground.

Before the age of knowledge, when she discovered him walking in his oddness, and smiling at the view it had all seemed so simple and innocent and tender, He, whose life was like some dried and arid plain, a stranger to passing moisture or interest, had wondered at her giving heart, and how she made a prayer of all she did. It seemed a wonder in his life, to be found and loved so openly, but he was young and oddly scrupulous.

He felt he must be understood yet free, and had still to discover that all things have their price, and that life cannot be lived without some compromise. Later, in years ahead, he often looked back and saw her timeless beauty and those haunting eyes imprinted in his memory, staring up the path as they had then and always would, and looking at him across his history in each new circumstance and saying with a simple truth, “You never knew what I gave you” and he never had till now, when love, once more, was like a stranger in his life, and tenderness only touched him in his dreams.

Posted in creative writing, Fiction, Love, Peter Wells, Romance | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments