The road ahead would stretch as far as he wanted: company unavailable. Exits were his speciality: entrances happened infrequently: opportunity waited confidently for him to spoil it’s promise. Another drunken rage, a moment of unfaithfulness, a sense of himself tilting at order, in a marriage, in a job, at a life.
So here he was, another walk, another outburst, another day trying to explain what ‘living’ meant to himself, if no one else. That look she gave him was not unknown, but new from her. When they met, love spilled out of her with careless abandon. He was a wound from which emotion flowed, and she the bandage who brought comfort to his life. She was all he had and all he wanted, and on this crazy voyage he called existance, she had seemed like some unlikely angel, appearing from nowhere at a bookshop, commenting on the book he was browsing, saying, “He’s odd, the author I mean”, and he had turned and smiled at her, because it was ten-thirty in the morning and he was still sober, and wondering at her interest. ‘Crazy’ he understood and you could sense that in his smile. Her young life, lived without adventure and ordered in the way which ironed out the spontaneous had moved to his, who seemed so reckless of his welfare, or health or any sense of strategy.
The author she talked of was odd, but not as odd as him, though she was not to know that at first meeting, this sober steady girl who would admit anything you wanted except she had spent her love on a man who was half way to lost: she had too much pride for that. All he had was anger, and the power to destroy, as she would discover in her turn. She presumed he longed to be understood, but in truth all he wished for was escape, as he so often did, into a landscape which, on each return, became more poluted by his recklessness. He could smash any picture put before him ,or dream of coming home. His toast, when he could still make them was “Brutish and short”, raising his whisky to the attendant crowd or with advancing years, to no one.
In time gone by, the master of a phrase, the king of raconteurs, who held court while others bought him drinks . Those faces gathered round him, who revelling in his verbal balance, and storing away those edgy phrases spilled so carelessly to his passing audience so in future years, safely protected by their common sense, making the best of what they were, building a career on some aspect of ability, they might remember their time with some brilliant stranger while he, lost in chaos and safely in their past, careered on in search of wilderness: the only space he understood.