Written today and first published here.
No more, he said.
I am sorry that, then, I paid no attention to him. I was ranting on to him about humanity being nothing but separate lumps of meat in motion. When I was younger, you see, I had a very materialistic view of life. Some might have called it a jaundiced view. Others: a depressing one. Yet others agreeing with me that lumps of meat are the only ascertainable fact about humanity when judging by objective scrutiny.
It was a friend of the family to whom I was expressing these nihilistic theories. We all knew him as Uncle Bob although there were no blood-links between us. Where he fitted in and how we knew him at all were matters never clear to me during those early days. It’s only later that I’ve gradually begun to realise the nature of Uncle Bob, his identity and raison d’etre. I think he usually took me with a pinch of salt. I had inferred he was religious so he was easy meat, as it were, for my baiting, I thought.
His favourite expression was ‘Absolutely” which he said with a rhythmic sway of the sea: “Ab-so-loot-lee”. Normally he agreed with everything people said: an easy response to the cut and thrust of conversation. But I must have tested him to his limits with my philosophical materialism. I would never let go. I just went on and on about us all being meat. Like all animals. And I saw dismay in his eyes the more I went on: leading — with such serial one-sided debating attacks from me as his young adopted nephew — towards something worse than dismay. I‘d call it despair. The eternal implosion of his faith. Or perhaps, in hindsight, I was giving too much weight to my effects on him. Perhaps he was just acting. Waiting to pounce on me at the first sign of weakness in my argument. Leading me on with his god-damned ‘absolutelies’, rather than me leading him on with my gradual ambush upon his convictions, my more and more vicious raids upon the human condition in search of mankind’s mindless meat for me to gnaw and chew and then digest into eventual nothingness – or worse than nothingness bearing in mind humanity’s propensity to waste away or turn into its own waste before vanishing among the elements of the Earth itself.
Yes, thinking about it, it was that ‘bearing in mind’ expression which was my eventual undoing.
Bearing in mind was crucial though, Uncle Bob claimed in a rare moment of saying something other than one of his ‘absolutelies’.
But that sudden counterattack on his part only spurred me on. Made my rant worse. I was furious with his sudden turning upon me using my own words as a weapon.
No more, said Uncle Bob, with a wave of his hand towards my now endless verbal attacks. And from that moment, his ‘absolutelies’ turned almost without exception to a sad case of continuous ‘no mores’, whatever the subject was being discussed in his presence. I had won.
Eventually, Uncle Bob himself was no more.
As life goes on, our pasts are themselves no more. My own life took a new course, and where or when I forgot my youthful certainties was never a question I found myself asking. Youthful certainties blending into only one certainty, the only real pressing matter: a life of my own and a living to make. And then a wife to love. Eventually a baby to nurture. It no longer seemed to matter whether we were meat or mind. Certainties in many ways became hidden Absolutes of mental and physical survival, because the more you think about life and its meaning the more it ceases to be life at all. One needs the escapism of NEED.
The escapism of NEEDING for others as well as for oneself.
The credit crunch took its course. My job, like Uncle Bob himself, went awol. And later my wife vanished with now ten-year old Robert. A real shock to the system as I had not seen this coming. We had been having difficulties, true, don’t all families? But whatever the reason, it turned me in on myself. Instead of being that ancient outward philosopher of life and death to bait other people like I used to be with Uncle Bob, I was now an inward philosopher to bait myself. Determined to prove my own meat, as it were, had no mind within it. I had become my own meat-raider. Ambushing my own vessels and canals with a magician’s vanishing abracadabras. Like a God outside of myself demeaning the very thing of which I am God. The body that once was me. The body that once was Him.
When June discovered RP it was as if she had discovered someone who once sat on the sea-front in all weathers. Or that was what she sensed for no reason whatsoever other than instinct. She was new to the seaside resort so she herself would never have seen RP sitting there. Indeed, it was not really a person at all she discovered but a public bench looking out at the sea, a bench bearing these words engraved upon a screw-on metal strip: “In memory of RP (1948 – 2009).” Merely that. Someone must have loved RP – whoever he was – to have arranged this remembrance of a person past, this aptly described ‘engraving’. He could never have been lonely with someone left behind so caring as to screw on this metal strip for him. Yet, June doubted her certainties. Why just engrave the initials and not the full name, for example? And why had she assumed RP was a man? It was perhaps instructed within a will to arrange for the funds to allow this metal strip to be screwed on … and a council worker had done it. She sat on the bench and wept, for not knowing what is truth and what is fiction.
No resting in peace for RP, as he is no more. Like many of us.
June herself went home and forgot about RP and his bench soon enough as we all do when we think we shall remember a day’s event that seemed so significant at the time but so forgettable in hindsight.
The sway of sea seemed to speak one word in one voice: as two apparently stray dogs played at the edge of its ebb and flow. Or more than played as their playful antics turned into bites. And their forms, as sun turned to moon, into something not dog-shaped at all.