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Flat Line on a cliff top
Matt Fallize
I have only just remembered that my brother tried to kill himself

Okay a line. A flat line. A demarcation. Two great solid blocks of colour, differing slightly in shade. One blue darker than the other.
Framing details, two gradients, sinister and dexter, sinistral steeper than dextral, dextral rougher in outline, containing a profile of Queen Victoria.
A slight wind.
Other important pieces of information: the sun is out, intermittently. Despite this it is cold for this time of year, I have only just remembered that my brother tried to kill himself and failed.
I have only just remembered this. It is incredible. I’d completely forgotten. What do you think that says about me?

Despite the cold there is a healthy crop of tourists, mostly trailing up the narrow path on the dextral gradient, standing around for a while and then trailing down again. I have not moved in two minutes.

It was only four years ago. It wasn’t a cry for help either, he was serious.
More girls attempt suicide. More boys succeed. What does this say about the difference between the sexes? Discuss. I have a theory, but I’m curious to hear what you think.
The tourists are more affluent in recent years, and fewer are English. This is due to economic factors and patterns of migration which I often bore people by going on about. Suffice to say that colonialism is alive and well, but now it’s internal, and almost as pernicious. There is merely a lower body count.

How could I have forgotten that? I’ve got a good memory. This has often been commented upon. How could something as momentous as that have slipped my mind? I should insert a tiny piece of trivia at this juncture to highlight the point but I feel that that would be over egging the pudding somewhat.

I prefer this place in winter, when the lines are more sharply defined. It is Autumn, which is nearly good enough. In December you could cut paper with the horizon. In autumn the tourists are wealthy, middle-aged, childless couples. They are polite, and tip well. In summer the tourists are younger, and more boorish.

It’s all coming back to me, as though it were all parcelled up together. Odd, you’d have thought parts of it would have informed other facets of my life, rather than existing, squirrelled away, as a discrete whole. He never explained exactly why he tried, but I have my suspicions, and, yes, theories. I have a lot of theories. He threw himself off a cliff. As I said, he was serious. He’s always been serious. It’s a miracle he’s alive. Some days, he can walk. I have a constant physical reminder of his attempt to kill himself, and yet I forgot. Does this make me a bad person? Discuss. Does his attempt make him a bad person? Discuss. Are our parents failures? Discuss. Are you qualified to make judgements without greater background knowledge? Discuss. This raises interesting questions, don’t you think?
Discuss.

My ex-girlfriend is beautiful. Not just to me. Genuinely beautiful. Old schoolfriends who’d always assumed I was a homosexual were surprised to see her. Their jaws dropped and they looked just like amusing fish.

My father was, and is, away from home a lot.
Winter months round here lend themselves to introspection, when the gales come in off the Atlantic, when it turns into trillions upon trillions of tonnes of grey and angry water there is little to do but hunker down, and think.
My best friend thinks I am an alcoholic. He is wrong.

My brother has always been fond of going out and socalising. He is very gregarious. When people heard he’d tried to kill himself they assumed they’d misheard, and I had.
Do you have enough information yet?

The dextral path has been laid with gravel at great expense for the convenience of tourists. Nevertheless they feel it necessary to wear walking boots. There are some trailing past me now, from the conversation I gather they are Scandinavian. They look cheerful and well-fed. They will file past me into the pub, where out of a sense of duty they will drink a locally brewed bitter. A good idea, as it happens. St Austell Ales Wrecker’s bitter is one of the finest I’ve ever tasted.
The sky is inset with details. I was misleading earlier when I referred to two blocks of colour. Both sea and sky have subtle internal shifts, fluctuations as densities run into each other and fade. If you’re of a thoughtful turn of mind you might like to reflect on the mutability of all things.
And come back to me here at sunset and I’ll show you the day bleeding to death. I hate to have to describe sunsets, they’re special, and I don’t want to wear them out. Come back and see.
He survived because he hit an outcrop of rock on the way down. That was the only explanation they could come up with. It halved the distance of his fall from two hundred to one hundred feet. I’m not an expert, but that doesn’t sound right to me. I have no theories as to why he survived. Others do.

He survived because he had a lot to live for. That’s the standard line around here. The sentence spoken as a charm against sudden death by floury housewives and pool-room philosophers. The unspoken and so do I, so don’t come for me yet, please. A golden child, with a bright future and a demure and angelic fiancé. He survived because he’s got a lot to live for. The change of tense is important. I don’t need to tell you my opinion of that theory, do I? At night we are all utterly alone. We all want to believe that.
And what of the rest of us? My mother is a nervous wreck, an obsessive tidier. I am a cynical insomniac, which I don’t need to tell you is a dangerous combination. My brother smiles an intriguing smile whenever anybody asks him about it. It’s not a pained smile, or a grim one, more as if he’s joking at the expense of the questioner.

The wind is increasing slightly, there are small wavelets on the surface of the harbour. Soon I will have to stop looking at it. Turn round, walk up the mile of sharp hill home, slowly, tending to look at the ground (since my sulky teenage years I have always had trouble with posture). I have no insights, only theories, and I’m keeping them to myself. Let those who are free with their opinions throw them around like confetti, mine are expensive. I have a lot to live for.

© Matt Fallaize 2002

email: Matt@coastaltown.freeserve.co.uk

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