30 March 2001
Did you ever break down on the side of the road, on a quite rural mountain range where the only thing you could see was the shimmering, twinkling stars above, and the only sound the quite whispers of native animals as they laughed at your misfortune from their safety in the darkness?
Somewhere in the distance you can hear the deep rumble of a big motor that seems to take literally hours to get anywhere near you, and as you think it's about to appear around the steep corner, you jump onto the road hoping they'll see you and pull over. Instead, all that happens is the high beams blind you like a rabbit, and you stand unmoving as the great machine materialises from the dark in a raging storm of sound.
You have no idea what happens next, but you find yourself stuck to the insect guard over the front of the radiator, while pieces of your body are moulded over the gi-normous bullbar like you had been turned into molten cheese. The wind curls across your back like a hot lash and the roar of the motor has you wondering if this is what lift off feels like. The ride is brief, terrifying, done at high speed and strangely exhilarating once you realise you're not dead.
Somehow gravity manages to drag you from the front of the machine, and as you hit the ground you can feel every wheel of the prime mover and that long lean trailer ride over your body in a series of sharp shocks that spin you off to lie splintered and dazed on the side of the road, once again lost in the darkness of a lonesome country lane that you had no clue even existed before. The truck is gone in seconds, and before you can slow your heart, the sound of the motor on its long haul has already vanished from the still air, making you wonder if the whole experience was real, or the result of a false memory induced by aliens who have just placed you back on the ground after some bizarre abduction experiment gone horribly wrong.
If you know that feeling, you'll understand when I say that April was a woman who could do to your heart what that truck could do to your body. Days & nights of frenetic energy spent doing who knows what, for when her eyes closed and reopened in another direction, all the previous seconds of time collapsed into piles of despair and blank memory. Once she was distracted, her little nose was winkling new spells on other unsuspecting mortals. The magic that had held you under her sway and made all her previous actions appear coherent and a blessing upon you simply faded into vapour, which escaped your grasp and control.
April took me from the shore back when I was still young and stupid enough to think it was reasonably safe swimming outside the flags. I was nothing but a snack to her. She swallowed me whole like some modern retelling of Jonah and the whale, and when she felt like it, she spat me back out onto a storm tossed sea in the middle of god knows where. Whether the waves on her back made any difference to her I couldn't tell. I am sure to her they were neither harmful nor helpful, just another thing in her environment to plough through in the endless swim of life. Being taken didn't feel very scary at the time, I guess my wide eyed innocence made it more a curious journey of wonderment, but certainly looking back I could see the merry dance we made spin in curious eccentric circles through a minefield of emotion. One day something would go off when I least expected it, which of course was the case.
The ubiquitous "Boom, you're dead. I'm afraid you'll have to sit the rest of this game out, sonny."
The one good thing about April, besides the tales best left untold until the meditative peace of a retirement home, was how she taught me reincarnation.
It wasn't some god of choice on feathered wings swooping down in a flurry of sound & vision, or a prophet spouting wisdom from the ages that taught me the beauty of it. It wasn't even April herself who took a battered soul into the fountain of youth for respawning.
One day I looked on the back of my hand, and there was a little green, leafy spot. It neither hurt nor helped anything, and without interference, it persevered on my hand until I had become so used to it that it became a perfectly natural permanent fixture.
It wasn't until in one of those odd moments when you frisk yourself in some random cosmic, personal stock take, that I realised the green spot had grown so much I looked like Moss Man, or the Green Knight. It had become a second skin, covering me from head to toe in a soft armour that shielded me from the small hurts of the world. Strangely enough, the moss had a name.
She was Rhiona, and from the time of that frisking it seemed
as though I noticed her in every thought, and through every second I was living
through. She had sprung up on me from nowhere, and once she was there it was
as though she had always been there, like breathing.
She was so unlike April, the freight train heart hurtling through space in a race between destinations. Some might have called her clingy, but I found her utterly enchanting, and the permanent unintrusive contact endearing. She was unafraid to walk amongst a crowd tied together only by an entwined finger. It neither locked us together nor allowed us to drift apart when didn't desire to, but allowed us to be two, and one, and both.
We had our own special dance. We didn't need to move, or even need music. The simple purring of the earth as it responded to her feet upon its back was enough for us to pretend to be swaying together, forehead to forehead, eyes closed in personal bliss. It didn't seem flashy, or make a lot of noise, which would make the world stop and take notice, but as far as we were concerned, it certainly shook our world. Not like a nuclear explosion might, more like huge oceans swell which just carried you along irresistibly with it.
When my heart had to die, Rhiona was the little well spring of life that somehow caused things to grow again.
To April, who is still out there notching up road kills, I lift my glass in silent thanks for her gift of reincarnation.