- Vol. 03
- Chapter 03
CoastingThe umbrellas resemble monks, don’t they? Funny. Not in a good way, obviously. It’s like they were following her, even then, watching, waiting.
They were always watching. From when she was born; a childhood shunted from pillar to post. To when they packed her off to boarding school. She was never alone, not for one moment – they didn’t even have curtains around the beds in the dormies. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t be a young woman with hopes and fears and such, such pain.
They managed to persuade her somehow to stay back as a teacher, though she was barely qualified. She did bitty work, playing piano, conducting the band, taking the girls for walks. She had no talent for or love of music, but she did enjoy walking. It was her thinking time. And she made plans. Plenty of them. If they had known what was going on in her head… They would probably have restricted her to the library or kitchen. But those pines, and the lake, so clear and turquoise, and the evening sky, with clouds scudded across… They gave her ideas. They let her dream.
And here we are. That magical, longed-for image. She is fiddling with her camera; I am poised, ready to dive. The monks surround us, watching, ever watching, but they are inanimate, they cannot interfere any more. We are at the edge of the world. The sun is setting gently, kindly. The sea is blue. It is all perfect. It should be. On paper it is amazing; it is all she dreamt of.
In reality, of course, it wasn’t. It was close, but it wasn’t. Have you solved the riddle yet? What’s wrong with this picture? My mother is accounted for, so am I, so are the monks and the clouds and the sea. So who’s left?
The person taking the photo. It’s always them. Wouldn’t it be lovely if photos could take themselves, paintings could paint themselves, memories could be captured on paper or canvas just through the power of happiness and love? If those two people, we, could implant the image of us, seen from the side and a few metres away, on our brains forever, without outside help?
Of course, that, like so many of my mother’s great fantasies, would be too perfect.
There was a third party, or a fourth if you’re counting the monks. And I guess a fifth, and that is you. The person seeing it.
The person who saw us and how beautiful we were and caught that moment was or is benevolent. But my father didn’t see everything. He didn’t see what was coming for us; he didn’t see the mark on my mother’s soul, the tracker, the thing they would never let go of.
He didn’t know she would never be free, and that by viewing this image you, my friend, are seeing a tragedy. A happiness that can never be repeated. That is the greatest tragedy of all.