As boys we used to break things a lot, test them by hitting, dropping, throwing them at things, or generally just being careless enough not to notice. I personally broke a lot of stuff, rarely on purpose although sometimes through blunt stupidity. I know it sounds like a confession, but it’s not, it’s just the way things were back then.
We caught stuff like bumblebees and spiders and watched them completely transfixed. For some reason, I always put flowering clover in jam jars for the bees to feed on. I was quite afraid of them really and I think being able to contain them in their glass prisons, albeit for a short time, gave me some sense of control over my fear. We always let them go.
We caught spiders and placed them in the same box to see if they might fight a great gladiatorial duel, but they never did. The only thing that ever happened when we nudged them towards each other was that they would scurry away. We collected earthworms and menaced our sisters with them and earwigs were the one crawling beast that we all seemed to despise. I think it was their unproved reputation for crawling into unsuspecting ears at night and as the story went, laying their eggs in your ear wax! We shared a lot of inaccurate rumoured facts. The grosser and more unlikely they were the better I think.
Swallowed chewing gum stuck to your heart. All bats drank blood. Drinking your own pee made you blind – I’ve no idea who developed that one or what spurious purpose it had in its origin – You got worms inside you if you handled worms, a threat we ignored. Nits only liked clean hair but came from dirty children, and every time you killed a butterfly, a child died somewhere in the world. Yes we were a scientific fledgling community of logisticians alright. Raising your hand to your mother meant it would stick out of the grave after you were dead; the devil convinced you to spit, so if you did spit, it was the devil whispering in your left ear. Witches were real, banshees were real and on the night before all saints day, all hallows eve, the spirits were out and about and up to no good, but we all still loved Halloween.
Girls were different. They didn’t break things like we did. They did of course but somehow we got the blame. They caught the bumblers with us, but we claimed the credit and they let us, even when they were usually braver in the catching than we were. They watched the gladiator spiders and the incarcerated bees, but made sure that they were freed when boys less kind than I, held onto them for too long.
They had their own urban legends and myths but mostly they were of less interest to us, much like most of their games but every now and then through boredom, necessity, or just because we accidently discovered the fun in it before we remembered our self-imposed apartheid, we would play together and then we had the best of craic. Ah happy days.
Then we got bigger, smelt ourselves, posed, became cool or not, fell stupidly in love every second minute, had crushes crushed, our mushes mushed and never really got to grips with the whole transition thing until it was too late. It seems teenage lessons are best learned in hindsight.
Adulthood meant maturity, growing up and leaving behind childish things. We all took on responsibilities – well some of us did – and then the pressures of life really kick in. The girls mostly rediscover their way and the boys theirs. I still pretend to know what I’m doing with manly looking tools and wait for the pretty one in our house to tell me how to use it properly.
Ah yes the dichotomy of life. Boys and girls, men and women lads and lassies. We all do our best to pretend we know what we are doing at every stage of life. Some do better than others, but really for the most part there is a vast chasm between the sexes that can only be forded with the faith to let go. As boys, we challenge the girls, fight them, struggle to best them and usually lose until we realise that they are starting to become interesting.
When they finally become interesting things only get worse. Interesting makes them confusing and when we mistakenly think we have them figured out it is too late, whatever damage we have done by that stage is well and truly done. Those who escape swinging a wrecking ball through their early relationships get off lightly. Heart breaks, tears and tantrums now all long behind me thank God. Beyond that, if we get lucky, we figure out the truth of relationships.
It requires a step from the ledge, the brutal truth that you have to open your deepest wounds, expose your worst nightmare of your own personal vulnerability. That you must trust someone not to thrust a pitchfork full of spite, anger, laughter or derision straight through it. Or worse, for them to ignore it or simply not recognise it for what it is and trod all over your heart and soul as if it doesn’t matter. To be bitten once, truly makes one twice shy to offer yourself to teeth again. Such is the scale of the gamble it requires to find true friendship or genuine love that is lasting and meaningful, it can feel elusive. For many it is a dream to be dreamt in moments of romantic flights of fantasy.
Thus great songs are born and great books are written and a word or a note can touch our souls. Me? I’m a glass box with a bloodied heart thumping away inside for all to see. There are cracks, scars and a constant leak of sorrow gathering to a pool on the floor below while a dark shadow lingers and sniffs around the cracks in the glass, trying to find the entrance. I found my love. I found my joy and that is the one blessing I can count every day.
But what of the drip, drip drip of my beating heart? If you look closely at the pool where it gathers on the floor of the glass box that I am, you will see – if you look closely enough – an eddy, a swirl, an almost imperceptible whirlpool always bleeding away. To where? To my next word, my next line, paragraph, page and book, and always watching, always present there alongside the love I bleed, is that dark shadow man. He has yet to find a way to fit through the glass, but where there are cracks, and there surely are, he squeezes in a little of his own darkness, his own melancholy, sorrow and danger and I never truly know as I bleed to the page, just how much influence he really has on my… …next…written…word.
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