Everything Circles Back To This

Originally published in Antithesis Journal Volume 26
https://www.antithesisjournal.com.au/vol-26-liminal

Travelling through space, you cannot move in a constant forward trajectory; rather, the first people to go to Mars will do so by entering an orbit of earth and then crossing to a second orbit of Mars where the two intersect – perihelion to aphelion. 

Similarly, the following pieces cannot be read in isolation, one after the other. No story is complete without another; no piece acts as a beginning or end point. Readers, like space travellers, must move forward in loops.

Musings of a Nomad 

it’s nothing but expanse; expanse may drown me.

My eyes are thick with cataracts and the world seems milky as I stare out. My legs ache comfortably, calves laced with veins. My callused feet barely register the sharp stones beneath them.

The journey is at an end. I am alone, my tribe far away. 

I wonder if anyone will find my bones and bury them, lest my soul drifts uneasily on without me.

I was born in a city, which is to say that I was born in a false and broken space, one of the numerous tumours that comprise the cancer of civilization. I was repulsed early on by mindless materialism, terrified of the territorialism of the humans around me, the violence and vindictiveness caused by a lack of space. 

I think of my wife and children, one already half of a man. He will be a hunter, if this world allows it; if the people who know nothing of survival do not prevent him and his children from surviving. He may be the last hunter. I picture him, crouching amongst his dogs, eyes following the spring of the antelope, the silent instruction for the king to hurtle down the slope and fasten his teeth around the antelope’s muzzle. The other four will follow, each going for a leg. And my son will sink his knife in quick and fast, lips moving in prayer to ask the animal for forgiveness. 

I was not the one to teach my son to hunt.

I was born wealthy, and although the ceilings of my family home stretched high above my head, I felt crushed by the possessions heaped upon me. In summer, cooled air drifted through the house; in winter, I was pleasantly warm. I longed for the sharp bite of the elements. I longed for different sights, words that sat uncomfortably on my tongue.

As a teenager I examined my feet, studied my sprung arches, flexed my toes. I watched mothers with their newborns, how the gentle lope of their walk calmed cries when no amount of shushing or dangled toys could. I watched the sun rise and set, thought of planets circling the sky. I felt my blood move around my body. Lacking the ability to physically remove myself, I chose mental escape. Great men confirmed what I already suspected to be true: ‘our nature lies in movement.’

I took too long to leave: and there, a regret, the only one. For years I moved painfully through spaces and ideas I felt no connection to. In university I had a girlfriend, a beautiful and intelligent woman who I took to restaurants and art galleries. I made love to her; I made promises to her. We planned a life together – marriage, children, her career and mine, a house in the city, summers on the coast. It was a novel I had read before, a familiar plot and conclusion. But the male character was not me, simply a man bearing my name and traits. 

I was naïve when I left her, left my job, left our home. I was glad of her tears and angry words at the end; it confirmed that I would never come back.  

It was a difficult year, the first year I learned to walk. I quickly realised that you could not eat idealism, nor would it keep you warm. Winter drove me south. I had vivid, hallucinary dreams of deserts, stretches of unbroken yellow sand. 

It took me a long time to reach Africa. 

Standing on the northern-most point of Morocco, I stared back at Europe like an escaped criminal examines his prison from afar. My new life had begun: I was a traveller, I was an exile, I was searching for some great truth that could be found when all the structures were stripped away. I was a nomad.

I have come close to starving many times, but been dehydrated to the point of near death only thrice. Two of those times were those first few months in the desert. The western Sahara was no place for a man; walking the well travelled expanse of Europe was little preparation. I had no sense of when I entered Mauritania, and I do not know how many days or weeks later I stumbled into the city of Walata and heard familiar French from the surprised locals.

I was thought to be lost, from a tour group perhaps, and taken in accordingly by a family related to the Governor of the area. Though gracious of their hospitality, I soon longed to roam once more. This is when I learned of my proximity to the Nemadi. 

I could read of the Nemadi easily enough in books – Eurocentric books that presented them anywhere between hopeless backwards savages to a noble but sadly fading people. But to find them, to see them, became my sole purpose. Such trips were forbidden: the tribesmen who hunt and ignore the laws of Islam were a national disgrace. It took me many days to convince the Governor to sanction a visit. He imagined, I’m sure, that I would be repulsed and return within hours.

I stayed with the Nemadi for fifty-eight years. 

These hunters, ‘masters of dogs’, are pale and long limbed. Their teeth shine white in their mouths. They refuse to herd or claim land, knowing this leads to the violence of the Moors around them. They hunt wild oryx and addax, even though the government has forbidden hunting and denied them their means of survival. They have lived and hunted since before the time of the Prophet. 

A man may join the Nemadi – not a woman. Never had I been more grateful of my gender than when it was agreed I would stay. With them I traversed the great desert: not a featureless stretch of sand as I had imagined, but a place richer with texture and history than the greatest of museums. 

Everything I craved was embodied in these people, and yet I could never become one. I grew to hate my skin that reddened and freckled in the sun while theirs remained immaculate. I hated my British accent that I failed to shake no matter how hard I tried to mimic others’ fluid speech patterns. I hated the fact that I didn’t know anything – years of study at university had taught me of Kant and Lacan, but I remained ignorant of how the hunter trained his dogs or how the women made tichtar. The Nemadi were entirely illiterate, but they were my superiors; I knew I would die without their guidance, and I had no knowledge to offer in return. 

The years changed that, cured me of some of my stupidity. The years gave me everything I needed as I lived and smiled and starved and suffered with these people. The years gave me my love and my children. It would be a lie to say I relinquished all ties to the life I had left behind. I acquired some books and I read them; I acquired some paper and I wrote. It was an accepted eccentricity that marked me as an outsider but which I found myself unable to let go of. It is with the last of my paper and ink that I write this.

It is not of the Nemadi to be alone to die. It is of myself.

I envision my death; I do not scream, cannot cry. Death: now movement is unrestricted by tiring muscle and aging bone. Death: an inevitable, perhaps the singular truth. Death:

Mars One

is cold and silent

is hot and roaring

is far away

Not the phrases circling that sphere of expectation

in the early days

three rounds in and praying to be chosen

to be Forever Remembered

No, the words hurtling towards us like comets through the sky were

Mission Exploration The Next Giant Leap For Mankind

and they burned bright as the sun

Other words passed between friends were more often

Sacrifice Risk Permanent Settlement & No Hope For Return

and they exploded like dying stars

Time has changed for us, stretched and warped

as we were thrown from aphelion to perihelion

moving forward in loops

And now, our new landscape stretches around us

And what is home, when one place is out of reach,         No Hope For Return

All of us had our reasons

but all of us were searching for something

we didn’t have before

and I can’t help but feel that

Star Crossed Lovers

everything circles back to this.

A woman’s butchered body, clothes torn and legs spread, lying in an alley as the sky lightens high above her. It will be some hours before the owner of the nearby bar steps out for a smoke between doing his invoices and sees her. It frightens him that he isn’t frightened, hardly shocked. He’s never seen a dead body in the flesh, and yet it seems so familiar, almost clichéd.

By afternoon there is police tape and stern men with notebooks and the body has been covered by a respectful white sheet. Viggo Öman ducks under the tape with the grace of a man who has ducked into many crime scenes. He pulls back the sheet, grimaces. 

* * *

Sarah Tomasson is sipping tea and idly flipping through a magazine when she hears a firm knock. Barefooted, she walks to the door and opens it cautiously. 

“Good afternoon,” Öman greets her. “I’m Detective Öman and this is Detective Stenberg.” 

The two men show their badges. Sarah thinks she should examine them closely but they are gone in a moment. 

“Sarah Tomasson,” she says. “What’s going on?”

“We’re investigating the death of a woman who lived in this building, we were wondering if you could offer any assistance. Her name was Maja Lindquist.”

It is a sentence from a dream or a movie set. Sarah takes a moment to process.

“Oh my god, Maja. She lives above me. I don’t… How did she die?”

“May we come in?” Stenberg is tall and thickly built; his face is serious.

“Of course,” she steps aside and the policemen enter. “I can pour you some tea, I’m drinking green but I probably have something else if you’d prefer –”

“We’re fine, thank you,” Öman smiles politely. “We’ll just ask a few questions and be out of your way soon.”

* * *

Sarah is still shaken two days after hearing of Maja’s death. She interrupts her afternoon yoga session to go to the shops before it gets dark. In the brightly lit aisle her hand hovers over the more expensive shampoo, then begrudgingly takes the generic brand. As she moves to the checkout, she sees Detective Öman in the line ahead of her. Her first instinct is to greet him, but she hesitates, and stays silent as he pays for his items and leaves.

Carrying her shopping bags, Sarah steps out into the street.

“Sarah?”

She jumps at the male voice and spins around.

Detective Öman is leaning against the glass windows of the grocery store, smoking.

“Oh, hello, Detective Öman,” she forces a smile.

“I’m sorry, I scared you.”

“No, no, it’s fine. I’m just a little jumpy, you know, with Maja.”

“Of course, of course,” he nods understandingly. “Are you alright?”

She nods, still partly breathless. “Just a shock. We weren’t close or anything, but you know, you never think someone you know, in your own building, can be…”  

He nods again. “I know what you mean, it’s always hard to comprehend.” He pauses. “Are you just going home now then?”

She nods.

“Well I feel terrible for scaring you when you’re on edge… can I buy you a coffee?” His smile is gentle and reassuring.

She hesitates. “Don’t you have to work?”

“I’m spending the evening going from bar to bar trying to find Maja Lindquist’s last known location. I have a little time until then – unless you’re busy of course?”

Viggo, she learns, has been a detective for three years. He is unmarried, no children. He was engaged once, he says, when he was very young, but thankfully he came to his senses before going through with it. He speaks of his partner, the older detective she met in her apartment, and of his love of cycling, and how he can’t stand police TV shows.

“And you?” he asks her. “What kind boss do you have that you’re given the time to indulge caffeine-addicted detectives all afternoon?”

She dips her eyes, embarrassed – embarrassed of her own embarrassment. “I lost my job a couple of weeks ago. I’m – I was – an interior designer.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” His eyes are full of genuine concern. “I have friends in the same position unfortunately. Even Sweden is not immune to global financial crisis.”

As the shadows stretch and darken outside, he looks at his watch and sighs. “I’m afraid I have to be going – best to get bartenders early in the night before their mood is soured by drunk patrons.”

“Of course, definitely,” she reaches for her wallet but he waves her hand away and gestures to a waiter.

She wraps her scarf around her neck as they move together towards the door.

“You know,” he says, “I’m going to a lot of bars tonight. If I find a good one, perhaps you’d like to have a drink with me some time?”

She is pleasantly surprised, finds her face falling into the look of slight nonchalance she hasn’t used much in the last few months. 

“That might be nice.”

“Do you still have my card?”

She can picture it still lying on her kitchen bench.

“I don’t think so.”

He fishes one out of his inner pocket. “Let me know.”

Sarah walks home with the quick nervous gait she has acquired since hearing about Maja. She locks her door behind her and checks it. She wishes Viggo had had the time to walk her home. Her fingers play over the smooth surface of his business card.  

* * *

Wine splashes into Josef Stenberg’s glass, a swirling deep red.

“Easy there!” 

Viggo laughs, filling up his own glass. 

“Since when do you turn down more wine?” he asks his partner.

“Some of us aren’t in our thirties anymore,” Josef replies.

“And they look it too,” his wife, Elsa, smiles at him across the table.

“Sarah, defend me from this abuse,” Josef implores her.

Sarah laughs, sipping her own wine. The room is hot and the wine fills her with a pleasant warmth. She looks to Viggo, his cheeks a little flushed, laughing at Josef’s banter, and is filled with a rush of adoration.

“So who’s ready for dessert?” she asks.

“I couldn’t possibly! I’m exploding from all that delicious pork.” Josef says in mock protest.

“Yet somehow you always fine room for seconds,” Elsa returns, then says to Sarah. “Let me help you.”

Sarah slices kladdkaka and Elsa adds generous scoops of ice cream to Josef’s bowl.

“Don’t worry,” Elsa says playfully. “They don’t all turn into idiots once they pass forty.”

Sarah smiles, opening one drawer and then the next to find the dessert spoons. She still isn’t used to their new, cohabited apartment. Viggo had wanted to move into her place – had been quite set on the idea – but she’d insisted on a whole new building. 

“The place looks beautiful by the way. I can see why you started your own business, you really have an amazing eye for pieces!”

“It was all Viggo’s idea, really. I was trying so hard to find job openings in existing companies, when one day he said, why not start your own? I never expected it to do as well as it has though.”

“We’ll have to get you in to do our place! God knows it needs a make-over, but Josef is so tight with money, he goes into hysterics if I buy a cushion.”

Sarah laughs and fetches the dessert wine from the fridge.

“I’ve never seen Viggo so happy you know,” Elsa continues. “So settled. Funny how things work out – who would have guessed he’d meet such a fantastic woman working a case! And an awful case at that.”

Sarah nods seriously. “He was so bad-tempered when they declared it cold and he had to move on. He still works it sometimes, he has photocopies of the file in his study.”

Elsa looks concerned. “I don’t see much purpose in that.”

Sarah shrugs, picking up two bowls and making her way out of the kitchen. 

“I’m not sure it’s so unusual.”

Her nonchalance is feigned. She does find the case file creepy. She’d screamed the first time she walked into their shared study and found Maja’s dead eyes staring up at her from a photo on the desk. It scares her how alike they had looked – with one finger covering the lifeless eyes, Maja’s face could be Sarah’s own. Now Viggo shuts the door when he works the case in the evenings, but, somehow, she likes this even less.

She forces a smile to Elsa.

“Perhaps that’s just ‘his case’, you know? People say every policeman has one unsolved case they can’t let go of.”

“What can’t us poor public servants let go of?” Josef asks jovially. Elsa sets his large serving of kladdkaka and ice cream in front of him. 

“Sarah thinks all policeman have an unsolved case they obsess over.”

“I didn’t say obsess,” Sarah says quickly, glancing at Viggo. His eyes are on his dessert.

“Well maybe some,” Josef says. “But I think that’s a bit of an old police cliché. As far as I’m concerned, there are plenty of open and active cases to be worried about. Can’t waste your life chasing the one that got away.”

Sarah watches Viggo. His mouth works hard turning over his kladdkaka

* * *

The icy expanse seems endless outside the hotel. Sarah pulls her knees towards her and nuzzles her head into Viggo’s chest.

“What is it älskling?” he murmers.

“Just thinking about how warm I am.”

He laughs softly in her ear. “I don’t think that’s a common statement in Svalbard.”

She smiles. “Well I wasn’t about to say that when we were dogsledding yesterday. I’ve only just recovered feeling in my toes.”

“Ah, but did you have fun?”

She turns and kisses his lips. “Yes, I did.”

They have been at the Hotel Spitsbergen for four days. She had been pleasantly surprised when Viggo suggested a holiday during his annual leave, almost shocked when he’d suggested Svalbard, and thrilled when he’d insisted that every day was filled with a different surprise activity. They were flying back home in the morning, and this day had been spent in relaxation, enjoying the sauna and each other’s company.

“You should go put some more layers on.”

“I’m not cold.”

“But you will be when we head out tonight.”

She looks at him quizzically. “I thought dinner was at the hotel tonight?”

“Dinner is. But the entertainment is not.”

She grins and stands, going to find her scarf.

All her life Sarah has lived in Stockholm, but never has she travelled far enough north to see the Northern Lights. The sky shimmers in waves of colour as she and Viggo stand on the ice, his arms around her. 

“It’s incredible isn’t it?”

“It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

“Well,” he says. “For me, it’s only the second most beautiful.”

She barely feels the cold, entranced by the phenomena above her, until Viggo steps away from her, keeping one of her gloved hands in his.

“You’re the most beautiful thing I will ever see.”

She tears her eyes away from the lights and feels her heart begin to hammer as Viggo drops to one knee in the snow beside her.

“I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Sarah.” 

The diamond reflects the colours of the lights illuminating the sky. Sarah feels light-headed.

“Will you marry me?”

Back in the hotel, Sarah feels as though she has absorbed the coloured lights. She can still see them behind her eyelids as they make love, the whole world shining and exploding for her. 

Viggo rolls off her onto his back. She passes him a tissue wordlessly. The crisp white sheets of the hotel bed are comfortably unfamiliar. Viggo sighs deeply. 

“Goodnight älskling. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

She isn’t ready for sleep. Her body tingles with the aftershock of orgasm and she stares into the dark.  She turns towards him.

“Viggo,” she says, pushing back her hair. “Let’s not go back to Stockholm.”

He grunts sleepily. “What?”

“Let’s move away. Let’s elope. Let’s go to Africa, or Australia. Somewhere out of Sweden, away from everything.”

He rolls towards her and runs his hand lightly down her side.

“What are you talking about?”

“I think it would be amazing. To get away.”

“For another holiday, sure. This week has been great. But I can’t move out of Sweden älskling, my whole life is here – my friends and my job and –”

He stops. She knows what he is avoiding saying. And the Maja Lindquist case. But she refuses to say it either.

“You can be a policeman anywhere.”

“But I am one there.”

She stays silent, listening to him in the darkness, trying to sense if she has pushed too far.

After a pause he runs his hand through her hair and sighs. 

“We’ll have an amazing honeymoon alright? Anywhere you want. Even Australia.”

She smiles in the darkness. “Okay.”

He kisses her lightly and then rolls back over. Within moments she can hear his breathing deepen and slow. 

They arrive back at the apartment mid-afternoon. Sarah can’t help smiling when Viggo decides not to head into the office and goes out to buy ingredients to cook dinner. She calls her mother, her sister, a few girlfriends, squealing down the phone with fresh excitement as she tells the same story over and over. Already it feels like a movie she saw; she remembers the scene not through her own eyes but from above. As Viggo moves around the kitchen preparing their meal, she sits at the bench talking to him and turning the hand holding her wine glass, watching her ring catch the light. 

After they eat and finish a second bottle of wine, Viggo stands suddenly and pulls her into a deep kiss. She lets him peel her dress off there at the table before he carries her to the bedroom. The room smells of his cologne and the scented candles she lit after her shower; she knows every inch of the sheets beneath her. 

During the night she wakes, feeling cold. She doesn’t need to reach out in the dark to know that Viggo isn’t there. She gropes on the floor next to the bed for his abandoned shirt, threads her bare arms into the sleeves, and pads out of the bedroom.

The light from the study spreads in a golden line from the partially open door. She raises her hand to knock, eyes adjusting to the bright light spilling from the room.

Viggo, shirtless, standing over the desk. She does not need to see clearly to know the label attached to the manila folder from which he is frantically pulling papers, eyes flicking over paragraphs, crime scene photographs fanning out over the wood of the desk like twisted colour samples – cobblestone grey, body bag blue… blood red.

She drops her hand abruptly, suddenly conscious of the sound of her breathing. Turning, she tiptoes back to bed. It is many hours later that she hears the heavy footsteps of Viggo walking to the bathroom and the sound of running water. 

* * *

Sarah opens desk drawers impatiently, the phone jammed between her shoulder and her ear.

“Yes, I’m looking for it now,” she says, struggling to maintain a tone of politeness. 

“Well I hope you find it, because this is very clearly a mistake on your end, I know we keep meticulous files here.”

Sarah purses her lips and riffles quickly through a folder of insurance paperwork. If this were a one-off client she wouldn’t tolerate this kind of harassment, but Engels & Völkers are one of the largest real estate firms in the city, and to be chosen as their decorator for their newly built apartment complex is what she needs to be competitive with the larger interior design companies.

“And you’re sure you don’t have a digital copy at all?” she asks. Ridiculous in 2015.

“No, I told you, we sent the only copy of the approved design plans to you, three days ago.”

“Well,” Sarah drops her day planner and swatches of material scatter like a deck of cards. She swallows her curses. “Perhaps it was lost in the mail, or hasn’t arrived yet, because I honestly don’t think I have it.”

She looks to Viggo’s desk, a far more ordered and monochrome arrangement on the other side of the study.

“Let me just check that my husband hasn’t taken it accidentally.”

She quickly flicks through a pile of unopened letters on the desk, but there is nothing with her name on it. She ignores the irritated commentary pouring down the line as she puts the phone on the desk and opens the top drawer. Nothing but dried up pens, loose staples and blank envelopes. She opens the second drawer, flicks through the first few files. Bank statements, car registration, pay slips… and a final unmarked file, thick and held together by a rubber band. She forgets the phone as she lifts it up and works off the band, knowing what she will find inside.

Viggo arrives home after dark, tossing his coat onto the back of a chair.

“Älskling! What are we doing about dinner, I’m starved. Do you want to cook, or get something from –”

Sarah emerges from the bedroom and nods towards the kitchen bench. The file lies open, the familiar photos on top.

“I thought you said you’d let it go.”

Viggo looks furious.

“You went through my desk?”

“I was looking for something else, and I find this. You’re my husband Viggo, we’re not supposed to have secrets.”

“It’s not a secret. It’s just an old case file.”

“You said you’d stop working the Maja Lindquist case!”

“Well I can’t! Okay, I can’t. I have to find him.”

“It’s been two years! He could have moved, or died, or been caught already, you wouldn’t know –“

“Exactly! I don’t know! I don’t know if he’s gone, or if he’s still out there, being more careful now, hiding the bodies better. Do you know how many women go missing every year? Who knows how many have been raped and murdered by this guy, their bodies lying in some shallow grave or at the bottom of the Mälaren. Women like you älskling.”

He moves towards her but she steps off. 

“This is an obsession Viggo. It’s unhealthy.”

“Would you have me never catch that case? Never meet you, never have all of this?”

She wants to slap him.

“We have nothing to do with that case!”

“We have everything to do with that case!”

His face is red and eyes wide. He suddenly grabs his coat.

“What are you doing?” she says as he walks to the door.

“Going for dinner.”

The door slams behind him. She stares at the file on the bench. Maja’s face, eternally twenty-three, stares blankly out of the photograph. Viggo is not a man for photographs – she has had their weddings photos framed and hung, keeps a photo of her parents on her desk. He has none. Only Maja’s. 

Is she jealous of a dead girl?

No, because Maja Lindquist has melted away, become a crime scene photo amongst piles of evidence. The one that shares their bed is him, this faceless nameless man. 

He is the one who has stolen her love. Or, maybe, the one who stopped her ever having him. The one that keeps them both living in loops, unable to move forward. 

She begins to doubt this concept of forever, forever, 

The Collected Letters of Lucas Moore

things are different now, for sure, but somehow the same, somehow like they’ll be this way forever. 

The people haven’t changed – the same kids playing beach cricket and splashing in and out of the water, the same parents under umbrellas with their beach chairs and cooler bags. All of them looking like perfect, happy families, and I suppose some of them must be. 

Rye itself has changed though. All that scrubland we used to explore out the back is getting built on now, and you can’t walk twenty meters along the shops on the foreshore without passing another café or ice cream shop. There’s no way kids would get away with eating mixed lollies at the milk bar counter when the owner’s back is turned like we used to.

I brought your letters to read over again. I’m here by myself, so I rented a room; I was worried I’d get bored around the campsite. I guess I should have brought a magazine or something too, because your letters are much shorter than I remember, but I never was much of a reader, not like dad who buried his nose in a book and had no idea what was going on around him. 

I know it was years ago that you sent me those letters. I’m sorry I never responded before now. At the time I didn’t know how to tell you why my parents and I weren’t taking our annual family camping trip – why we would never again take any kind of family trip. And after that, you were just the person who knew. 

 I suppose you may not even be at the same address to receive these (besides no one seems to write letters anymore) but I’m writing to you anyway. Perhaps these will never even be sent. But I will write to you, here in the same town that you wrote from to me, here where our friendship began. 

Lucas

11th September, 2012

Harry,

Today I went to the campsite. I knew I was in the right place – the brick toilet block, the track leading down to the beach, the camping spots all in the same places, although half of them are empty. But it was wrong somehow, it was different. Maybe it’s just that the light isn’t that scalding brightness of summer. September has muted the world.

There were kids around, playing like we used to. Some had taken their skateboard up to the top of the big hill and I remember how you chipped your tooth when you lost control and rolled into the side of that 4WD – do you remember? Did you ever get that tooth fixed?

There was a little girl with blonde curls who looked so much like little Gracie. Her cheeks were all red from running around, and I remember how we used to play kiss-chasey with the other kids. Gracie always let you catch her. You weren’t that much quicker than me but you always caught girls and I never did. 

I was always jealous of you; I think you knew that. Even when we were ten I could see that your parents were different to mine – not just because your dad kicked the footy with us while mine read books, or that your mum always had good game ideas for rainy days while mine told us to go away and keep ourselves busy. It was that your parents liked to be together, your mum talked to your dad while he turned snags on the barbie, your dad applied sunscreen to your mum’s back on the beach. Your parents were the first example of love I ever saw. Even if I hadn’t seen what we did, that day, I knew what my parents had was not love, no matter what assurances my mum indifferently threw at me.

I remember your face, how concern overtook shock so quickly. I remember how you grabbed my arm and pulled me from the opening of the tent. I remember how you didn’t try to make me speak. And still, I hated you, for seeing what I wished I hadn’t seen myself. I hated my mum too, and the man kissing her – people say you remember details like your enemies’ names, but if I ever knew his it’s gone now. I remember the shape of his jawline though, the way it moved rhythmically, the same way his hand was running up and down her back. 

I remember that you didn’t laugh at me even though I was crying. I never said thanks.

Lucas

14th September, 2012

Harry,

I haven’t posted any of these, and I don’t know why I keep writing. I guess it feels right to be here and to be telling you things, even if it is a one sided conversation.

I went back to the campsite again last night. I suppose I should be glad that you’re not reading, because you would probably think I’m crazy. It gets cold here at night in September, not like those nights we used to have, when we left the tent flap open to let in some cool air and woke up covered in mozzie bites. There’s no campfires allowed anymore. There were a few people sitting around outside their tents, with big floodlights and stuff (since when did torches not do the trick?), and no one said hi or anything like they would have back in the day. They probably think I’m a paedophile or something.

I walked down to the beach in the dark, and I remembered Dale Martin. You never mentioned him in your letters, and I don’t know if it was because you didn’t want to remind me, or didn’t want to remind yourself. Maybe you truly have buried that memory somewhere that no place can bring it back to you. But the beach at night brought it back to me. How Dale used to follow us around, always too slow to catch us when we ran away, always willing to please when we made him steal cans of coke for us from his parents’ esky. I remember the night after I saw mum, how you came with me to Dale’s tent, made him leave his sleeping brother, made him go down to the beach and wade out into the black water. How I yelled at him to keep going, to prove he was good enough for us, until he was up to his neck and we couldn’t even see him anymore, just hear his desperate pleading and the sound of him splashing nervously.

I came back to Rye to be alone, or to be with you, I’m not really sure. I do know that I see your face in every twelve-year-old boy that runs past me, wet hair and sandy feet, paying no attention to me whatsoever. I suppose it would be the same if you, the you now, met me on the street. I can’t picture you as an adult and I’m sure you wouldn’t recognise me. Are you still taller? Do you have facial hair? Have you gained weight or is your body as lean and quick as it always was?

I was sure, somehow, that this place owed me something, that being here would erase the past and I’d be ready to be okay. But this place, that I know to be hot and loud, 

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