A memorable post-exam run-down from a former student who was trying to find the words to explain just how badly it had gone, which culminated in him trying to express the idea of the slow-motion-ness and the sheer scale of the Titanic sinking, after having moved up through the gears of a car crash, a train wreck and so on.
I'm sure no one could possibly imagine what could have set me in the train of thought that led to me remembering that particular moment. Root has just about kept England in it, hasn't he? I suppose Sheffield United's season is on the same sort of scale, with both the slow-motion-ness and the epic scale fully represented in their pathetic (in its old-school sense) efforts so far.
Bereft of a chance to go and play music even for fun because of lockdown, as I've mentioned on here before, I've even taken the rather uncharacteristic decision to try to learn what it is that makes Jazz sound like Jazz, other than the obvious riposte of them intentionally playing the wrong notes in the most upsetting order they could think of. Music has proved to be a bit of a release here and there, but it's kind of not the same when it's such a solo, inward-looking pursuit. I'm left wondering how it is that anyone manages to make any kind of sense of the singer-songwriter approach to music when it is so lonely. Of course, I suck very hard when it comes to writing the sung tune and the lyrics, so perhaps that's worth bearing in mind. Much like when I watch Joe Root batting and he makes it look so easy, but I just can't map my mind (and my body, but that's another matter entirely) on to his such that I could understand what it would be like to be him.
So we're left wondering: are the government really as bad at this (governing - albeit in difficult circumstances) as they appear? The question as to whether they really think they're doing a job runs alongside, and I think the answer to both is revelatory. They really are making as much of a balls of it as they appear to be, and the thing that is now becoming clearer is that they honestly do think they are doing a good job. I had to look it up, but it's called the Dunning-Kruger effect, and this version of it combines two dangerous ingredients. The first is a desire for power, and that desire seems in many cases to be fuelled by the thought that power is an appropriate destination for one of 'my abilities', a kind of self-assessed merit that is then interpreted almost as a divine right to be in charge. The second is a sense that since I am in power, I must be capable of wielding it properly, and as such my decisions - however much they are sniped at by my political opponents - were the right ones. This one allows those in power to read those in opposition as scoring political points, rather than challenging what on the face of it seems to be dangerous incompetence and a total lack of moral principle, and to look - and again, if I read it right, to genuinely be - offended that the (political) opposition could be challenging the decisions of the government.
It's a big challenge, then, to bring politics back in the direction of actually being about governing in the country's best interests. Why do I put it that way? Because political parties and individuals of every stripe have to be seen in the light of the imperative to gain and keep power, and that seems to have overtaken any sense that they might represent people regardless of whether that leads to government. It's niche parties like the Greens who have always existed outside that sphere who seem to be able to propose the policies that look to be the ones inspired by humanity and care. In any case, the current cabinet appears to be composed of people who really do think they are the right people for the job, and who really aren't in the most robust way possible. Anyone who could convince themselves that the corrupt practices of awarding contracts or pushing through planning applications or ignoring serious workplace conduct issues or the utter shambles that was the first day back after Christmas and indeed whatever the next will turn out to be is not fit for power. But it seems that the imperative to be powerful has overtaken the need to be competent. The PM can't sack cabinet members for being incompetent, because the logical conclusion of that move is his own immediate resignation. That, I think, is the engine that moves this ship. Not for them the accountability of performance management, because what judge could possibly rule on the competence of someone who is in the role because they are simply meant to be in charge?
Ho hum. It seems that this current government has finally perfected the metaphorical teflon that others have aimed for, in that criticism doesn't really seem to have any effect. No matter how bad they are, they constantly surprise us by carrying on as if they were doing a fine job..
As the various elements of the world of normality come crashing down around us (again), I realised that I had been listening to some of the tracks off the Transformers: The Movie soundtrack over and again. It's a memory that was jogged a few years ago by a cricketing mate of mine who said that, were he to play in the kind of T20 where you get a song as you come in to bat, his would be The Touch by Stan Bush, which is what is playing in the film when Optimus Prime rolls up to win the battle for the Autobots. If you don't have any conception of what I'm wittering about, fair enough. The Optimus Prime who appears in the current (ish) run of Michael Bay films is a poor excuse for the character, even though they've got the voice pretty much spot on. But here's the thing: Optimus Prime genuinely was a proper hero when I was a kid. Even though he's a robot who transforms into a lorry, he was what you wanted to be. So when he dies twenty minutes into the move, it really hits hard.
What I realised over the course of a few listens is that I can actually picture the scenes in the film that are accompanied by the songs. I also realised that - at the age of seven or eight, when I would first have seen it - the 80s rock stylings must have been a huge formative influence on my later 'taste' in music. I even took the plunge and listened to the actual soundtrack music - the stuff that is the score, rather than more-or-less complete songs - and that was even worse. The death of Optimus Prime music still - and I can't believe I'm writing this - makes me sad nearly thirty-five years later. Apparently time doesn't heal all wounds.
I have half a notion of writing a lengthy and detailed post about the current goings-on, but I don't think I'll have anything to say that hasn't already been said better by someone else. It's a great shame that there are selfish and incompetent people in charge of a wide range of things at a time when even the best people would be struggling to make it work, and it really is staggering what a colossal balls of it - the pandemic, the US election, Brexit, whatever you care to mention - can be made by folk who think they are good enough to be in charge.
So, instead, I'll keep it short: I hope that good vibes accompany you in this strange, unsettling and dark time. I hope that you are able to enjoy life, and that hope for the future remains real. Time is a strange thing - it will seem, when all this has passed, as though it did not last as long as it did - and whilst it most definitely does not heal all wounds, it does allow perspective - and situation - to change. Those things that seemed important, or were a barrier or a frustration, will one day no longer loom so large. Those things that really did matter, hopes, dreams, feelings, experiences, people... One day, perhaps not that far in the future, those things might take their right place once again.
A difficult quality to define, of course. Some people have it, and you occasionally get to spend a bit of time with those people. It's a privilege to be in that sort of presence. You can't put your finger on it, because if you could, it wouldn't be mojo, it'd be something else. Some things have it. For example, some of my guitars are competent instruments which play well and sound good, but some of my guitars have something else entirely. In a lot of cases, they're not the ones that are easier to play, or the ones that it's easy to get a good sound out of. They're just the ones that demand to be played. The best explanation I can give for it in that limited context is that some instruments just leap out at you, whether that is on the wall in the shop or in the house. Those ones that you can feel music in, the ones that just do something every time you pick them up. I'm not a good enough player to deserve one of these, in all honesty, but I do notice it both when it's there and when it's not.
What is all this rambling about? I've noticed that my desire to give up on the anti-depressants could be couched in those terms. They were robbing me of whatever mojo I thought I had, in a lot of contexts. I haven't written a lot of good music, or a lot of creative writing, and I put the blame for that on the tablets. Well, perhaps they were not so guilty. It turns out that for me, depression is a viciously cyclic thing that takes away my ability to write, my interest in playing, my desire to do things that are entertaining purely for the sake of it. One example that I have given before is going to the swimming pool with my children. When I'm at peace, I enjoy that for the pure nonsense that it truly is, an escape that has no purpose, no end point, just an hour of fun. And that's what I was missing from the playing and the writing. A sense of fun. I have a feeling that my mojo left me not because I was relying on citalopram, but rather that I was relying on citalopram because I'd misplaced my mojo and couldn't find it.
So where am I looking for it? Well, it's a daft thing, but I have found that learning new types of music - gypsy jazz, country, whatever - is enough to get me back into the swing (!) of playing just purely for the sake of it. I won't ever pick up the guitar to do a Django Reinhardt gig, because I don't think I'll ever be good enough and I don't really think anyone would be that interested in hearing my limited interpretations of the style. But I have got something out of it. It tests the fingers and the melodic sense in a different way. It places new demands on me as a player, and I can't just run through my best licks to show off because they don't fit. Likewise, I have allowed myself to diversify in my writing, looking at projects that have been on the back burner for a long time for various reasons. Letting those characters exist in my imagination, even at the expense of a slow-down in the progress on book IV of These Matters, has put me in a better mood. The coincidence of restarting the anti-depressants is notable, and I might be tempted to say that the tablets are just giving me the 'breathing space' to be creative again. But it's not a simple matter of one leading to the other. I thought I was making a positive choice in giving them up. It turned out that I was blaming them for crippling a side of me that, in reality, they were not responsible for. My fingers are firmly crossed that I don't need them forever, but my head says that I need them now. We shall see, I suppose, but be assured that for the moment, I am content. The limited amount of peace available to a teacher (in these strange times) and parent (whenever) means that I have to take it where I can find it, as I have while writing this post.
There is always hope. And, indeed, Hope. And, if you look at it the right way, you can always just about avoid being beyond Hope.
Turns out I am not in any way ready, certainly not in the current circumstances of isolating in the house, unable to exercise due to my shoulder, in the shortest days of the year, to live life without my anti-depressants. I had hoped - indeed, I had made the decision in the hope that - giving up on the tablets would let the creative voices back in. Turns out those voices haven't come back in any substantial way, and instead I'm lumbered with all the naggingly insistent voices that crowd out the good stuff. So, instead of suddenly rediscovering my creative mojo, I've spent a while trying to hide away from the bad stuff. Which has thoroughly sucked.
Alternative strategy: use the tablets, find other ways to mine my creativity. The first one is a definite decision. The second is still more of a wishlist than a strategy, but we'll get there. One thing I've been trying to do is to write whatever comes into my head rather than insisting on making progress on These Matters. Perhaps I'll be able to put together the last parts of book IV and get it published, then unload all this other stuff onto 'paper'. Or, alternatively, I'll just end up wasting a load of time looking at memes!
I'm not sure what it is about the BBC and the way they do things, and it might be wrapped up in elitism and old-boy networks and all that sort of thing, but undoubtedly when they (it?) go(es) for it... His Dark Materials is the sort of story that you wish you'd thought of, much more so than Harry Potter (despite the commercial success of the latter), because it really is a story that is worth telling. It's also told in a much more compelling way (in the books) and that comes out in both the first series and the current, second one.
What's made me write about it? Well, if you watch carefully and know me well, you may have guessed this already. I had forgotten entirely the character of Mary Malone and was entirely unprepared for the exchange where she asks Lyra what she did before she became a physicist. The idea of a crisis of faith and an abandonment of holy orders - for reasons that I cannot articulate and have never been able to - makes me weep. There is something in me that is desperate for the certainty of faith, and a great chunk of my own writing has been discussing the failed relationship between one of my characters and God. In that context, in the 1540s, in a time when religion was more-or-less a non-negotiable fact of life, the people around him all point him back to God. They talk about faith, and about how God is truly real to them in a way that Strelley, for all his worldly knowledge, cannot follow. To him - and to me - the comfort of faith, the knowledge that there is a something better, is denied.
It would be wrong for me to speak of a crisis of faith in my own life, I think. I have never had it, but there is something, the presence of The Church (or a church, or a churchman) in some of my moments of great distress, a connection that refuses to go away completely. It is as though my atheism is a thoroughly Christian atheism, and this is not entirely helped by my current work situation, because I am reminded of how little most actual Christians (the young ones in particular) know about what their religion is supposed to be about, and I end up getting involved. I'm no Bible scholar, but there are plenty of times when you say things that don't seem to hit home in quite the right way either with the kids or the staff, a lot of whom at least give out that they believe in all the metaphysical stuff.
So here we are, then: I wish I could, in my moments of depression and anxiety (it is very much the first that is the risk at the moment), talk to God, even if it is just to be heard. I could even imagine not asking anything (neither the selfish stuff nor the intercession for others), and just being at ease with the idea that there is a greater power and that my depression is greater than me. But I cannot. God, to me, is a cantankerous being that watches over me and puts obstacles in way, with whom I bargain when I struck by grief or anger, but to whom I do not turn in my joy. And that is it: I do not need God for most of the time. So, when I really do need Him, he is not there.
And why might I need to do such a thing? Yep, my Mallett's Mallet of a brain went straight there as soon as my temperature went above 38, and has stayed there since, including on receipt of my positive test.
We'll leave aside a potentially lengthy and politically sensitive discussion about the potential source of my infection. I actually mean that, because it's not especially profitable to dwell on the decisions made by other people in positions of power and responsibility unless it leads to some kind of reconsideration of those decisions. And me moaning on here is unlikely to get the government to rethink its strategy on schools...
So for the second time in a fortnight I am damaged at least in part by my own misadventure, at least if you subscribe to the line that the protections in place should be adequate to prevent me catching Coronavirus off the kids or another member of staff. I do feel for the much-iller-than-me folk at the Northern General who may have been exposed to the virus as a result of me going to the fracture clinic on Monday, because some of those people frankly did not have the look of 'road to recovery' about them. But I was only ill on Tuesday. This time, unlike the carnage that was testing early on, I booked a test and had it within an hour, and had the result the following morning. Except it was positive, which I honestly was not expecting. Balls.
Fingers crossed so far, though, it's been relatively easy on the symptoms. I'm not well enough to work, but I'm not in hospital dying. I've had enough of hospitals for a while, actually. And to be honest, I'm quite sure they've had enough of me.
Once again the NHS comes to my aid as I do something part-stupid, part-unlucky. Having not crashed my bike for 25 years, I've done it twice in a month. This time, I didn't have a sense that I was definitely going to crash until it had already happened and I had landed heavily* on my right shoulder. Various people stopped to check I was okay, which was nice. My dad - entirely by chance - was running the other way and arrived on the scene perhaps 30 seconds after I had bitten the tarmac. The main response I had at the time was being frankly pissed off that I had gone to the effort of doing some exercise on a miserable Saturday morning and my reward for it was the indignity of falling off and an achy shoulder. Half-an-hour later after an ill-advised ride home, the total lack of any pain-free movement was enough to get me to admit that I probably needed the aid of the medical professionals.
The Northern General is a bleak place in the middle of a balmy summer's afternoon. In the gloomy November drizzle, well, it's certainly not better. I seem to see it as separate from the terrifying place next door - the Longley Centre, is it? - but even so A&E has a sort of desperation about it, especially at the moment as everyone there is nearly as concerned about getting coronavirus as they are about the injury they want fixed. It's also the case that no one is allowed in with you, so it's a distinctly lonely experience as well. The exception being the one bloke who was accompanied by two surprisingly good-humoured coppers, thus giving not one but two overstretched public services something to do. He even puked vigorously just outside the entrance to A&E, making sure it wasn't just the medical and crime-prevention professionals involved, but the sanitary ones as well.
There's a rather deflating moment when the A&E folk behind the desk tell you that they're passing you on to minor injuries, giving you a very clear signal that whilst you may not technically be a malingerer, perhaps 'emergency' is a bit of a stretch. It definitely was at least partly 'accident' this time, though, rather than 'entirely-my-own-stupid-fault' as it has been in the past. The diagnostic process was rapid - I might, ungenerously, have said 'cursory' - and I was off to x-ray for a few minutes with a wonderful comedy duo of radiographers whose machine had developed an idiosyncratic way of repositioning itself that meant that I had to stand out of the way at the side of the room while it did its thing. The x-rays showed a big gap where there should only be a small one between two bones up there in my shoulder, and I was off with a sling round my neck back into the murky drizzle and the words 'torn ligament' to share around on social media.
But the learning process began at home when I realised that without a functioning right hand, there are a number of jobs that I can't do. Lifting the toddler (he's nearly three, and surly and uncooperative at the best of times) is a huge challenge requiring all manner of oaty-bar-based bribery. Opening a bottle of Pepsi Max is next to impossible. Shaving my face...? No chance. Yesterday, with the thing still swollen up and tender, I opted for the weapons-grade painkillers and spent the night dreaming the bizarre dreams that seem to be contained in codeine tablets for some reason. Today, with the swelling down, it's all less intense. I can pick the odd thing up, hold a fork - although not raise it to my mouth; I look like a bad Donald Trump tribute act - and hold my hand out in front of me, although not up to shoulder height. But trying to put a shirt on is agony. Apparently I always put my left arm into my shirt first, because I've made that same mistake a few times now. Right arm first or through the roof when it pulls behind my back. Anyway, all of this is just a little bit of a Sunday evening moan that despite all my best intentions of going out exercising, what I've actually ended up doing is damaging myself. Perhaps there is a lesson in all this: exercise is, despite all the publicity to the contrary, a dangerous business, truly bad for your health.
*Folk who know me will perhaps recognise that no landing I am part of will ever be anything other than heavy; this one was heavier...
It wasn't written this November, but it is something I have written and not yet (self-) published. So here we go:
“This is madness,” Fletcher says, without turning to Strelley. “We don’t even have a side. The rebels would string us up for fighting them in Exeter, and these government soldiers are after our blood too. Well, your blood.”
“So, we just turn around and walk back… to where?”
“Anywhere where there aren’t five thousand armed men within a mile. Home?”
“I don’t have one. Not in London, at least.”
“Come and live with Longshawe and me. King Edward will give you a position. Or Cranmer. Or Somerset.”
“I can’t. I can’t be that close.”
“Edward…” There is a thundering report from a battery of cannon, clouding the battlefield briefly with gunpowder smoke. Fletcher picks up his own thought. “So you will not go to her? You’ll wait for her in heaven but you won’t see her at Hatfield?”
“It’s not for me, is it?” Strelley watches as the smoke clears, and there are gaps appearing in the rebel lines. “She has to think that there is no hope. Then she can be free of me.”
“If I understand you both right, you will never be free of each other.”
“I don’t know,” Strelley says, and he is crying. “For me, I don’t care. I will live. For her, I wish only that she is happy.”
“But, Edward, she thinks the same, doesn’t she? Save you from the hurt, take it on herself… Accept that, then you can decide.”
“You can’t change it. You fell in love with her, and she with you. You can’t just push her away, because she knows you well enough to know that’s what you’re doing. So believe in your love for each other.”
“You wanted me to resolve to stay away from her.”
“That’s never quite what I said. I thought it might save you from yourself.”
“Guy,” Strelley says, “did she send you?”
“You have asked me that before.”
“And you failed to answer the question then.”
“I saw her, before I set out west.”
“And,” Strelley says, eyes narrowing slightly, “did she tell you to bring me back to her? Or did she tell you to keep me away? You have been utterly unreadable.”
“She wants that decision to be yours.”
“I do not want to cause any further hurt.”
“Well,” Fletcher says, “if you think that you are helping her by being here, you are not. She suffers as she ever did.”
“So I am to choose for her, then?”
“No, you are to choose for you. She knows the pain of your absence, only too well. She does not know the pain of your presence, whatever it might be, but she is willing to take that risk. Are you?”
“I understand. Finally I understand. You came, but you were not to tell me what to do, one way or the other.”
“That is it. Your choice.”
“I wrote it down.” Strelley smiles thinly. “My prayer that I would not have to make this choice.
“God, do not call on me to choose: her or not her.
“Let me be, alone, with regret for things not said.
“Should she ask, I do not have the strength to say no.”
You can interpret that headline however you wish. This post is a discussion about the way that Remembrance (and remembrance) takes place, with a diversion into an argument that seems to rile a certain set of people beyond all reason.
Let's start by examining the question of what the right way to celebrate the people who fought and died to preserve the freedoms that we currently enjoy. Celebrate is the right word: I do not mean it in the sense of having a jolly old knees-up in the pub, but rather the act of acknowledgement. How do we sensibly make it a part of our lives in 2020 that in the past some of our ancestors put their lives at stake, and in many cases lost their lives, in order to defeat a terrible, murderous regime? Well, I have a suggestion that might rankle with some. Dressing up as those very people and dancing on the White Cliffs of Dover is not the way to remember the lives lost. The Second World War was not, as far as I can tell, a caper. It resulted in the deaths of getting on for a hundred million people, both military and civilian. It was a rare example of a war with a just cause, although the methods of its prosecution are not necessarily justified in the same way. That it has elevated one man in particular to the status of great hero despite his failure to achieve goodness in a lot of his actions is an anomaly, worth discussing, but not here, except to say that the very celebration of that individual can have the effect of erasing some of the badness just as the victory and the justness of the fight have erased some of the badness of the war itself.
Lest we forget, though, war is not glorious or honourable. It is very rarely undertaken for ends that are unambiguously right and it has not been the last resort of desperation in the past. It results in the deaths and displacement of countless people for whom the political outcome of the war is moot. It asks people who do not want to fight, who do not want to kill their fellow man, to do exactly that. To kill people who may not - indeed, probably don't - share the political convictions of those who made the decision to go to war in the first place. In short, war is to be avoided at almost any cost.
Remembrance is a tricky balancing act, then. People have died so that I might have the freedom to write this piece, to keep Europe free of fascist dictatorships (!), to defend me from the horrors of being a victim of an attack on civilian targets. People have died because of the mule-headedness of politicians. People have died because the ego of individual politicians demanded it. Sometimes, people who were basically good did terrible things to their fellow men, often in the mistaken belief of righteousness, and in some cases what war brought out was a tendency among many people to go along with what they were told or what the mob wanted despite the awfulness. Sometimes people's cruelty and desire for power over their fellow man took over and made them do things that in isolation look frankly unbelievable. Sometimes, people died to save their fellows or in pursuit of victory over a truly terrible enemy. Sometimes, people who did terrible things died at the hands of those who might not have wished it to be that way, but could see no other, better way.
What does all this mean? My choice to wear a white poppy is astonishingly controversial, given that last paragraph. It's also surprisingly controversial given that, by definition, 'all the victims of war' includes those who fought on the side of Great Britain. What seems to provoke anger is that I am actively acknowledging the deaths of those on the other side. Whether that be Germans in WWII, Germans in WWI, Taliban Fighters in Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden himself... The argument runs that in doing so I disrespect the people who fought and died on my behalf.
Simply: no. Being a pacifist does not mean that I am unpatriotic, although the concept of patriotism itself is far from uncontroversial. Being pacifistic does not mean that I cannot appreciate the sacrifice that some people made - in a context where the decision to be part of the fight was not a career choice - to defend this country and by extension the world against great evil. I can think it sad that someone like Osama Bin Laden had to die for the world to be a more peaceful place; he was still a man, whatever his crimes. In a way, it makes me wish that there was a God who could show him, from the safety of heaven, what great sadness he caused. Who could put an arm around him, and while offering him forgiveness, show him why what he did was wrong. The God that the Bible tells me about would not refuse to mourn for the death of any man, even the greatest of all the sinners. And that - as far as I can tell - is the problem with the White Poppy. That peace requires forgiveness. That the achievement of peace is not about celebrating victory, but about celebrating the end of war. That the red poppy, as it is worn today in 2020, does not make that clear: that remembrance is not about the sacrifice that some made for this country, but that the sacrifice was for peace itself. That is what makes the sacrifice worthwhile. It is not dulce et decorum to die pro patria, but rather for the cause of peace.
The issue has been co-opted by folk who see the white poppy as something that a coward would choose. Well, I am prepared to need to be brave to face the criticism I will attract for this conscious decision to make myself different. It equally attracts criticism of the form: you think you're so clever with your white poppy... I think in some cases this is a cry of anguish, that anyone could have a different view of the right way to remember. In some, it is a more calculated, purely political, act, where pacifism is intentionally and wrongly conflated with other left-leaning political ideals, and where it is attacked from the right as being merely cowardly and not the outcome of deep consideration. Perhaps - and this might be my answer for this year - the thing to do is to wear both, or even a sort of Tudor amalgamation of the two.
In any case, I think that those people who died fighting against Nazi Germany in the Second World War would be disappointed to think that a kind of tyranny of ideas had taken over and that a dissenting view could not be held in public. That, after all, is where it starts to go wrong...
So I'm finally going to find some resolve to be creative regardless of tiredness and all manner of lockdown-based distractions. 'I will be creative' is one of the most useless sentences I can utter to myself (yes, I will sometimes talk to myself; often it's the only way to really assess what my brain is trying to put out there), but the point - that I will do things that enable creativity regardless of the barriers - is not a bad one. So I'm going to go for a scattergun approach to this, and just do whatever my brain wants for however long it can stand it, and then move on. If all the stuff is churning around, at least getting it out will allow the next thought to come. I have written on here about how sometimes I'm not so much writing a scene in These Matters so much as letting it out from wherever it hides/resides in the aether. Well, other things push too, so why not let them...?
Here's a short snippet of something I was working on a long time ago which I have now torn apart to re-write more in the style I have become a bit more accustomed to, namely that all the scenes are written as if they are on TV, so we can't access the internal processes of the characters and have to infer them from the evidence...
“Gaius…” A man in his early fifties speaks as he embraces the young man we have just met. “Tell me he did not suffer.”
“He did not. He was dead by the time I caught up with him.”
“Always… He believed in his own ability to cheat death.”
“He did. I called him back. I told him-”
“I do not hold you responsible. You know that.”
“I do. He wished to be the better brother.”
“And yet… Gaius, your brother accepted you. He accepted you as a brother, as my son.”
“That is a pleasant fiction.” Gaius smiles, pushing the other away from him. The smile twists into tears.
“You are my son. I would stand before the gods and repeat it.”
“And they would remind you of who you are, and who I am.”
“You are Gaius Regulus Albus.”
“You are Regulus Serenus. I am no Roman.”
“Now is not the time to reject the name you took. When you are free from this grief, perhaps then. But not now.”
“I am sorry. For him. For your loss. For my part in it.”
Regulus Serenus tries to smile, but cannot. Gaius Regulus Albus puts his arm around his shoulders, which shake with weeping.
And, while I'm on, something a little bit more familiar:
I look at every face that I pass. I hope it is you, so that I might catch your eye, promise you by a look that I have never stopped thinking about you and I am sorry for all the ways I failed and that I am tearing myself apart wanting nothing more than to sit opposite you and tell you how I have been since last we met. To hear how you have been. To find out that your life has been good, and that I might be at peace because it doesn’t hurt you any longer. To know that you have lived out the things I have always thought best, even if the selfish bit of me hasn’t wanted you to live those things out. That you are able to just be in a world that doesn’t care if I am in it or not.
We both know that it can’t be that way. To even exchange a glance would be to confirm everything that we are both duty-bound to forget. For you to smile at me… It would take us right back to where we once were, and all of the time since we were last together will have been for nothing, because it has not healed the wound at all. So when I look at those faces, trying to find you, I am doing my best not to find you. Not to catch your eye. Not to set it all off again.
I was happier than I knew when I was with you.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought