the ambition, before the need to have a certain car, or a tasteful dinner
set, before the painstakingly styled hair, before cell phones, before the
competition with the couple next door, before holidays became a brand
name, before the furrows we get from thwarted social and financial
ambition, before the titles and the company car, before the troubles of
mortgage, and balancing children with work, before potty training, before
having to be up at dawn to get dressed for work, before family
responsibilities, before gravity of the flesh, before the quick fixes of a
fete here and there, before peering in the mirror to examine grey and
wondering why life felt more like a clogged sink than an open sky, before
all that, there was you.
the hurts that life meted out, before the disappointments, before the
exact moment you realised it was too late to start your life over, before
you decided the best defence to failure was not trying too hard, before
that slip of time when you threw on your mantles of protection against the
world and wrapped it round with the security of prejudice feeling your
religion was the only one, your race was superior, that Japanese people
speak like cartoon characters, and Jews are too smart for their own good,
and all Muslims are human bombs, that the Catholic Church is an
out-of-touch, elitist organisation, that only Born Again make it to
heaven, that Indians are too insular, that Africans war amongst
themselves, there was you.
was you pitching marbles, it was you sitting around in your mother’s
kitchen waiting for the cake to be baked, licking the creamy chocolaty
bowl, it was you lounging in your room listening to music, it was you
kicking around on the beach with your friends, it was you driving too fast
with sea salt in your hair, it was you in the moonlight with your girl, it
was you in the cinema giggling uncontrollably, it was you being stroked on
the forehead while you had fever, it was you seamlessly honestly seeing
into the heart of people and things.
image: Ten, maybe 12 years ago, before the babies and the business and her
grown-up engagement with the serious business of life. She was flinging
her red hair about in the sunshine going “raga raga raga raga raga raga
raga raga raaaga” a bottle of Carib in her hand. Her face was a sheen
that could never be replicated by cosmetics, water, alcohol, rain
splashed, mingled with sweat.
image: The boy couldn’t have been more than 16. One moonlit night when
he was reading his history book it began to rain and the moon made drops
of water on trees quiver like diamonds. On an impulse he grabbed his
sister and they ran out of the house and they danced and laughed and shook
the water off branches of trees on one another. They were themselves.
those few years of carefree living where we wandered distracted with the
song in our heads in slippers and a peasant top embroidered with flowers
or jeans in and out of our friends homes, hearing snippets of grown-up
talk, thanking the Lord we would never be like that.
promised ourselves then we would never be like the older generation who
disapproved of friends who were too different or poorer or too rich or
black or white or brown, who didn’t speak the way we did or eat the same
kind of food. Everything was possible then.
day arrived when we looked at the first few greys appearing, and heard
ourselves mocking somebody holding our mantle of prejudices (a deadening
talisman to mummify ourselves against change) tight about us to protect
ourselves from fear of difference, of change, of dealing with our own
unhappiness. The day arrived when something essential, lovely, fearless in
us had dissolved with the merciless glare of the material world.
came across on a slip of paper a quote I copied from an art gallery some
years back under a painting of Marc Chagall’s. He acknowledged that
simplicity created his greatness.
the troubles of our world I have kept the inner life in which I have been
raised, and man’s hope in love. In our life there is a single colour, as
on an artist’s palette which provides the meaning of life and art. It is
the colour of love. Basically we are all alike. And we’re probably
nostalgic, not for what we would like to know of things outside ourselves,
but for our own dreams, our own impulse toward a revolution in our inner
life, which is the discovery of purity, of simplicity, of naturalness,
such as the faces of children and the voice of the one whom we have the
habit of calling Divinity.”
I look at the people who never ever appear to grow old I think of people
who perpetually remember what it is like to be young.
There was you.