Matthew downgraded

Dear Lucy,

I heard in the news recently that (Hurricane) Matthew had been “downgraded to a Cyclone and went out to sea.”

I remember Matthew when he was just a light breeze. He’d always dreamed of being a Hurricane.

He was called Matthew, not a name he would have chosen. He wanted to be called Thor, or Brick, or Lightning, though he knew that Lightning got annoyed when people used his name. Thunder on the other hand, didn’t care.

Thunder was Matthew’s favourite mentor. He would help him train by making rumbling noises of encouragement whilst Matthew practised knocking over bicycles and boxes. During those days, Matthew had already started to notice his strength, but whilst he was ambitious, he always worried about hurting people, animals, even plants and trees.

He was advised – based on his humanitarian tendencies – that he should settle for being a Blustery Wind, but who cared about a Blustery Wind? They came and went every day, but a Hurricane, now that was making a mark on the world. Literally. So he cast aside his worries about hurting anyone, or at least he thought he had.

He was ecstatic when he finally got the chance to be a Hurricane. When the day came, all his ambition, all his strength was finally unleashed, spinning and bursting out of him at such speed, such raging force, that for a moment, he no longer existed. It had lasted only a few minutes, but it had been thrilling, and now he would be famous.

Of course the inevitable news that he’d killed 12 people devastated him. But he couldn’t have not been a Hurricane; it was what he was meant to be. Or was it the fame that had been irresistible, wanting to see his name in lights? But what about those people whose lights he’d put out? Had they been able to become what they had always wanted to be? Had he ended them before they even found out what that was? He would never be able to forgive himself. Full of sorrow, he set about letting himself disperse into the sea, gone forever.

Just as he shed his final tear and the darkness began to consume him, Matthew felt himself being swept up by a Light Breeze. Her gentle touch carried him, until he felt strong enough to carry himself again. He could feel her love, diluting his pain, filling the space where the Hurricane had once been. Like an unwrapped gift, she had been waiting to unleash her own purpose, to save him.

They became one in a small rain shower and lived out their days as a Light Breeze that occasionally turned into a Blustery Wind.

Bell Bottom Clive

Dear Lucy,                                                                                                 

A lump comes to my throat when I think of Bell Bottom Clive. A more unfortunate boy, I have never known. He was ginger, the particularly unkind kind. Bright red and wiry, kinking stiffly about his face. Ginger hair is cool now for boys thanks to Harry (Prince) and Sheeran (Ed), but it wasn’t then, in the 80s. It was like having ‘go ahead, destroy me!’ tattooed on your forehead. What a terrible price to pay for something growing involuntarily out of your head.

He also wore bell bottomed school trousers, hanging heavily from his slim waist. They were magnificent, great big bells, the kind you could hide small pets in if you wanted to. But Clive was way too unlucky to have a pet to bring him comfort.

I imagine the bell bottoms were handed down from an older brother who had just emerged from the late 70s – a time when they would have been much admired I’m sure. It’s inconceivable, and unforgivable that his parents brought them for him new, or worse still, made them.

I think of Clive often because I have a hazy memory of standing up once when he was being picked on. The scene is set down an alley way, after school – a perfect storm for the picked on. I’m on my bicycle coming up behind the boys (three) and Bell Bottom Clive (one). They are not on bikes. I said something to them though I can’t remember what, and I think they went away. That’s it, that’s the memory.

It doesn’t sit well, this memory. Partly because I am a shameful chicken, more likely to run or hide from trouble than step into it, even if a fellow ginger is in peril. Also, my memory is generally pretty bad, great big gaps lurk where there should be bundles of colourful swirling snapshots from my past. I muddle memories too. Mashing together fact and fiction and any random timescale that fits. My mind’s eye, like the shifty character in a mafia film, never to be trusted.

Finally, I’m a great fantasiser of gallant acts. Heroic re-runs of what I might have done flood through my brain in the spaces where the memories are not. A masterful and stirring speech here, a cutting quip there, even great acts of kindness and benevolence are possible in my mind’s eye. Unreliable it might be, but it still has aspirations.

Despite all this, I’m somewhat comforted that some memories just have a feeling of truth about them. You just know that some things really did happen, or at least the essence of them. With this particular memory – unlike others – I do hope this is true.