The road ahead would stretch as far as he wanted: company unavailable. Exits were his speciality, entrances occurred infrequently, while each ‘new beginning’ waited confidently for him to spoil its promise: another drunken rage, a moment of unfaithfulness, a sense of himself tilting at order, in a marriage, in a job, at his life: you can take your pick!
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 then 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 we call “experience,” she 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 see 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 disconnected as the man she was speaking to now, though she was not to know that then: this sober steady girl who would admit to anything you wanted except her young life had previously been damaged by a man who was half way to lost: she had too much pride to make that admission.
All her new friend 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 polluted by his recklessness. He could smash any picture put before him: his toast, when he could make himself understood, was “Death to the enemy”, though we have no idea who that man or creature might be, while raising his whisky to the attendant crowd or with advancing years, to no one.
In time gone by, he was the master of a phrase, the king of raconteurs, who held court while others bought him drinks. Those faces gathered round him: revelling in his verbal balance, and storing away those edgy phrases spilled so carelessly in front of a passing audience so that in future years, safely protected by time and their common sense, and making the best of what they were, building a career on some aspect of ability, they would remember meeting some brilliant stranger who had no sense of his well-being, while he, lost in chaos and safely in their past, careered on through his wilderness in a search for understanding and a moment touched by comfort!