As God Is My Author

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35


That was the place to leave it.

I’ll not return, which will make his life go forward from where I left it. A parent, who has given his son the most favourable start, put him on a journey that will only change to disaster if he is careless enough to return to the drink. His health will improve even if his preference for solitude may be compromised. Maybe it is the language, just like Garbutt said, that limits us. Isolated, solitary, separated, independent. They all sound like sadness. They don’t mean that directly, but they’d sit next to it without being out of place.

It was reasonable to presume that if Garbutt, Dorsett, and Mason had their creators, then I would have one too. Never totally conscious of any diligence, I half prepared myself for anything out of the ordinary, and it happened a short time after I finished Garbutt’s story.

I was on a bus on the way home and noticed a middle-aged man looking at me as I turned to a noise that caught my attention, the sudden shriek of a child clasped to his mother. The man was sat on a chair opposite from them, and he was looking at me as he slightly moved his head to the side. I was puzzled that the mother hardly noticed him staring directly past her head, their knees almost touching due to the close position of the seating, yet she continued to look sideways out of the window apparently unaware of him. His look wasn’t threatening, only inspective. I looked away at the passing scenery outside, long enough to allow time the chance to confirm the incident had only been a coincidental event. But when I looked from the corner of my eye, I could see him still fixed to me. It made me uneasy and maybe that encouraged paranoia where none should have been, even though I didn’t feel in danger. I returned his look directly, eye to eye, as if we were two men trying to recognise each other from the past but uncertain to commit. If I’d confronted him would I have discovered that I was an artificial character similar to the ones I’d made up? I was excited to be in a position where I could actually find out but resisted. Garbutt had the missing step, Dorsett had the interfering poet. Mason had me, avenger of Dorsett, though killer of his wife, and hopefully, saviour of Garbutt. But if I was in a book, then this man would know my end. I decided to get off the bus earlier than I intended just to be sure he got a message in case he disappeared first. As the bus slowed to a stop, I rose and walked past him, his eyes not leaving me for a second. I tapped him on the shoulder just before the doors hissed open.

‘Make it evident.’ I said to him, and got off. Any other person would have given a change of expression; would at least have asked me what I was talking about. He did nothing but offer me a final look from the departing bus as the reflection of the sky against the window greyed him from my focus.

And I had reason to believe he did make it evident two days later.

I was at home, alone, and placed my spectacles on the table next to the computer as I went to the kitchen to make coffee. When I came back they weren’t there. It was a habit I fell into easily because I always returned to work at the computer to finish my drink there. I searched in all the rooms but couldn’t find them. It was only when I prepared to leave the house later that I discovered them inside one of my shoes. I never put them there because the shoes were always placed outside the front door in the patio, a place too far away to pass as a forgetful journey. It happened twice more in the same week, and I anticipated a visit from someone soon after but no one called.

Maybe it was a nudge, a reference to the plea I’d made on the bus journey not long before. Maybe it was wishful thinking. It certainly didn’t make sense, which was the best and worse I could hope for. Or maybe it’s a wake-up call from my creator to remind me that my life is not mine to direct.

God knows I’ve tried hard to grab at whatever it is. I was oblivious to life’s progress when younger, the way it should be. Reckless and indifferent, it’s an existence that hindsight cruelly magnifies as the best years, probably because of the lack of perception. The end of life seems so far away from that point of view because the mind’s eye can’t reach that far or because too many emotions and concerns entangle each day like vines hindering vision.

I’ve tried to understand where it is I am presently. I know I’m further away from indifference but don’t know how close I am to appreciation. I’m lucky to be here, to be writing these words, words without sound rebounding from soundproof walls behind the eyes. I go outside, see other people, and ignore them. I wonder what they’re thinking. I don’t ask them. I think sometimes that they are placed there for me, that all this is for no one else. All the deaths gone before, the births that come, the history that passed, the future that’s coming, it’s like an unrolling carpet that will always be two yards ahead of me. The faster I run, the faster it unfolds. When I sleep it’s still, when I move, it moves. It’s my own colour, texture, and has its own journey, and when I’ve passed it I look back and see it studded to the floor with nails as big as daggers, like an immovable railway track with no train following on. So then I start wondering why nail it down if nothing follows on? What’s the purpose of the fastening? I think because if it wasn’t fixed, it would disentangle. And preordainment would leave no evidence.

The enjoyment is always fleeting. The pleasure gained never lasts long. Happiness is in the memories past. They’ll never be lost because they’re fastened with those nails as big as daggers. That’s all safe, the stuff behind. But ahead? That’s entirely uncertain. They’re the brief moments that hurt and please you, instances that fasten to history the second you pass. So no life is a long one, not the actual feeling of it. It’s lots of milliseconds one after the other, like a reel of film, a touch barely noticeable.

Tomorrow is hope and ought to be valued when it comes, but never is. Indifference makes us expect it, to treat it like a gift we deserve. An apt conclusion: the present is a present, appreciate it. And I’m trying with each scrap of consciousness to appreciate that there is no guarantee it will come, that any number of circumstances might prevent its arrival. But I’m so used to it, that arrival. It is catch 22. Adaptation helps us live better, but also numbs the appreciation. Something is trying to communicate but we can’t hear or see it. We’ll never see it because we’re not supposed to.

So who do I thank when I eventually die? To let them know I tried to live within each second of the millions that sped past me, but just couldn’t manage it?

So I’ll say it while I’m able to, to whoever or whatever it is.

Thank you.

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