NO WAKE FOR THE STARMAN

EXTRACT



Day One


And so it begins…


If you were here now, you’d be doing that ridiculous ‘gangsta’ thing. That thing: where you spread your fingers and wave your hands and nod your head. That thing: that I know is supposed to be cool and cute in some circles and is a part of what makes some guys wealthy men, but which is most unbecoming for a man of your age and girth and quintessential respectability and, as such, is very, very funny to watch. It’s why you do it, why you adopted it in the first place. You saw me unable to suppress a grin and a chortle at those to whom this - what? Peacock prancing? Territorial claiming? Physical self-actualisation? – belongs, in heart, as well as culture. You saw me highly amused, and in a single tick-tock of the clock also saw how to amuse me yet more. Just one of the things that I have loved about you for so long, this willingness to unbend to bring a little lightness to ease the weight of the seriousness that all too often is I.

You’d be doing this to not only make me chuckle, but also as an act of self-congratulation for winning an unexpressed bet with yourself. You know me so well, as do I know you. I know that you would have made that inner bet, a bet on intuitively knowing what it took Grandma, Portia and Anastacia a day trip to discover. Poppa Gene (the First) called me at shortly after eight this morning and, after our sad and subdued goodbyes, I decided to go and spend the day on the Rachel Rose. There was much to think about, and I realised that I couldn’t do that here. There are far, far too many distractions here. On the Rachel Rose? As always, there was little more than the lulling lap of the water and the cries of the seagulls to disrupt any train of thought. Not that there were any tracks to train any thought along. Not that there were many tangible thoughts that could be so directed. Memories. There were memories. A myriad of memories. More than twenty-five years’ worth of memories – and not a single one amongst them to have me cry. That’s something rare – in anybody’s life, in any relationship.

By the way, the Rachel Rose is still the best looking boat moored in Miami – at least, to my eyes. She bobs, proudly, amongst the super yachts from the yards of Sunseeker, Benetti and Trinity. She’s still the best ever non-divorce settlement any woman – well, any woman of the sea - could wish for.

You made a secret bet on what my first words would be. If – and I do mean if – I were to ever write them. It doesn’t matter how well you may know me. In this… Well? You would never have placed a bet on whether I would do as you asked – or, should I say, ‘suggested’. I know and you know and we know, and we know that we know that, like apologies, I never make promises. You – as I – wouldn’t, couldn’t know for certain that I would follow through on what you had put before me on the table four months or so ago. I’ve brooded about it every day since then: will I - won’t I? You couldn’t know, because I didn’t either. Can I? Would I? Could I?

What you would have perceived was, if I did, the way that my mind would have taken me to not necessarily make a decision, but to act on habitual impulse. You wouldn’t have conceived of the sickness – the gut wrenching vomiting and hours of shakes, the sleeplessness and the dark and threatening nightmares that came when sleep there was, to get me to this point: the point – this point – of beginning. Our extraordinary intimacy dictates that, if I arrived, you would know, know, know, know, know that, begun, I will stay the course, though. You knew, knew, knew that, if I did take up your invitation, it would be because it was my ‘last best hope of peace’. That’s how you would have guessed the first words that I’d write.

It’s nothing to do with Lincoln or Bennett or the Belgian resistance. It’s nothing as lofty or fine or idealistic or heroic but as simple and plebeian as being a B5 Babe. How often have I made you watch that with me? I don’t know why I’ve had you sit through re-run after re-run of Babylon 5. Actually, I have no idea of how I’ve got you to sit through them. I think of ‘precious time’ and (not exactly, but almost) ‘stolen moments’. So many seconds of our time together has been both and I’ve frittered an uncountable number of those seconds reliving ‘The Shadow Wars’. I’ve allowed them to go to waste – and you’ve allowed me to do so. Except they haven’t been wasted, have they? They have been a part of our ‘downtime’: that of the companionable silence, curled up together on the couch, after the questions and answers and telling of news that go with playing catch-up.

And so it begins…

What begins, Gene? Hamilton’s reign as the youngest and only black Formula 1 World Champion has begun. That, and Barack Obama’s journey to the White House. Each is real – as is the deliberate prevarication in mentioning them. The temptation to expand on them or search for yet other beginnings is strong, as is the inclination to put down this pen and leave the table. Go and watch television. Pile the dogs in the van and drive them down to the beach for a late-night walk. Take up lace making or start learning Hindi. Do something – anything – other than sit here and put into words that preferred held silent. Not whispered. Completely silent – with that completely completed by that they have no permission to even form in thought. Of course, this can’t be prevented. Our thoughts have a mind of their own. That mind doesn’t have to be spoken, though.

I’m the Rehab Reject, the AA Outcast, the Psychiatrist’s Nightmare (or Dream Child?). It’s not that I don’t have problems. It’s not that I’ve never been able to admit them to myself. It’s not that I’ve ever denied their existence to you. I don’t pretend to myself that they aren’t there. It’s just that I don’t believe in a Higher Power, in any name – and secrets cease to be secrets if ever shared with anyone. I love and trust you in a way that I regard no one else, am closer to you in a way that, at times, seems impossible. There’s no doubt – no doubt at all – that you would do anything other than continue to love and trust me, adore me as much as you always have, were I to speak; but not even you have been privy to my secrets. If not you, then whom? Certainly not a doctor or a counsellor or a higgledy-piggledy group of others who are prepared to do what it takes to get better. I’m not. I’m not prepared to bare my soul to any stranger. There’s no fear of judgement or condemnation – at least, not for me; it’s the gushing, the happy-clappy, cheer-leading that accompanies the ‘My name’s Rachel and I’m an alcoholic’ that I’m so uncomfortable with. That, and the hundred and one other things that go into help and self-help: the fooling of ourselves into believing that we are not alone; the studied calm of the qualified, experienced therapists; the counsellors who may be genuinely caring individuals but clumsy amateurs in practising their desire to help others; the piffle to be found in so many books and workshops; the seedy halls of many a group meeting or what can be a decadent opulence for one in our most expensive of rehab clinics; the fake and temporary friendships and the zillion conflicting ideas and ideologies…

Don’t get me wrong, Gene: private or public, professional or leaders of ‘been there, done that’, the tapes and books, the tools and techniques… It really is fantastic that there is so much available and so much choice within that availability for those wounded and frail. It’s wonderful, all these options to help those that have hidden in their addictions to get well and whole again. My cynicism goes only as far as the said ‘piffle’ that lines row after row of the bookshelves wrought from the minds of a multitude of Toms, Dicks and Harrys. The help so desperately needed by so many is there – and it works for so many of the many. My antipathy and distaste for the whole idea have been nurtured and come from that it, simply, has never worked for me. It never could. I don’t do confidences – an essential ingredient to growth and greater well-being.

Really, I should claim that I haven’t been willing to confide – because that is changed now. All is changed now. With this pen. With this book that you gave me. With the time and space you have now given me. With these things, I have changed. I’ve found a willingness (albeit a reluctant and fearful one) to reveal openly, that which has hitherto been veiled. I can do it because of that innate trust I have in you and that your catalogue is of sound understanding, sound decisions – where mine is one of disasters and self-destruction. You’ve always known that I have had a Shadow War of my own to fight, and you realised what I didn’t: there had to come a time when I would have to fight it. Have to, if I am to survive. You appreciated, those four months ago, what I didn’t: that this would be the time to start that fight. You recognised, with foresight, what I am only now beginning to recognise: this isn’t my ‘last, best hope’, is it, Gene?

It’s my only hope, isn’t it, Gene?

And so it begins…

What begins? The real what… Tomorrow? They say that tomorrow never comes, but it always does. It’s born of today, with its ancestors in the days and weeks and years gone by. It sires the day after, the week after, the whenever after. My tomorrow was seeded fifty years ago; it started to shoot its roots when we first met, more than twenty-five of those fifty years ago, and had grown strong, tall, with bold foliage and flowers; its roots began to shrivel in the searing heat of this July; and its leaves began to fall, just past eight o’clock this morning.



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