|Life Through Modern
2002 by Caz Godfrey
I thought about life the other day and really it is amazing how you can get to be my age, which is not terribly old by the standards of my grandmother and know that whatever you have learned it is only half of what you will learn. That can keep me thinking for a long time, but every so often I become mortal and realise if I don't stop thinking and start doing I will end up being an old lady who has false memories.
Of course, after reading that introduction you would be forgiven for thinking I was a homebody that never tested the shark ridden waters of a far away land. In a way I perhaps haven't put my big toe into the surf of golden sand beaches across the world but I have traveled. Not physically overly much but my word I have traveled in life, I am not going to expound the convoluted message of burning myself whilst traveling, too many folk think their story about being hurt is original. I think I ought to start from the beginning.
I was born in New Zealand to a French mother and a first generation British father. Why they settled in New Zealand seems to be a mystery, and one I may feel inclined to unravel some day, if I get bored. Boredom is not a word I use lightly; I like to enjoy moments of peace by doing nothing. I digress. My parents were atypical of married couples, it became more apparent as I grew from a non compos mentis dribbling baby into a "all knowing and doing" teenager. A huge leap forward in development of course but between the years of being spoon fed and refusing to be spoon fed you are still very much under the jurisdiction of your parents and thinking autonomously only comes into being once you hit the teens.
So I became a teenager. I still chuckle about that word because my daughter is now a teenager and she is far removed from the hellcat days of my youth. I dare to admit she is mature, more so than I will ever be, but I see a spark in her that promises to light fires beneath anyone who becomes her partner in life. She inherits that from me. What I didn't count on with the teenage years was the lifeline my parents attached invisibly would be used over and over.
I guess I should begin the start of my travels at the age of thirteen. Before that age I was a chubby girl with no sign of ridding myself of the round look that gave me my first nickname of "The barrel". Both my sisters were reed-thin and looked so different from me I honestly believed I was adopted or my Mother perhaps sneaked one fateful night. Then one day I looked in the mirror and found I had hips and legs that to my immature eye looked rather fine. I changed my style of clothing and grew up. To my parent's credit they attached the lifeline very subtly and allowed me my time of independence, knowing I really did have a place to go if I needed it.
I scraped through life unscathed as I bopped and jiggled on high heels that would have made a stilt walker proud. Until I met Murray. He promised me the moon and I believed him. The trouble was I was with his best friend in a relationship that was going absolutely nowhere (I say that now of course, but at the time nowhere is somewhere, it is called 'hope'). Murray knew my life better than I did and he taught me a lesson of mortality. Through Murray I met Charles. Both these men changed my perception on life.
Murray fell in love with me and that was a mistake. I would never cheat and he knew that but could not help what he felt. He was going to be a doctor and when the time came for him to begin his studies he chose a university light-years away. When I received his letter telling me why he couldn't cope, he was all ready dead. Murray chose to kill himself rather than live without me. How grandiose that sounds. It was when you are only nineteen and full of confidence. I was nursing at that stage and intended to be his assistant once we both qualified. Oh the plans of men and mice.
In brief, I released my burden of a fruitless relationship and followed Charles to a country torn with war. He was an itinerant photographer and we had this arrangement that we both knew our feelings but would never utilize the word love so we had sex. We never deluded ourselves that we were in love. I know we weren't, but now I wonder sometimes. I nursed bloodied limbs and Charles took pictures, it was a life that taught me much and humbled me more. The years went by and I ended up in Australia, where I am now with a wonderful man named David. That is another story and one full of warmth and sickening fuzzy feelings. One day I will write of our inevitable fusion, it was destiny for certain.
For now though I want to tell you what happened to Charles. You see the Internet brought parts of the world to my home in vivid colour and it happened on that fateful day of September. I smile wryly here, I wrote September and almost everyone will immediately know what day and year I am talking of. Welcome to history I say. Here is my story of Charles...
...The time was 10.45pm or it could have been 10.50pm because computer clocks are notorious for being out by a few minutes, and I was on instant messenger to Charles who lived in New York. We were chatting, nonsensical rubbish as always, as you do when you think you have many years to spend doing just that. If only we knew how many minutes we had left. Would we have done anything differently? Of course we would have, and the saddest thing is, if we had changed our greeting, then his last moments of normality would have been forever tarnished. Normal being used tongue in cheek of course, because we were never normal. Nor will we ever be again.
I remember the news flash coming onto my screen, barely beating Charles with his last words to me. With a feeling that was to be reflected and shared throughout the world in the upcoming day, I watched the television with horror, as the first plane hit. I remember thinking that does not look like an accident, a thought that was immediately followed by that can not be happening. The reporters on scene also seemed to be actors, almost nonchalant as this plane ripped through steel like a sharp nail across skin. That was before the second plane, and I had Charles on messenger. I had to tell him... needed to tell him... wanted to tell him to get out. I would have said please... Which would have made him move...Because that was not normal. Charles was silent.
I flitted back to the television, the true ghoul, to watch with morbidity the second plane strike, and then back to messenger. I tried to scream at Charles, but of course computers do not translate raised voices very well with text, and capital letters just did not seem enough. Then Charles typed his last message to me, just four words. A day later I couldn't repeat them to his mother, who lived in the same part of the world as me, because she is a lady, I improvised for her. Then the towers crumpled, incredibly realistic I thought for something that could not, should not be happening, but they fell anyway. The quiet hush was more silent because of the screams coming out of the screen. As they swayed and groaned, I remember...
... Charles, knowing his last words to me was the start of the end, just like the towers, and how we perceive human nature now.
Ironically, being in Sydney, Australia meant I had the onerous task of telling American citizens what was happening. They did not know countrymen and women were dying, falling out of the sky. I think now, most Americans saw the planes hit after the event, because why would they be looking for them in a blue sky? I saw them through a photographer's eyes, not Charles', but someone who could have been like him, in real time as it happened. The irony seems lost amongst the rubble now. Funny, isn't it? We have this amazing capacity to invent ways to communicate, and yet on this day communication was lost.
Except for Charles. He communicated just four more words to me in this life.
"F***! What was that...
Charles knew abject fear.
Now the world knows
it. I wish I didn't.
(Messages are forwarded by The
So, when you write to an author, please type his/her name
in the subject line of the message.)