Where is your gravestone? They ask. Double chin up, but you ran out of time slowly. Dragged your bones forwards for your bastards to pick at the choices. Sounds right. She loved you dearly. Nearly. Had you. Hindsight. Beloved burden, clearly marked for some kind of purpose if not a living born outside of life.
Light hearted but the older the lie, the harder the trust bites the lack of. Dearly beheaded, buttered up the heart with sayings and cholesterol calamitous promises. Words stray further that the eyes can see. I can see further than the stray. But I can’t feel that way west or some south eastern mystery that dies with us in a fry up. Did we learn well? How long the tarry, and how merry the folly. Only fools and Horses, and the company of the dead who bury their own.
Last year in the same stadium where Usain ran his last individual race tonight, I watched him run a pedestrian time (by his standards) in his favoured sprint event, the 200m. Then I looked at the awe filled faces around me after he had won less emphatically than he was accustomed to. Old and young faces of various shades wore identical expressions.The after glow illuminated those same faces that perhaps had more in common with the grey of London than their sunny disposition . They had seen the fastest man in recorded history do the inevitable. Winning was never in doubt. I left the stadium with a sense of an ending. I had watched him run well enough to win another race and it couldn’t last forever. Not long after that night, he added three more gold medals to his tally of nineteen (Olympic and World championship). A flawless resume, untainted by missed or failed drug tests. It was time to go. The body knows best. But in some peculiar way, the fact that he didn’t win tonight will endear him to the world even more so than a 20th gold medal might have done. We finally got to see him face defeat in a major championship final and he handled that adversary with grace. How we lose is just as significant as how we win.
We like our superheroes to have some semblance of weakness to remind us that they do exist on the same surface of the earth that we bestride. Father time is krypton’s leveler restoring balance and the order of things. I’m glad that I am a witness to his boundary breaking efforts. He kept the sport of Track & Field Athletics alive at the worst of times and I’m sure there will be a lot of new borns named Usain in Jamaica for years to come. In defeat he remains very much a champion of a medal far more illustrious than gold. He won the hearts and minds of the people. Common folk from all walks of life. He will remain the people’s junk food loving and living champion. He leaves the track as arguably the greatest sporting phenomenon of my lifetime.
Over the last weekend I went to a memorial service for two souls who are believed to have lost their mortal lives in the Grenfell Tower fire. Their premature death, or life, depending on how one perceives life and death, has been politicised as is par for the course these ominous days. They have become symbols of the wealth and class disparity in Tory Britain. If one was to reach into conspiracy territory, they are sacrifices for the status quo. I’m aware that it is a loaded perspective and sensitive to speak of such things at this time. I had met the woman at the heart of this trajedy in the weeks prior to the apocalypse that met her and her son, two floors above the ladder’s summit. Her big and beautiful brown eyes held all the mystery and vitality of the Sun that replenishes what the grey of life’s trials is so adept in sucking out of us. I’m also ashamed to admit that I stayed outside during portions of the service for no good reason other than perhaps the trauma of knowing, only to later learn more about what happened in their attempts to escape. It turned out to be far worse than I imagined. And yet to hear that there was a valiant fight in vain to survive and not merely succomb to the flames and poisonous fumes is in keeping with the character of one who had overcome so much, and fought to the end. As of my writing of these words, they have not yet found the body of the mother and child. They will not find their spirits either. Their remains, if found, can not testify of a mother’s love but her story lives in the memories of a transformed life that beat some great odds in earlier chapters. In her final moments it was her faith that stood between her and the figurative September. The new term ceased upon her life like the old enemy it has always been. Death has no friends but faith, hope and love are its foe.
On Monday evening I ventured on my way to one of London’s prettiest cinemas, The Electric on Portebello road, to watch a documentary film about the demise of one of the great vocalists of our time. Along the way I saw posters of the missing people of Grenfell in all kinds of places. I moved between Kensington and Ladbroke Grove and had to stop every so often to look at a face stuck on a highstreet shop window or wall with a name in bold. I was struck by the image of a little girl on a poster attached to a pole. The face of the little girl was open. A blank page of possibility. Then I remembered that on the bus I took to Notting Hill, there was a woman carrying a picture of a girl who looked similar to the one that had caught my attention and brought my footsteps to a halt. I stared at both faces, the one in front of me and the cloudy image in my faltering memory. It may very well have been the same girl. It dawned on me that the woman on the bus might have been out on the streets searching for any strands of information. She was not giving up hope of finding the dead or alive body of a little blank book of a life yet to be written, amidst a seemingly hopeless circumstance. Perhaps in time we who live to remember will reason that the fire stole many lives but it did not consume all of our hope. Pain is timeless but so is the hope that one day pain will be no more. This is the burden we carry from one heartbreak to another, with a wry smile alongside the tracks of our tears.
Spring departs like the kisses that dressed you down to play grown up games with fisted fears. The visceral image collapses as your heart attacks the mirage we were. I had to write this twice. Say something sweet and spit on it. Then put a foot on it and twist. Fast and hard. That’s how words work. Quick as the sinking sanded song we wobble on in chordination. I had to tie my hands behind my back so that it wouldn’t cheat the eyes that nourished our hopes. Living the lie was almost too good to be true. Work the hips, grind the wrist into action, wreck the moment, burst the balloon, and pop the lock of your bubble headed majesty. Oh we play hard ball with twisted tongues, daring the heart to watch the flight of our shooting Star as it explodes inside our cocoon. I almost caught her watching me lose her to my fantasies. The kink in my armour, comes undone. I almost found me watching her lose us in her astonishment that I could love all the things that made her loathsome in her own eyes. I only loved her soul because I couldn’t afford the possibility of everything wrapped around it. So I lusted after her flesh to make a man out of me. I bit into the fruit of her neck, carefully so as not to tear open her sacred honey coloured skin which illuminated the Temple of her Spirit, to mark her as mine. And I watched her marvel at the pleasure it induced which became ointment for the pain. She dared me into the whirlwind of wreckless abandoned and I surrendered to my nature’s intent. I watched her watch herself knowing it couldn’t last the storm to come. Those secrets between the high fiveing thighs were not the children we had hoped for, but they were ours to burn on the altar of love, for better or worse.
Like daylight on wings, a year has passed. Facebook didn’t bake me a Cake but its cool. A lot of small deaths have happened since that day. Usually the face stays the same but I find that the neck changes. Oh and I’ve discovered more strands of grey amidst new faces and adopted words. There have been a lot of changes in relative terms and even my own eyes have concealed pertinent things from me when its been necessary to do so. The main thing about the passing year is where I find myself in my ongoing story. I’m happy to say that after a year, a deep wound has healed. The dressing is finally off, and the emotional scar matches the one on my forehead. Its distinctive but not too big. I can’t say for sure that time rubbed the salt in it. Time and I don’t have that type of relationship. Its hands off and head up. I’d say living has a lot to do with the choice one makes to dig a grave or dig the foundation on which to rebuild after the fire which has all but consumed the life behind the projected image that is perceived by everything that leans against it. Long sentences be damned and sentenced to death but not so easily. Death is as passionate as life, but its not as picky. The meat and potatoes of life is first you do what you must to survive. Then once that mountain has been conquered, you do what you must to protect your heart (your love). Then you live forward. By limp, or by crawl. If the back is bent, and that hump is conspiring to keep you down, then you find something to hold you up and steady. Then you walk. In time you may run again, and flying isn’t as far gone an idea if you can pick up speed. Love is a kind of regal audacity. The lighter the load on the heart, the heavier the love. I’d like to believe that I still have the capacity for the heavy love that knew no boundaries. Once was. To see. Once again. To be.