In The Holidays

Entry by: jaguar

2nd July 2015
Caught In The Current

It had been so many years but, the second my feet felt the stones beneath them, I time slipped back to that day. Even as my porous soles spread to try and grasp the surface, my mind leapt back. As I precariously balanced in the present I was steady as a rock in the past.

To one of those magic days when you realise you can just push out and push out in front of you and the world opens like you’re swimming through opened doors. All the ticking time-frames and the tailored rules of term time mean nothing. Life is the taste and dirty taint of it your teachers try and keep you away from.

Our harassed mum had said we could have one day in the holidays doing whatever we wanted. Anything at all as long as I was with you. She said we were sensible enough to choose well so she wouldn’t worry about it.

We wanted to walk the river. Our folks nodded and smiled because they thought we meant the riverbanks. But we didn’t. We meant the riverbed. We set off, your rucksack full of cheese sandwiches, crisps and orange squash, mine emptied for our finds. You grunted as I lowered myself from the grey slate bridge into the cage of your arms.

'We can't go that way.' You jerked your head upstream. 'It's deep up there. It might drown you.You stay here while I see if it's safe following it down.'

You straddled the middle of the little river in the strongest current it could muster. I waited at the shallow side, caught in the current between the known and the possibilities. The water's pull was stronger than I’d imagined but it was a tug rather than a frenzy so we set off.

We walked it for hours, the stretch still on our land, the long yawn of it. I preferred the spongy reed beds to the cut of the naked stones. They were like soft, wet rugs. We haunted the flick of fish as we invaded their backwaters. We lived the river that day, you and me, often hand in hand when the current deepened. We felt, smelt, mouthed and tasted it. I can taste it now.

Livid green. I can see Dad’s face turn an angry red as his fag burnt the leeches off our calves. See the blood burst. Nothing has ever been more vital for me than walking down a riverbed with you, my big brother. Immersing ourselves, again and again, in all that life.

It took two showers before the earthy smell faded. When she’d stopped tutting, Mum started laughing. She said she couldn’t wait to read our school essays about what we did in the holidays. I don’t remember her laughing again. You never got to write that essay.

We lost you like a burst teabag. Everything turned brown and we didn’t realise it was because you’d exploded inside your head. You retreated further and further inside your cavernous mind. No one could follow you in. You sat for hours, rocking, on the grey, stone bridge. You were looking the wrong way. Not where we'd gone but where we could never go, upstream, into the past.

I think of our riverbed odyssey often. I give myself the memory of the moment before we jumped in. It’s like a photo only I can see. One day doing whatever we wanted. The water is colder and shallower than I remember but I’m going to follow you upstream. You're going to lead me on our next adventure.