He doesn't know the moment, the point at which he stopped believing in tomorrow and started regretting yesterday. He's 40 now. Accent faded into obscurity. Married, and too old for kids, and each day his life is colder, the sun seems less bright. He doesn't know where he is, where he is going and occasionally when out on business drowns where he has come from in half a bottle of Gin.
So he stands there teetering on the abyss of nowhere as his mind surges. Memories, still after 20 years they are trying to surface. He desperately beats them down. Like water, this denial of his past seeps into his being, slowing his passions, rotting his soul. During those lonely weekends, out of town, in some shitty hotel near a beach it hits him the hardest.
As he lies there trapped on the boarder of being awake or asleep, sober or drunk, he's not drowning the memories, he's drowning in them.
He remembers his first day in this sun scorched land. Prim and proper, stepping off a Boeing into that wall of heat - heavy enough make your eyes water. Not that he was the crying sort. But there just never seemed to be enough room for him in this vast expanses of nothingness.
Not that he minded the place. He loved the way the town seemed to be the boarder between the vast flowing sea and the unquenching heat of the desert. But he didn't understand what people were saying, conversation eluded him, people spoke across him, like he wasn't even there, and when he was there, conversation seemed to dry up. His accent was a running joke. It was a small town and he just didn't get the way of things. He tried anyway, rebounding with the same sort of hope and naive nature of a beaten puppy who hasn't quite worked it all out yet.
He lies there. The sea salt
in the air is tangy and makes his mouth water. Hes getting thirsty
, but then again hes always thristy when the salts in the air. The Docks. Salt. The room feels full of it. He realises that trying to escape the sea and its touch is just as easy as forgetting time and its memories.
His first day passed. The first week rolled into the next and time crashed into him again and again like waves breaking on the shore. His first year passed much the same and slowly his tide rolled out. He was a small town kid now. He knew how things worked but that didn't mean he knew what was working. He was a lonely kid. He spent most of his high school days on the outside. But like all outsiders, like all younger kids he had his idol. Captain of cricket and footy, Rob Fenton was the head jock of Angelus. He followed him around the school, Fenton"s pet dog. At first he was a joke. Then a nuisance. After a while he just became part of the scenery.
He ponders these memories. After 20 something years he still cant shake off the feelings of guilt
. He knows he shouldn't feel guilty
– that it wasn't really his fault. He didn't know what he was doing. But deep down he knows the truth about it all
He can hear the other blokes talking about him; not grasping what they are on about, he can sense conflict. He wants to shout out that they can trust him, that he wont say anything, that most people wouldn't even give him the time of day if he even wanted to say anything.
But he doesn't. He just sits there and eats his white bread and vegemite sangers.
He is walking home, taking his usual Thursday detour to the docks to watch the whalers come in with their catch. He turns way, fingering the fiver in his pocket wondering if he wants to get a feed or not, when two blokes step out from the side of the warehouse. Sensing trouble, not for the first time that day, he veers away, he doesn't want to head home tonight looking like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces missing, especially now with his ma being so sick.
They cant be more than 19, all beanies, flannelette and blunnies. They throw him a package, calling him Fenna's dog. Take this to Fenna, kid, no arguments; you know how it is don't ya? He mumbles something they take as a yes and they go. He"s left there shaking; with relief and fear swirling through his legs as he regains control of himself.
He did what they wanted. As he lies there he remembers what happened next, clear as if he is still standing there. The flurry of packages
between Fenna and the dock boys. Suddenly he fits in. Not on the inside but he's someone to be trusted. And each package
has its rewards
. First it's a fifty
passed to him at school by a kid he's never seen before. Then its fifty
every time he makes the drop. Fenna tells him he's a good kid, that he can be trusted. The money is just a reward for being such a good kid
His ma's really sick now. The medication cost a bomb. He tells his dad he's got a job working after school at the docks, to ease the suspicions and to explain where all the money is coming from. Its not as if he is spending it on himself, its for his mum, there is no way the Dad could pay for it anyway, he's just a gardener for the big houses on the hill. And he doesn't ask questions. No one asks questions. Soon he's out getting packages not just for Fenna but for the moleskin kid in the sandman. He knows something is amiss but he's too caught up in the high of acceptance to admit it to himself.
Then it started. The town
took a sinister turn. As if the stormy weather
and dark secrets
. No one ever saw anything, yet inaudible whispers
created an organic hum
, counter pointed against the cluck of the cray boat's diesel engines. The sound seemed to grow out of the town and began to wafter
through the school
are those who chose not to hear, and in those weeks he hardly heard a sound. He is still lying there, knowing that those whispers he did not chose to hear spoke of deaths
, of pain and suffering
, and of the docks. They spoke of Evil
He's walking to another drop, the winter wind licking his jumper as it bites into his skin. He feels the weight of a package in his school bag, the weight his mother's dependence. So he looks without seeing, hears without thinking and convinces himself that he is doing the right thing. A man stumbles across his path, eyes glazed and bloodshot, but he doesn't register it. He chooses not to. The news of Fenna overdosing last Friday night still plays on his mind, but just as quickly as the news came to him he dismissed it. Someone else had replaced Fenna and he didn't care, just as long as he got paid.
So he reflects on his past, like a house of cards
his defenses come crashing down. He thinks about his role in killing the boy he once so admired, his role in his towns demise. He feels sick. The way the Gin
flows down, as if it has become water; the self-flagellation
, his burning respite has faded into a tingle
. He feels sick. Disgusted at the life he has lead, and the life he leads. He is reliving the shame felt on the day his mother found out where the money
came from. She died one week later; feeling dirtied
, without a son she called her own.
He is revolted at the mess he leaves in his wake. The ripples in time he creates, choices which return to break upon the shore of his failure. The way his father drank himself after his mothers passing. The way he cradles the bottle as if it's a respite, a justification or even an explanation for his wrongs.
He doesn't know how long he has lay there. He knows he missed the start of the conference. He doesn't care. The memories continue to surge to the fore of his drunken stupor. He had stopped caring when his mother disowned him. That's what he told himself. That's the belief he drinks to preserve.
He rouses. Sunlight sears his eyes. His mobile is ringing but he cares more for the bottle magically reunited with his hand. His head reels with that part of his past better forgotten. He knows he will never escape it. He feels not an impression on his being; rather the taint time and his actions have left within him. An eternal stain. Something water just wont wash off.
He unscrews the bottle.