The Storm by Lyn Byrne

They called him The Storm.  His house blew in and out all kinds of everyone and everything.  People came for the stories and because it was easy – the door was always open.  The Storm was always peculiar in the way he invited people in so warmly and ran out the door without a goodbye when the weather inspired him.  He was strange, but then we wouldn’t have bothered with him if he wasn’t.

There were always at least four of us but the four weren’t always the same and on an odd occasion it happened that there could be eight of us.  We were the embodiment of complete freedom from the restrictions of childhood and the ignorant bliss of the troubles and dreary responsibilities of adulthood.

We spent our time in his sitting room on barely clad armchairs with chipped arm rests worn down by cigarette burns and scorched by blistering fires that spluttered turf and sticks up our nostrils and down our throats.  We inhaled the fumes and shared cigarettes to clear the heavy fiery smoke from our lungs.

Damp winds blew bubbles in his wallpaper and painted black patches around the ceiling.  The house was a nestling, a Russian doll – a babushka of items from every land there was but we never found anything more exciting than the words that bellowed from his dried and weather beaten lips.

“There are three there in the one person, you see, he began, the night I realised that his words were like seeds in me that grew into all sorts of things.

“This one is almost certainly insane,” his words filled the tiny space between our huddling shoulders.

The Storm turned into every character and every story – you never knew who was who.

“Watch her now, she is going again.  The transformations are getting more frequent,” he continued, as four heavy heads imagined a woman with sixty years of normal thoughts in her head, as Storm had put it.

If street lanterns could pull their one remaining stubborn leg behind them more quickly, there wouldn’t be such a distance from one light to another.  Why don’t you walk with me?”

The Storm yelled this one and his face was a fury.

“None of them dare to answer,” he added in a more controlled pitch.

“Her three children all look at her, feeling sorry for themselves, sorry that this is what they have to go through, at this moment in their lives, just when they had become successful and happened to rid the ugliness of the world from their pristine front doors.”

He paused and started up his voice again like an engine, coughing loudly before the first word and levelling off to the sound of a muffled drone.

“I passed through so many roadblocks.  Wrong Way.  Turn Back Now.  Danger!  I even saw signs that warned me of extreme danger; scary signs to tell me that there were no more signs.  But I never turned back.  Never.  I knew better – the signs were blessings in disguise, I reasoned.  I prayed that I would never reach where I was going, because then I would have arrived.  And nobody wants to arrive on time to the wrong place.  Now I’m not crazy and I’ll give you the one and most powerful reason why – I know.”

He paused for an irritating ten seconds.

“There are three here you see,” he repeated, before taking what he called a sup from his dirty cup of comfort.

“One you can see walking through the hilly head of hair – the sea underneath him, using its breath to soften the tips of long grass that bend to his long procession.  He is Kala.

Two is Sortie.  If his life was a drawing, he’d be the depth of shading that pushes out all that it illustrates.  He’d be the shade that makes fields divide over and over and rivers and seas contract and widen and mountains run steep and near to the ground.

Three is Paoki, pulling and dragging at his own nerves, unravelling himself at the seams to learn how he works and then hysterically knitting himself back into a knot a moment later.”

Paoki discovered the note, carefully left unfolded between pages in a book mindlessly left to rot on a window ledge.

He opened it and the sun spread the letters across the page.  Words zoomed in and out of focus, as rays choreographed themselves into a senseless pose.  What great words had been written only to be hidden by their own aging dust; a secret withered by the sun and scented with the rash of mildew.”

“She left a note you see – do you want to hear what it said?”

We were all confused at this stage – the Storm’s stories never made sense until the end and even then I was thinking about it, wondering about it and remembering it at the strangest of moments.

“Go on Storm,” I shouted, leaning forward and feeling the slap of the fire’s heat on my face.

He took a piece of paper from his pocket and started in a whisper again and grew louder as the words took on weight.

My dearest secret,

I am in a transient place.  Things around me remain, but I change, they tell me.

I’m where we once stood and I’m writing you this letter I wish I’d written before we both left.  There is no credibility after Alzheimer’s.

Everything I say is suspected as being nonsense.  There is nothing left to contribute.  My body is cared for more than my mind.  All that is constant is you.  You are all I remember.  You are moving with me it seems.  I hold onto you or you are holding onto me:  I cannot tell.

Words in this letter whisper beyond the reach of sound in your ears, beyond retrieval, beyond senseless thought, beyond doubt, beyond what they hear.

Duty and honour marched you off to other men’s struggles.  How brave you were to fight for strangers’ beliefs.  Weary, I threw away the pages of love you sent, and read your journey as an escape away from me.

All forms of thoughtless deeds scribbled on wasted paper until all was said.  I slept on your side.  The pen pulled from me pages of torment, up and down, across and down.  Grief pushed and dragged at me until it had my hand seized.   Pages crumbled and creased were discarded for a while.

I could feel your words on my lips, kissing me away.  How could I remain with your words resting on me and your sense absorbing me through days that ran into years?

And now my love I want to write all the words in the world for you.  But my words bump into each other, clumsy on the page, too long a part, too long without meaning.

I visited the place where we met and time has moved things there too my love.  Bare steel beams hold the house’s shelter.   Cement floors open to winds blowing in and out of every direction.  No place for draft, just open spaces free to blow in and out of nothing.

I’m waiting only the time I know that passes.  I manage to escape myself with all this transient confusion, but I imagine my torment in this moment of torment.  I imagine the next will be worse and my last was kinder.

My memory of you is here and every moment they tell me something different.  There are moments that you are married, happy and normal, and there are times when you are gone, lost at war – the unknown lover.  And then there are seconds that you are on your way.

I search for you in every face, in every shadow that I see and in every foot step that falls into my ear.  I search for you in every moment.  Every thought takes me away now, away to places I have already been.  There is nothing new anymore.  My life stopped a long time ago and I go back and forth in search for where I really am.

This is the letter I’m returning to you.  Decades have ran over me – a prisoner of your war.  From where I was and always remain.  I could have never imagined this love would be the only thing to survive in me.  I die a beaten body, without a mind, but my love could live a thousand more lifetimes.  Read me well.  Read me in.  Read me out.  Take me with you.

The Storm let the silence slip in again.

After several minutes of watching the fire die down, he stood up, grabbed the poker and stirred the fire around.

“People chatter, chatter, chatter and leave no room for anything but sound.  Imagine ignoring the ‘other’ voices in your head.  Imagine indeed.  I don’t ignore mine.  Yes I said, I don’t.  Mind you, they only come when I stop talking.

With that, he ruffled the fire up again to reveal the last few burning embers and said grinning, “I listen to them all.  Indeed I do.”

Lyn Byrne is a Trainer of Business, Training and Communications.  She has worked as a freelance print Journalist and as a broadcast news Journalist for local radio.  Lyn has a degree in Business and French and a Masters in Journalism.  She has also studied creative writing and Emotional Intelligence. 

Image Credit:  Obed Hernández