This week has left me pondering how pervasive and powerful one person’s fear can be. A would be butterfly on the West Coast of America gets their wings in a flap and a draft is felt in East London.
Friends we have built over decades of shared experiences we assume are solid and immutable. We tend to think that bonds forged over trauma endured or thousands of laughs and kindnesses exchanged are unshakeable – the rocks in our lives we can count on to be there no matter what. We think that because we have travelled through life’s most profound journeys with a person and emerged, survived together, no deed can unmake the past. What’s done is done and set in stone.
Therefore it is unsettling to suspect that, in fact, the past is fluid and unstable. Pull one thread and it unravels. Take for granted that understandings reached half a lifetime ago stand protected and sacrosanct and you will find they have to be renewed like a magazine subscription, fought for all over again with battles you imagined long ago won and buried.
I’m exasperated for two reasons.
Firstly because all the time spent building good will has been eroded, stained and stolen by the instant gratification of insecurity. Secondly, I’m disappointed with myself for falling prey to feeling cowed and self-conscious about a relationship I’ve always openly celebrated and been proud of. No matter how defiant I am regarding the principle that positive should always triumph over negative, the seed of doubt and fear of offence has crept in. It has sullied any joy and innocence in celebrating my own history, whomever may be a part of it, all for someone else’s perception, which I am now obligated to view through the warped prism of. I can’t become unaware of it.
I’m reminded of Kevin in the film Time Bandits watching his parents approach the charred lump inside the oven. He yells, “Mum! Dad! Don’t touch it! It’s Evil!”
Of course they do and malignancy persists, spreads, infects everyone in contact with it, just as gossip, insults, fear and jealousy infect and mar a whole slew of people down the line from their origin.
Sides are taken, acrimony magnifies out of proportion. People shut themselves off instead of communicating with love and maturity.
Something good gets hidden away in the cupboard under the stairs, to be ignored and moulder, collecting dust. It’s as if you were suddenly informed that your Chiparus bronze was a deeply embarrassing wedding present of a Lladro figurine, allowed to be placed on the mantle in case of certain relatives visiting, then shuttled back into obscurity for the sake of diplomacy.
Someone said, peeved, “You love to stir shit. Why do you have to write about it?”
“Because I’m a writer. That’s what I do.”
“Yes, but you’re not a real writer.”
Maybe not. And friendship, loyalty and decades of love and truce are imaginary concepts we also fancy are real until a Time Bandit steals them away.
“Good one of Wally…” said Fidget, eyeing a Polaroid. At least that was one photo enjoyed for its own sake.