Sunday, September 5, 2010
We arranged to meet on September 3rd at 8'ish in the evening at The Lighthouse Bar on Margate Harbour Arm. I arrived on Margate seafront at around 19h20 to be greeted by a huge fiery sun setting in a perfect blue sky over equally blue waters. The same blue waters that my Piscean husband had a colourful history navigating. As a child, as a teenager ... running the pedalo's, as a man participating in pub raft races, as a man jumping in the freezing waters for charity on behalf of his local pub (the Benjamin Beale), as a man launching his own boat, .... there are many stories. So many. And I can play them all in my mind ... even those stories that took place before I met him, because he shared them all with me. Some stories can't be shared, but I can mention one instance when he lost his temper, and swung a samurai sword through a car windscreen on the beach. There are one or two "action replays" that I don't like to visit, such as the time he was dragged down the seafront (by his hair) by 20 drunk Scotsmen ... he found his feet and dealt with 10 of them, launching them like dwarfs out of a cannon, leaving the rest to flee, whilst acquaintances stood, mouths agape, pointing at the spectacle, "looooooook, fuuuuuuuuuuck" but not actually helping him.
I digress. I love to digress in my own mind ... replaying these precious visuals in my mind. They all contributed to form the making of a man. Mine.
Back to the sunset. It was majestic. It literally took my breath away and I knew in my heart, that the time was right, as was the place. "Meet me Halfway" came on the radio to ensure that I received and heard the message. I couldn't help but steal a glance at our old apartment, whose windows afforded us the same view that was captivating me, and wondered if I could go back in time, back to him ... if I could run up those stairs fast enough. Then I realized that I was struggling to drive, to coordinate my movements, to notice traffic around me ... and swiftly detoured to my friend's house, who uncannily appeared to be expecting me.
Upon arriving at The Lighthouse Bar on Margate Harbour Arm, I was hugged by Paul, Brian, Ray, Liz, Joe, Chris and Mick. One of them told me he was fetching me a drink and I followed him into the venue, shook hands with the owner and introduced myself to him.
Lighting a Marlboro Lite and watching the view, zoning in and out of the banter around me, I recognized Marcus walking towards us and smiled, greeting him with a bear hug. The date was chosen purely to fit his availability, as promised ... because he had been in Thailand when Cliff's funeral took place. Tonight was a chance for him to say goodbye to Cliff, as it was for Debbie, Paul and Lesley.
I started fretting about where we were going to launch the rocket from because the tide was in ... and I knew that the beach was out of bounds for scattering ashes - however at the time, I really wouldn't have cared ... and I phoned Gary to find out how long he and Shaun would be ... I so needed them there ... and I knew that they would be able to resolve the issue. They arrived within 3 minutes (was my pretend I'm okay voice THAT crap?) and 5 minutes later, they had the launcher firmly attached to some railings at the end of the harbour. Wendy arrived with them, and I was so happy to see Lesley was with them too ... a lovely surprise ... Cliff was fond of her and used to pretend he was scared of her. He definitely liked her because he let her tell him off a couple of times in public and believe me, I don't know any man on earth who would have got away with that.
Shaun asked who was "doing the honours" and I replied that I'd be lighting it. He got me to confirm that statement, which I did, then he and Gary proceeded to make the launcher even more solid and immovable. While they are checking it for the sixth time perhaps, I kiss him goodbye, by that I mean I kiss the rocket goodbye and whisper, "go free baba, I love you", blink fast and hard, rewarding them with a wide smile when they turn round to face me. "Here Marg, give me that," says Shaun - who has just clocked my Marlboro Lite in my other hand. I try to insert the rocket into the launcher and he takes it off me and does it for me. He can't hear what I'm saying because he's checking the estimated flight path, and rechecking it. "Do you know what to do," he asks. "Yes," I demonstrate, snapping off the plastic safety cover ... I light that fuse. "Yes," he concurs, adding, "it's not like touch paper, perhaps I'll borrow Blondie's Zippo for you." I tell him that I went to boarding school in Dover and can consequently light cigarettes and therefore anything in a force ten gale, if necessary. This night is still, as is the sea. A clear sky.
Debbie arrives, and after a huge cuddle with her, I walk up the steps to prepare myself to light the fuse. I am marvelling at how pretty the harbour is with its multicoloured lights, and how the seafront looks lovely from this vantage point. I look across at the Benjamin Beale and our old home. I'm smiling. For him. It's ok. I can FEEL it's okay and I feel warm. Then I start grinning, because I'm wondering if I will inadvertently cause the lifeboat to be launched. Shaun rounds everyone up and we all squish onto the little platform next to the Lighthouse. I notice the safety warning on the rocket - must be 25 metres away from this device - hmmmmm, there's a metre between us and it. Whatever. Decide not to share this information with anyone else.
I light it on first strike. It's fizzling. I am not really there anymore. I'm watching Cliff light a mo-fo firework and I'm standing on our decking with our rottweiler, delighting in his quivering, his excitement. His bum wiggling, his little howl of delight as it goes - whoooooooooooooooooosh. And I feel myself being held and I instinctively know it's Liz, who was widowed 17 years ago, I lean back into her, happy to be held by one who knows.
There is a ka-boom and my beautiful strong husband is transformed into blue glittering magical stars, so high in the sky, above his home turf. I am mute and empty suddenly. I can't quite equate his death with the stars that are fading in the clear black night. I thought it would bring some closure, that I might finally accept that he has definitely gone forever. But I can feel him with me and I don't - I still don't fucking understand the phrase, "not coming back home" when it's applied to him. People are coming and wrapping me up in their arms and I am the only person standing with dry eyes. Ironic, considering they had delivered the pep talks lovingly earlier that evening ... you'll be fine, I'm proud of you, be strong, do him proud etc. I did. Yet it is they who have glistening, sad and wet eyes. They who show their sadness and emotions. They who have accepted this loss that I still can't. Not quite. NOT YET. I'm looking at Marcus and want to ensure he's alright. His eyes are so full of meaning, emotion. He's battling it so I put it on him and announce, "I need a Marcus hug" and my friends make room so he can oblige, and I find myself telling him, "You've done it. You said goodbye. It's ok now," but he can't speak to reply so I shut up.
We all walk back down the steps. People are quiet and regaining composure - all in their own way. Ray left immediately. Shaun bounced off. Gary stood there, apart, looking at me. Really looking. He could see me being brave, and cool and perhaps a bit numb about everything ... and he demanded eye contact and words to confirm that I was really alright. I suddenly can't talk either and my mouth does that thing, you know ... when you are trying really really fucking hard not to break. My eyes fill up and then drain away luckily.
The bar owner comes out and talks to two of the men. I check that he's not complaining about the firework, and they laugh, "no, he's not allowed to complain about that. He knows who Cliff is, and that we were scattering his ashes tonight ... I guess he's figured out how now ... no, he just asked us politely if we'd stop using his car roof as a bar." They'd been putting their drinks on top of his car.
Lesley suggests that we move on somewhere else, "move on" she says literally, to match the symbolism of moving on, releasing his ashes. I agree. I don't care actually where we go, so long as I have a vodka in my hand, but I totally agree with her philosophy, and had we remained there it would have been easy for the mood to spiral down.
So we set off to the Doggett, whose clientele and owners are shocked to suddenly have this invasion. We're all on the top shelf and we're a tight group. A right mixed crew. But we're ok.
I am told gently, but firmly that I should either move back down there or to Australia. But I should not stay in my current home, because I have no support network there. That everyone is seriously pissed off at my being robbed twice and that there will NOT be a third time. Did I understand. Yes I did.
There is karaoke on but I've zoned out from the awfulness of it. Manda is muttering incessantly, "Britain has NOT got talent" and "can they find any more depressing songs?" and "FFS". I'm laughing at her openly. Marcus says his ears are hurting and turns on the jukebox, but the barmaid turns it straight off again, so he suggests we go to Cecil's - it's one of the bars he supplies security for, and I'm ready in a nano-second.
Then we head to the next bar accompanied by the owner of Cecil's, banging dance music, and we're dancing up and down the bar. Marcus does his old trick of pretending he's pole-dancing to make me laugh, and I feel alright, really alright.
As we move from bar to bar, we lose more and more of the group, till it's just Marcus, Brian, Dane (my new friend from Cecil's) and I. But Shaun keeps appearing, bounce ... bounce .... bounce, like Tigger .... and I realize that he's checking that I'm still with Marcus, that I'm still ok. We banter as we always have. I introduce him to Dane who appears a little wary of him ... "This is Shaunie. I love my Shaunie - he's my friend" (yes, probably on my 20th vodka by then) and Shaun reassures him, "YOU can't call me Shaunie BTW, but you don't need to worry about me, unless of course you upset her, then all rules are off."
I listen to some Cliff stories and wrap myself up in them, and I dance. But make no mistake, I dance for him alone. Still. I can't sing yet. One day. But I'm dancing, really dancing again. There's a huge space around me, just like there was many moons ago. I'm not arrogant about it. Just used to it. His friends are loving the fact that I've done him proud. Again, they remind me ... that I've shown the world what he married and that he's proud of me. I'm getting cocky and share that he told me that he didn't marry me for my culinary or domestic skills and we're all laughing. I'm back in my little la-la land for the night. A taste of him. I thought it would be the last taste, but his legacy ensures that I can dip in and out of that world when I choose, provided they've got the energy.
I lit the fuse and let him go free again. He wasn't made to sit in a fucking tube or an urn. He's free and it was hard but it was right and I feel comfort from doing the right thing for him. It's not about me. It's about Cliff. Be free baba. If you love someone, really fucking love someone, then you have to let them go. I've proved that twice.
One firework launched. Two to go.
My beautiful strong husband, my free spirit.
I hit a vodka wall at around 03h30 and explained that they HAD to put me in a cab. NOW. I HAVE to lie down NOW. I'm fucked. Ok one second, not okay the next. Marcus and Brian look on as Dane puts me in a cab, gives me his mobile number and offers to take me for breakfast in the morning. He lectures the cab driver about the address I'm going to, not to rip me off, not to drive too fast blah blah and adds that I am his older sister and am therefore PRECIOUS. Clearly he's about to hit his own vodka wall. The relief emanating from them all is almost palpable. They weren't going to leave, or even suggest leaving till I was ready to drop.
Amanda hands me breakfast biscuits and PJs at the front door and I'm stripping off my clothes, desperate to crash. NOW. Don't want to get a second spurt of energy because then I will FEEL. No way. She runs to switch off the light so the neighbours don't get a free floor show. I'm asleep before she gets back into her own bed.
I spend the following day with her. Knowing that I was staying there enabled me to get through it with more confidence. Calculate I necked around 30 vodkas and this magnifies my hangover from hell.
Then I move onto next sleepover at Cliff's brother's. Hair of the dog. But only a couple. So tired. So tired. Go to bed at midnight, but can't sleep till 04h00. Just as I am drifting off Jester (their dog) decides to check on me and kisses me up and down my arm. Big gooey smakaroos - breathing right in my face. Jesus. Get up for another smoke.
Lastly, I visit Vicki on my way home. She looks great. She looks well and I feel like some of my little world is alright.
And I don't cry. Don't really cry till I start cleaning my bathroom. The bathroom that he built especially for me. My eyes rest on the seashells that we collected in the Caribbean, on a beautiful beach. Different waters. I remember the fireworks we enjoyed there. I remember Viking Funerals on other seas. Us. I focus on the shells again, remembering picking them up together, I remember holding hands, I remember the conversation we had. I remember the love. And it brings me to my knees literally. I can't breath for the pain, the loss and the grief. I don't want to breath. Maybe I have accepted it a bit.
Acceptance hurts. Being here hurts. They're right - I need to get my shit together and move to Australia. He's free to come along with me now.