Araminta was always the love of my life and I hers for a time, I believe, but then it stopped. As teenagers we would run across the rocks of the Cornish beach year after year and adventures of the youthful kind was our reason for being, laced in late adolescence with poetry, a shared love of the blues and our first kiss.

Still, as we entered our twenties there was a growing difference between us: I loved “Awareness”, and felt life was nothing but a single moment experienced in different guises, are you still with me, while Araminta’s interests were possibly more grounded and certainly material.

We both came from families “down on their luck” and she felt she must use her beauty and her wit to secure a more comfortable future while she had youth to spend. She met Stephen, a worthy man and kindly, about whom we both laughed when we first met him: we were too young then to understand the value of kindness. He was clearly struck by her, and she by his lifestyle, so that my imploring her not to waste her life being over careful or strategic went unheeded: I think she grew to love him over time.

I was at their wedding because that was expected, but soon afterwards we began to drift apart. I went to university and she to the south of France where his family had a villa. Years passed during which I sought to demonstrate the power of the written word in five or six largely unread novels prompting my mother to say in a moment of encouragement “You can’t keep a good man down” to which I replied, “Perhaps I’m not a good man” making us both laugh: my mother always had a sense of humour.

I passed my life scratching a living from one unfulfilling job after another while maintaining my selfless loyalty to the well-turned phrase and the beauty of existence , keeping my faith alive with just enough “Moments of recognition”, to justify the sacrifice and so it continued into middle age.

Recently, we met it again by chance, in a hotel lobby where she was standing when I walked in to deliver a parcel. I looked very different, I am sure, but still our eyes met in recognition and she came over to me, full of warmth tinged with a sadness and said, “Still the romantic then?” and I replied, without sourness I hope, “I have integrity if nothing else” and she said, “Does it keep you warm” and I laughed and said, “What do you think?” and she said “Thinking is too dangerous.”

There you have it, for me at least: the magic and the repartee which would always bind us. She might love me, but not the cost of me yet I like to believe I was her knight, albeit without armour, and she will always be my angel without wings.

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A Matter Of Custom

We were as different as two people can be, with different approaches to life, culture and religion but at the centre of it I felt you would always be true to me, and so I opened the door to my heart and let you in. Love can be like burglars don’t you think? It can steal up on you and possess you without a sound; presence unnoticed until you discover happiness is no longer possible on your own.

We were chaste, because you said it must be so: in your culture, you told me, a girl cannot be familiar with a man before marriage and it was a formality I was happy to respect and understand. I loved the courtly sense of life it echoed but some consequences of this custom I did not understand.

It seems you were already engaged to be married to a man you had met only once in your mid-teens and this voyage through university was your parents concession to modernity. They would trust you to maintain your innocence until your studies were completed when you would fly home and marry your betrothed, according to their wishes.

It was your custom and your culture that this would be so and you made it plain that respecting the wishes of your parents was more important than any private dream or urgency. In a sense with me, unconsciously I’m sure, you were displaying what could not be offered, and I was banging on the shop door with a currency which would not be accepted.

Neither of us were especially religious, but I discovered that custom and expectations can hold you to a behaviour as much as any faith, and disappointing your parents was not in your lexicon of conduct: your choice could not be personal.

As what you meant to me became clearer and more urgent, you shared the sadness we both felt, but I could only watch you board a plane and take my grief at your parting as the price of past happiness until, bruised it must be said, I realised that “Life, humorous and pitiless,” had played a trick on me and I must move on if I were ever to breathe again and so I did.

Two children and a lifetime later I saw you on some Indian TV channel, rounder and more solid, can I say, but clearly still quite beautiful. “Our Political Correspondent” the words read on the screen, and I wondered how “My Meera” had become so serious. When young, what we cared about was literature, and “inner meaning” and integrity and other vapourisms with which students fill their intellects.

I wrote to you, care of your TV station saying,

“Darling Meera,

I do not wish to interrupt your life, but we are both old enough, are we not, to recognise everything our parents told us was genuinely felt but not necessarily right, and the feelings I had and have for you are both true and real, and would have value in any culture in any era. Contact me please and save me from myself”

I have not received a reply.



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The Weekend Retreat

You may not have heard of it yet, but you surely will; the new craze sweeping through the internet. ‘Candid Corner’ is a platform where, by using anonymous names, you can be as honest or ‘candid’ as you like about the object of your venom.

Some entries spring to mind. On the less interesting end of the scale ‘“Boadicea” writes of “Mud Pie,” ” I hate him. HATE HIM. He is fat and smelly. Urg eewww”, about her loyal though hygienically challenged husband. Further up the food chain of entries sits “I made his sandwich at lunchtime and put mashed up earthworms in it, with ketchup, he he he. Hope it chokes him” about a boss with overbearing self-importance.” You get the idea.

So now, sitting in front of her computer screen while her husband was out at his weekly Fortune Telling gig, and writing under the name ‘Priscilla’ she wrote of her husband, now called ‘Stale Toast’, “He is dull, dull dull: hopeless and can’t sing to save his life but insists on doing so”. She stared at the screen for a while and then added a new comment. “He sucks the joy out of all who meet him”. At last she smiled and felt a little better for venting. That was the secrets of the site’s success.

She was born Jemima Simmonds. A perfectly decent name, which allied to her attractive eyes, adequate figure and a reputation for tolerance gained her enough friends and male attention to get her through the senior years of school and college, until she stumbled on Nigel Pratt. The secret should have been in the name but she was too young to realise it. Now, as well as being saddled with a serial incompetent, she was also known as Mrs Pratt, or ‘Pratty’ which did nothing to help her acquire ‘gravitas’ at the school where she worked.

Her whole being was filled with foreboding. Tomorrow morning, both she and Nigel were off to a weekend’s ‘Life-Coaching’ event which he had won in a raffle at work. He was filled with excitement at the prospect of this adventure and once again failed to notice his wife’s growing sense of being trapped.

To be fair, which I always hate, the coach, their host for the weekend, did not come with a glowing career pedigree. His latest masterpiece, “The Wellspring of Hope” had just been rejected by a fifth publisher: a piece of news he was keeping from his wife. Still, all was not bad: he had got this weekend gig and a couple of new clients had replaced some of those who left him on a regular basis, disoriented by his non-specific optimism.

The next morning the car started at the first turn of the key, sending a fresh dose of pessimism through her veins. She had prayed for some mechanical breakdown to rescue her, but no.

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A Kiss Without Benefits

Love in all its travesties riled her to breaking point; cursed with more than average looks, and that allure which chaos brings, she chose to mock at ordered lives, and “Try and spice things up a bit.” She swept through events with spendthrift haste, guzzling at experience; “Bills are not my thing” she said,         ” But you can pay them if you wish.”

She understood stability, and the fantasies of sober men, teasing them with coquettish skill and tugged their hearts with reckless angst: eased them from their marriage beds, then laughed at their stupidity.

Your attention was all she sought but only as a passing whim. “Loyalty is the gift of fools” her glib remark to some poor man, finessed by her perceptive guile into paying for a holiday, “Unaccompanied if you please. Talent needs its solitude” and so the poor chump slid away, muttering about “The greater good,” only to find, when she returned that some new guy with polished teeth, who had the keys to Hollywood, was taking her beyond his reach, but kindly in her awkward way, she did not leave without a thought, but sent back a signed photograph, “Taken by a man of note.”

You may love her if you wish, but do not make a point of it. Already bored in infancy, she sought for nothing you could give. Diversion was her sanctuary and leaving you her one true gift.

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Becoming A Hero

Characters on the silver screen, living their unlikely lives, seemed more real to him than ordinary folk, clinging to daily routine. No different to the rest of us, he would sit silently nodding his head in some complex out of town, willing the hero on to happier times, because that is where we want to be. Am I right? Perhaps you know?

He knew those people on the screen but later on the walk back home, passing by some drunken beings, rough beyond his wildest fears, who yelled abuse at life and him, was not the place he wished to be. He longed to leave his mundane world, and climb the Pyrenees with friends; or escape some inferno dodging flames, holding a gentle heroine in his arms who rewarded his bravery with undying love: he would accept it modestly. He worked as a Librarian, and on the book shelves were his friends, walking streets where heroes walk and speaking with potent clarity.

His age was an embarrassment, and progress in real life was small. His address drew no envious glance, but in the pages of books he read, or unfolding on the silver screen, as he sat wrapped in gentle dark, where tales which teased him with their dreams. Sitting in his single room, unencumbered by romance, and pecking at some ready meal, Thai was what he liked I’m told, his mind was free to roam at will, and leave those walls on which hung art bought by the yard.

One day at the library, checking out some books, while watching the impassive face of a stranger, he saw, a girl spill her drink, and drinks were not allowed he knew. As he walked over to tell her this, he saw tears washing away her privacy. His heart was moved, whose would not be: a heroine trapped by her distress. He found the love within us is often damped by lack of hope.

But now, woken by the sight of a life more wretched than his own, he discovered compassion for a figure, not sprung from fiction but real life who, it was clear, did not regard him with the normal censure. He took her to the office and gave her another drink Moving to help her he saw her raise her eyes to his, and something in that forlorn gaze, more lost it seemed any than he had met, made him calm and brave and willing to confront her ghosts.

He found in the unlikeliest circumstances, as some men do, that dignity lies in loving something larger than ourselves: a faith, a night sky or call to ancient chivalry. Heroes, he found, are not always in uniform and so this poor unrecognised knight found compassion, and in protecting her weakness discovered his own strength. She was beautiful, but not his love unless she wished it so: chivalry must have no personal agenda he believed. Her name was Laura, and she had lost her home.

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The Un-Materialist

I remember those heady days when we first entered college, dropped our bags and said goodbye to our parents. Those conversations filled with awkward love and soon-forgotten advice. I remember meeting my new roommates, and sharing stories and then drinks and nodding a silent “Yes” to our unchaperoned adventure and saying to ourselves and then each other, “Life begins.”

In that first year it was all about “Experience,” and not so much the strategy. We were free of the nest and ready to drink the goblet dry. In all this Harry was the seer, the sage, the conductor of the reckless, who led us out to sample life, taste love and aspects of each other. Like a rocket, careless of its future he lit our sky, “Determined to live,” he said, “And damn the morrow.”

One girl or three loved him, and gave herself in vain because, for Harry, each day was a new possibility, and every bar a chapter in his book. He recognised everything but consequence and walked through each scene like a visitor: a man passing through your life but never in it. It was all about the talking through till dawn; draining the cup dry and being “Real” with each, and wondering what that was. We were young then, and treated our bodies as immortal: drinking with abandon and smoking weed to mark our independence.

How we envied his wild reckless ways, his music and his telling comments. “If you avoid risk you avoid life” he told our young souls, and how we loved him for it. That girl I had my eye on passed right by me, and who could blame her, for when I saw her next she was parked in his room, dressed in his pyjamas and making the coffee. For this brief time she was a revolutionary, who would never forget the way he spoke to her imagination.

By our third year, passions had cooled, and people talked more about “making dreams concrete,” and careers and strategies but never Harry. He vowed always to avoid “Death by common sense” and partied on but now there was a sense of defiance and even isolation. I found him once sitting in some bar on the edge of town and he told me, “Being lost is the doorway to discovery” but now I just smiled and said “That’s you Harry.” His acolytes loved his bravery, and the way he walked his own path, but more frequently now, he walked alone, seeking new disciples while his old followers nodded in sympathy and returned quietly to their studies.

Years later when I, by then a teacher, took my flock to London to visit a museum, I passed a figure outside the station playing a harmonica and staring at me intently: I knew it was Harry. “Did you hear the music” he asked me, “Or are you deaf now and wrapped in safety?” “All of that and more” I said, and saw love light up his eyes. I gave him some money saying “Party for me Harry” and he smiled as if I understood him. He had become unique unto himself and a stranger to company. It was the last time I saw him.

Posted in character, Compassion, creative writing, Fiction, Life, Peter Wells, Talent, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 24 Comments

An Eternal Sense Of Life

“What was your life like?” I said to the man one ahead of me in the queue of judgement. “I was like a man possessed,” he said as we waited. “How do you mean” said Mr Safe, namely me, now mourned with clean piety by a wife, relatives and various friends, as we waited; me and this newly met soul, to discover the shape and texture of our individually constructed eternities. Your Heaven or Hell, it transpired, are tailor made to provide either exquisite pleasure or suffering to the individual: judgement is a bespoke service from which there is no escape.

“I could not stop the words.” he continued. “I had morsels of praise but my diet was mainly indifference, sometimes mixed with embarrassment. I would talk to anyone, long after they wished I was gone, and eat at cafe’s pretending I was welcome and part of the community. Really, I was trying to express an idea: to get a concept on the page,”

“What concept” I rashly asked, because even the newly dead, with eternity before them have finite patience, and mine was tested.

“The concept of natural and emotional wilderness” he replied. “That manners are what we wear to make ourselves bearable to each other and ourselves. That iconoclastic indifference erodes the heart of each culture, and the pretence that this isn’t so is the foundation of every building, built to glory the individual.”

I found myself smiling as he said this and said, “And you found you had some difficulty making money from this vision.” He snarled at me, as if he had somewhere left to stalk off to, but now there was nowhere else to go. Right or wrong, wise or foolish, we shuffled forward to learn our fate, and nothing we thought or did now would alter that.

It was a curiosity of the arrangement that we were allowed to chatter idly with others in the queue and even hear what the angels said about their lives, before receiving our own sentence and reward. Those in front would drift slowly towards their designated experience and they too, would learn what would become of you.

At last our bitter author stood before the angels, to hear their observations and they said, “You have been brave and fearless, and not ducked the cost of your observations and for eternity you will be bathed in the recognition and companionship you craved for your entire life. Proceed in peace and Love.”

I was slightly taken aback and still trying to make sense of what I had heard when the voices of angels began speaking in my head. “You have lived a mealy mouth life without engaging in any serious wrong-doing; hiding behind a fearful superiority, clinging to accepted opinions and ignoring anything which might disturb your peaceful existence. You lived among those you might have rescued but were not sufficiently moved to help. You will now experience their life in eternity. You will experience what you chose to ignore.

As I fought to make sense of what I’d heard, and felt the first touches of that isolation which was to mark my designated experience I looked up and saw my colleague in the queue stare back at me. His fading figure seemed lit by golden light. He had heard the sentence, and I could see compassion flooding from his eyes. He, who had lived with isolation all his life, could not save me from a fate he knew too well.

Posted in character, community, Compassion, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Life, Peter Wells, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 21 Comments