Thursday, 16 April 2009

SNAPSHOTS: Lost


The kernel of inspiration for this short narrative is a photograph by Christoph at BW Photography (which he has given me permission to use and post… thank you, Christoph!) I do love his B&W photographs and although he hasn’t posted for a while his work is really worth having a look at! Many of you will have sussed that I do enjoy the visual arts very much… paintings, photographs, sculpture & architecture so, it was a real treat writing this story from a genre that gives me so much pleasure. I take this opportunity to acknowledge all the visually artistic blogs out there (especially those I visit regularly)... thank you so much for sharing your 'light and creativity' with the blogging community! [Well, as with all my work on this blog this remains a WIP]. Hope you enjoy the read!

Lost

There is a certain cruelty in the cycle of the rising and setting sun which forges on irrespective of circumstance or tragedy. Perhaps if Mother Earth would weep with me I might find comfort in her tears. But she persists in her rolling rhythms. Even on the day of my loss, the sun shone with autumnal song. There was not a speck of black or grey in the skies, no rumour of thunderstorm or gale. Nothing to warn me: of the arrival of the emptiness that was to become my nesting companion.

On the morning of the day, which will forever be laced with heartache, we went through the motions of our Saturday routine. After breakfast, I slipped on a pair of yellow plastic gloves and made a start on the cleaning; scrubbing every inch of the bathroom and kitchen. I remember he commented on how the house ‘stank to high heaven of Dettol and bleach’ before he disappeared to potter in the garden. I remember being cross at the fact that he’d ruined a load of washing the night before; all our whites stained, a sepia hue. Once the cleaning was done, I hung the disasters out in the yard, muttered several obnoxious comments in the direction of his auburn curls, and returned indoors to make a start on the ironing. I remember I spent a good hour doing the ironing (mainly his work shirts) because we’d agreed to go to Cannon Hill Park in the afternoon. That morning, I’d been interrupted by two phone calls. The first was from our neighbour, Alice, who asked about borrowing the lawnmower. The other was my mother checking to see if we’d still be coming over to lunch the next day. It’s funny what I remember of the day which changed the course of all my tomorrows.

We cycled to the park. I trailed behind him keeping an eye on the guitar strapped to his broad back. He always took the lead in this way, like the time we hiked up Snowdon and he’d led the group from the front. And whenever we planned trips abroad, he’d take charge and make all the necessary arrangements – organising the passports, and the hotels we’d stay in. He hated the all-inclusive package holidays and preferred the pick-n-mix approach – ‘we need to be in control of our destiny’ he’d often say. After turning left at the roundabout, he pulled to the side of the pavement and waited for me to reach him before continuing. At the park (bikes in tow), we strolled over the bridge spanning over a small lake, paused momentarily to enjoy the sight of squawking ducks, and wandered the short distance to our usual spot. There, we settled under the large oak tree – engulfed by a collage of yellow, red and brown; the tide of changing season. I threw the rug he’d bought on a trip to Brazil on a patch of grass. He emptied the picnic basket: ham slices, pickle, a baguette, yoghurts, orange juice, strawberries and cream (we’d picked up from Tesco during a late night shop the previous evening). After lunch, we fed each other strawberries and cream. I giggled as he missed my lips and splattered cream on my cheek. He kissed it off. ‘Tasha, I must get a picture of you like this,’ he whispered, reaching across to collect our camera from the rucksack. As I lay flat on my back – spread like a windmill – he took a snap. Then a succession of poses: on my belly, chin supported on my knuckles; peering round from behind a tree; looking away from the camera into the distance allowing my gaze to take in Birmingham’s sky rises. They towered and surrounded the park like silent guards. He came over and tickled me – shattering the stillness of my pose. I tried to wrestle him off but he didn’t stop until I gave up in a heap of exhausted giggles. It was then he decided to strum his guitar while I withdrew into my Alice Munro book, the short story collection I’d been reading at the time. That’s how we were – Morten sat with his back leaning against the tree while I lay with my head cushioned on his lap – until the afternoon glow flickered and began to wane.

This is the last memory we shared. Even now I wish I could remember the songs he played on his guitar that day. Beatles or Bruce Springsteen? I can’t be sure. When we got home just after six or so, he left me to unpack our load, gave me a quick peck and said, ‘Sweetheart, I’m just popping across to the Newsagents to get the paper.’ That would have been our evening. I’d spend time fixing dinner while he’d catch up with the day’s news. I’d planned on preparing some lasagne or maybe it was cannelloni? It didn’t matter in the end… because he never came back.

Like a comet streaking the skies in an unexpected flash – he was there one minute and gone the next. Twenty-four hours later, I notified the police. Then a blur of conversation: ‘Did he leave a note?’ ‘No, no – he didn’t leave a note’ ‘Did you have a row?’ ‘Nothing major - I was upset about the laundry this morning but we didn't row about it...’ ‘Was he depressed?’ ‘No, he wasn’t depressed – stressed with his job but who isn’t?’ ‘Is this out of character?’ ‘Yes, very much so…’ ‘Has he ever run off before?’ ‘Run off? No – no, he’s never run off before…’ ‘Is it possible that he is just timing out?’ ‘Without telling me? No – no, this is just not like him…’. In the events that followed: the police report, the search, the investigation, it was as if some deity had pressed the pause button on my world. My family, his family, and our friends all said that he’d be back but intuitively I knew he was lost to me forever.

In the first few weeks after his disappearance I carried on with the business of living. A part of me willed him to find his way home, but he never did. The sadness and unanswered prayers became lingering ghosts in his absence. As the days and weeks ticked on, with the cyclic tempo of dusk to dawn, I had to accept he was gone – for good.

Six months passed before I began to sort his things. I couldn’t bring myself to donate any of his belongings to charity so I boxed them up and hauled them into the cellar with the help of my sister and a friend. I don’t think I could have got through it without their support. With each item I packed away, I buried any future I might have had with Morten. I shed silent tears for all the dreams we’d had. The wedding we’d planned for the summer; the child we’d never adopt; the trip to Singapore we’d chatted about… The only item I kept was his guitar. It stood – a sombre shadow in the corner of the room we'd shared for six years. It was the only thing knitting the memories we’d created. I remember how we first met when he was playing at a concert in a Custard Factory venue. From the moment I spotted him on stage, he captivated me. There was something about him; his reddish hair caught in a ponytail; and the intensity in his pale eyes that would occasionally close as he vanished into another world fashioned by acoustic melody. It was during the interval that I’d finally plucked up the courage to say ‘hi’. He’d looked up and smiled, that lazy smile I fell in love with. That is how we’d started. Now, with his laughter gone, all I had to comfort me was the anthem of his soundless guitar.


Catherine Mark

25 comments:

Michelle said...

Oh.

So sad.

Beautiful Catherine.

Khaled KEM said...

Bravo Catherine and Bravo.

You are a true novelist. I like your detailed descriptive style. The conclusion is very impressive as you cited how they met.
And you have the perfect picture for the story as well.

Strawberry Girl said...

It seems absolutely real, I love it Cath!!

lissa said...

I love the beginning and then the gradual revealing, you captured the lost quite well - the memories and the regrettable thoughts - all there, very much like real life

Lilly Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lilly Jones said...

Brilliant!
From start to finish it was brilliant. True genius if I may say so, and I say so with a truly unbiased heart- lol!

Your darling sister,
LJ

s.e rittel said...

and all I can say is WOW

rebecca said...

You capture the nuances of a day-to-day life with its chores and annoying rumblings so well. Beautiful, descriptive scene at the park. But, the ending, so sad. In the beauty of the telling of your story, so sad. I think I will go and hug the beloved today and never take him for granted again.

Again, Catherine, your writing is captivating.

Marvin D. Wilson said...

Extremely well written piece. I was there.

Cynthia said...

Oh gorgeous writing, story telling
Catherine. I am totally in love with both of your characters.
So sad for Tasha, why did he leave?

CathM said...

@Michelle: Yes – this is a sad one...

@Khaled: Indeed – at this stage of my writing life (beginning and investing in my writing endeavours) I do think that I am a stronger prose (short story writer) than poet. Although, in this piece I am doing a lot of ‘telling’ as opposed to ‘showing’ because I thought I’d paint a picture and a scene... hence, why I referred to it a ‘snapshot’ rather than a ‘short story’... Thank you for your kind comments.

@Annie: Great... whenever a narrative rings ‘true’ that’s a good test to doing one's characters justice... thank you!

@Lilly J: Oh – I don’t mind a bit of bias (lol)... I get all the critique I need from my workshops/courses when my writing is ripped apart... all for the better, of course (wink)!

@S.E. Rittel: OooHhh.. what a generous comment. Thanks for stopping by. And, I’ve had a look at your work too, on your blog.

@Rebecca: What a wonderful response to my story, where you write: “I think I will go and hug the beloved today and never take him for granted again...” This makes me smile :)

@Marvin: Thank you, Marvin – it’s good to know that you’re staying connected to my work.

@Cynthia: Thank you, Cynthia. ‘...Why did he leave?’--- lately, I’ve been reflecting on people who go ‘missing’... just like that... for a whole host of reasons... so, only Morten knows why he left... if he did indeed intentionally leave and did not come to any misfortune on his journey to the newsagents...

Christopher Raun Leth said...

You have a way with your pen that is fantastic. Great novel! I especially like the way you've warned the reader in the beginning that something dreadful will happen. Well done :-)

Caryn Caldwell said...

Beautiful and so sad. And I loved the photo, too. It, too, was beautiful and sad. Or would the word really be melancholy?

Ponderer said...

I enjoyed this so much Cath, as always your words flow.
Cheryl

Athelas said...

captivating.

Lilly said...

I love your descriptive style too. I am so going to see your name all over books one day .....go for it, truly. You have an incredible talent.

Selchie said...

Beautifully written, didnt feel like I was being told at all!! Lost in the moment. Sad.

happy day lovely,

Selchie.))

Louise said...

Lovely, Catherine. Just lovely. The music too (which I would normally turn off on other blogs, this time it just fitted so perfectly).

Lilly Jones said...

Hi again Cath,
The other day I watched a 2007 movie called "Things We Lost In The Fire" with Halle Berry. It immediately called to mind this piece you wrote "Snapshots: Lost". You must watch it and you might feel the connection.

Ciao sis,
LJ

Cynthia said...

Reminds me of when Oliva Newton
John's boyfriend or new husband
[not sure which category he fell
into] disappeared.

kenflett said...

Hi Catherine.
Your story is like velvet. truth of sadness, you spread yourself in your story.

ps. thanks for the award. :)

Printemps said...

Thanks for sharing Christoph BW Photography , I follow them now and about 'lost' - sad but sweet...

Peter Stone said...

The depths of emotion, of the irritations of life contrasted with the depths of relationship, and then the overwhelming sense of loss. Such a beautifully written yet achingly sad post.

Greener Bangalore said...

Thats a wonderful snap Cath......and loong time no see....??? :)

CathM said...

@Christopher: Thank you for reading and commenting :)

@Caryn: Hmmmmm, isn’t it just a fab photo. Haunting, really!

@Cheryl: Ah – it’s always lovely to have your comment.

@Athelas: Such generous words, thank you!

@Selchie: ‘Lost in the moment’ – what a lovely response.

@Louise: Thanks for popping by. I’m glad you enjoyed the music and the read :)

@Lilly: Interesting... I’ll keep an eye out for the film!

@Cynthia: How fascinating... I didn’t know that Olivia Newton John’s boyfriend disappeared. What a devastating experience to live through.

@Printemps: Thanks for your comment! And, great that you are now following Christoph’s blog.

@Peter: Lovely to have you visit my blog. Thank you for your kind words! Hope you pop in again soon.

@Greener Bangalore: Cheers for the comment. Long time no see, indeed – my life is snowballing with a busy work and study schedule... struggling to get the balance right at the mo... so I’m a bit behind with reading/visiting blogs. I hope to be back on track soon :)