Line on a cliff top
have only just remembered that my brother tried to kill himself
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
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. Id 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 wasnt a cry for help either, he was
More girls attempt suicide. More boys succeed. What does this say about
the difference between the sexes? Discuss. I have a theory, but Im
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 its internal, and almost as pernicious. There
is merely a lower body count.
How could I have forgotten that? Ive 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
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.
Its all coming back to me, as though it were all parcelled up together.
Odd, youd 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. Hes always been serious. Its a
miracle hes 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, dont you think?
My ex-girlfriend is beautiful. Not just to me. Genuinely beautiful. Old
schoolfriends whod 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,
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 hed tried to kill himself they assumed
theyd 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 Wreckers
bitter is one of the finest Ive 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 youre
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 Ill show you the day bleeding
to death. I hate to have to describe sunsets, theyre special, and
I dont 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. Im not an expert,
but that doesnt 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. Thats 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 dont come for me yet, please. A golden child, with a bright
future and a demure and angelic fiancé. He survived because hes
got a lot to live for. The change of tense is important. I dont
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 dont need to tell you
is a dangerous combination. My brother smiles an intriguing smile whenever
anybody asks him about it. Its not a pained smile, or a grim one,
more as if hes 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 Im 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
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