My sister of course. A week of drinking, catching up and being a foreigner, what more could you ask for.
Chasing the sun and wet weather, though of course I will quickly learn to regret this decision, in my sun burnt water logged agony.
Long drives, hot weather, serial killers and dust, dust and more dust. hopefully somewhere a large red rock.
After far too long travelling, I am now somewhere that I want to be, and more importantly wants me to be here too.
I have cried in the arms of men, my legs buckled, my head buried in their chest, my dead weight for them to carry as I disintegrated to their embrace.
I have cried in the arms of men and they held me when I needed it most.
I collapsed into you as I accepted she was gone, I heard your sharp breathing, knowing you held yourself together for me.
You pursued me across the room, seeing my state even when I could not, I dribbled snot down the front of your expensive suit.
He squeezed the life out of me, stifling my cries, but foretelling how he would later react, fortunately you were there and just cried with me.
After the film, she ran out the room, you came over, I had been trying to hide my tears, who would have thought that such a simple scene would set us all off.
I have cried in the arms of men, real men.
And when it came to it, I held you, because no one there knew who you were, but I knew how important she was to you. I have cried in the arms of men and I have let them cry in mine.
Contradicting all that I had expected, I have found that it has been the males in my life that have connected with me the most. As you can see it has moved me considerably and it is hard to say whether this has been for me as a person, with all my odd conversation and openness, that has facilitated this reaction in the shadow of Tash's death or whether this ability to be open, loving and considerate lies in every man in the right circumstances. I did not expect this, my life experience up to that point had indicated that I was the odd one out, a man who expressed himself with an emotive honesty that often made my male friends uncomfortable, where solace and comprehension came by way of a female ear. Not so in the after, Death is elemental, it follows life with certainty and the reaction is equally as basic. As history can illustrate, it is perhaps an Inferno that is more tolerable to the male. It might either have been my manner dealing with the situation; replacing loss with love and expressing that in words, or simply because I have endured the one thing that many men secretly fear, regardless, from the support expressed physically, to my friends who stayed close, to the casual conversations I now occasionally find myself in, the depth of response and open warmth from my fellow man has affected me profoundly.
Bereavement has not been the hardest thing that I have had to bear, it is unfortunate that I can say this, I wish that it was not the case. The most difficult thing has been dealing with what happens to a partnered person when they move, in the final breath, from an "us" to an "I". Society and people are the cruelest things and if it is not bad enough that you are experiencing the loss of the better half of yourself; the painful learning of the widowers vocabulary (my time of using the plural "we" has past, though I still refer to Tash as "my wife" and will continue to do so until someone special asks me not to or are themselves then the wife, however the sentence "my wife died" rightly remains the hardest utterance and one that I rarely manage to express in the manner I wish. Recently I made it sound like a punch line, it should not run lightly off my tongue and rightly it does not); the off balance of existing in a space constructed for two and the deep, deep sense of abandonment, yet with all this I also found myself responsible for their grief, their expectations and their weakness. I am not angry, or even bitter - despite wanting to scream "My wife died, not yours!" - on more than one occasion. However even with all the shit I have seen, there have been glowing lighthouses of simple loving humanity that have helped me. There are wonderful people in my world and with them we share a form of Cheong - a Korean idea of emotional connection between groups of people that goes far deeper than the notion of a normal friendship - these gorgeous people are just obscured by a lot of idiots.
I will openly admit that I have been very surprised about the directions I have taken, led by a need to tackle my bereavement with honesty and integrity, and even so, without denial, the path I have chosen has been longer, deeper and more sincere than I expected; Tash could be a real fucking pain in the arse when she wanted to be, which is largely why I am surprised at how I have reacted. I now have had time to realise that the things that I felt about our daily interaction, how frustrated I would become of over the snappish relationship was nothing compared to my commitment to her, how we worked together, how strong we were as a couple and perhaps I had forgotten that more nobler side of things with my need to ground her memory in the mechanics of daily life. I was eventually reminded of this as I drove hard though the greater wastes of Australia, both metaphorically and physically, putting more miles between me and that time. There was a moment, in utter briefness, where I was gifted the view I have been long looking for. Somewhere in the Pilburough in all the rough bleached landscape, on one of the more hotter sunny full days of driving I caught a glimpse of a world that simply does not exist, not anywhere other than in my mind. Something that would normally remain internal became momentarily external. I'll be frank, it felt like a reward. I knew what it was, I had worked through enough emotion to have a little space in my head and it in turn had time to construct something I have been yearning for and so wanted to find. Just for a flash, out the corner of my eye I saw a Babylonian valley of green, lush trees plants, grass, flowers and wildlife somewhere where it shouldn't be. My utopia of Tash. It was as vast as it was fleeting but I knew what it was. My mind had constructed a physical space, the sum total of my love for my wife, it existed for a fraction of a second in my world and then was gone, I saw it tho and it continues to bring me comfort. As Paul Theroux and a great many others have observed "you never fully return from a journey, a part of you always remains out there" you should know that the part of me that I have left out there has a place to be.
I choose the opinion now that I did nothing wrong in the extended time after Tash's death, even though it did not feel like it at the time. My biggest mistake in the last two years had its foundation laid in the earliest part of my life. I have never been anybody's son and so took direction from characters on film and TV to fill the void and to develop my own personality. Some of this admittedly was escapism from my childhood, but equally from it I took on many of the theatrically heroic qualities that I saw on screen; Jean-Luc Picard, for instance, the Captain of the Enterprise in the Next Generation Star Trek - A noble and just man of honour, who wears the considerable weight of responsibility of his position without duress - is my adopted father, a fine patriarch, one without the flaws and disappointment of my own. The problem when it came, was foundational to this way of thinking; as I began to free fall after Tash died I expected our friends to rally round (I have found out recently that she requested that I be looked after, painful in context of what actually happened, but the softest kiss of protection reaching out to me from the past, never the less). You know the scene, the valiant heroes stand out numbered against the oncoming horde, only then in their darkest hour do the villagers rise to stand side by side; the reinforcements arrive just in time; the uncertain allies make their decisive choice. Or as I actually saw it, the ram shackle flotilla of ships sail out to rescue the crew of the sinking radio ship - if you ever watch the film "The Boat that rocks" you will know exactly what I was expecting. It didn't happen and I paid a very large price for my own hubris, that is not to say that this call was not answered, it was and I will always be indebted to those friends who saw what I needed, but it wasn't enough and I crashed and burned.
Or to put it another way it was like stage diving, seeing the crowd part and realising mid flight that there are only a couple of people willing to catch you. If you land on them, they are going to get hurt, the only other option is to go to the floor on your own, the painful, but honourable way out. But not a good look.
From that I learnt to live in reality (and not to stage dive, nor board any ship) and also realised that death is not the biggest hurdle, living in society afterwards is. It is a harsh world and the weaker defend their lot at all costs, I experienced this in a particularly brutal, considering my position, way. Their grief became mine, their fear of mortality was projected onto me, I was kicked when I was down, when I should have been held and loved. The lesson I have taken from that, is to never let this happen to anyone else.
I cannot recommend bereavement as a lifestyle choice, but that is not to say that I haven't had a great many things revealed to me. I understand a lot more of the world now from paying attention to what has happened. I know how soldiers feel before battle, I have felt the camaraderie that they feel and understand the depth of the bonds that they form, because it has now happened to me. I appreciate how important a single act of kindness or consideration can be when your world feels like it is spiralling out of control, a smile and a chat can be the difference between a good day and a black one leading somewhere else. I appreciate that I am not alone, but in fact one of many, if not all, stretching backwards in to history and again outward in to time, I learnt this from reading travel narratives; one man sweating in the shade in Istanbul in the early eighteen hundreds was just as uncomfortable in the heat and as bored in the day as I was sitting on the beach in Coral bay. We are all the same, just variations on a theme.
However, there is still far to go, even though you are not going with me. You should know that I am happy and content, though there are and always will be moments. It is more now with the emotive flow that wants to replace all that I have lost. It is a furious torrent and I fear in traversing this creek I might lose footing and be swept off to a duplicate life. Whilst stupidly easy to write, even in analogy, it will be a difficult thing to comprehend if you haven't experienced it. This need to replicate - the reasoning I feel is that if one is to stem the continued wound, it will be quicker to plug the gap with an exact fit, or there about, instead of allowing the lesion to heal naturally - is I think a contributory reason why the bereaved, often men I have noted, now I am a student of such things, get married again so early and occasionally to partners who bear more than a passing resemblance to their lost. Don't mistake me, I would like nothing more in the world than to be married again, but understand that my need is for the goal and not the game; Any such union in replication would quickly fall false without the ten years of a relationship preceding it. The need though is mighty. I am trying to dam this flow and direct it in a more helpful direction, perhaps for a little while longer my focus should be on my career and not my need for love, this hopefully will reduce the pressure behind me enough so that when my eyes glint and the faucet of flirtation is finally open again the poor girl will not be drowned by this current of substitution.
That though is the future and a story for another place.