It's been three months since my wife died. And everyday since, I've struggled with my memories of her. They're a source of boundless sorrow and pain to me, but that's only because they're so happy. It's a scale: The happiness is heavy and tilts the sorrow upwards; It rises up and overcomes my heart, which then contracts and shrivels and shoots up into my throat, and shatters into despair. It isn't healthy, and I must move on. Life must continue. I know it... But I won't let it, I'm scared to let her go. So I come to this park everyday for one hour, instead; and I try in vain to keep her alive, by thinking of her – of the past, of happier times – and of how we used to sit right here, at this time, on this bench, everyday, and empty our hearts to one another with splendour. But It doesn't work. There is no new life in memories. No new joys, excitements, passions, or sorrows around the corner. Just an ever growing chasm of distance between then and now; and the more they're visited, the more they become empty and flavourless like TV re-runs, where each time another scene is missing, and the faces becomes harder to envisage. The world is a different place without her. A purgatory. Sure, there's still beauty, and there are still moments, fleeting moments, that make life worth while. Under the sunlight filtered through the branches and leaves of trees, and the downy clouds embracing one another and making love upon the sky, and the beaming sun melting into the horizon and I with it melting into eternity, there are very few reasons for despair.
And yet, there is no consolation, and despair triumphs. These are all gestures of an indifferent world to me - a broken man. I ache for some end to the pain, so I close my eyes and think of god; and like a child whom is beaten by his father for no other reason than profound cruelty, I crawl to him with arms outstretched in the naive hope for safety and benevolence and beg him for a moment of respite, but thoroughly expect in my heart of hearts a more severe beating by doing so. I suddenly feel very stupid and think of the pitiful sight I must appear to my creator. I, who know nothing of him and deny him any place in the world and any place in my heart, knock on his eternal door as a distant and forgotten relative expecting warmth and fortune. I now feel I deserve that severe beating, so I give up my prayers, open my eyes, and reconcile myself instead to the barren beauty of the visible, when a tall ruffled man appears not an arms length away. He smirks wildly at me, his pupils are wide and alive, and he casts an imposing shadow that would be frightening if not for his amiable composure.
“Aoouurgh, don't be so solemn, mate!”, he protests.
I am perplexed, startled out of my wistful self, and ashamed that my longings should be so recognised and obvious, as well as taken aback and annoyed by this bashful intrusion upon them. He parks himself beside me and for a moment says not a word, but looks outward into some unfathomable, intangible realm and caresses the bristles on his face and wrinkles a sly little smile.
I gaze at him a moment and try to utter a quizzical greeting, but am not yet accustomed to his presence; I'm too choked up from my previous thoughts, so the words lose their momentum before reaching my mouth. He turns to me with his wry smile and considers my meagre response, before deeming it unworthy, and starts again, this time hoping and probing for a better one.
“Yeap, sa bloody beaudiful day idn't 't? was strollin' by 'nd enjoyin' tha lotta'f it. Then I sees you scowlin' bout 'nd mopin' round, 'n ya nearly ruin'd it, ya did.”
He roars with laughter with such obnoxious satisfaction that it disarms the wildness of his physique and surprises him, which causes him to pause and laugh with twice the ferocity as before; and in doing so, slaps me on the thigh with glee in an attempt to stop himself. My first thought is to hurl explicatives, throw off his hand and march away. I relent, but more from cowardice than good will, and with a tone of utmost neutrality, I force a whisper,
“Oh, well I'm sorry, but I'm not really in the mood for any of this, okay?”
I felt assured that I'd stood my ground and made myself clear, but my protest merely excited him. His eyebrows slowly crawled up onto the ridge of his forehead and nestled itself into a position of regret, and a half-hearted laugh blew out his nostrils.
“On'y kiddin' round, mate. Sorry ef ah botharradge'ya, butcha look't like ya cood youse eh laugh. Ya see, am a bit of a clown meself. And bein' eh clown, ah can't pass up an oppurtunidy for eh good laugh. It's what eh do, mate, cause the world's eh joke, and somebodys gotta tell it. Blokes like yer forget, – that it's eh joke - yer all so solemn en serious."
At once my longings leave me and a heavy weight is lifted from my chest. This man, this clown, has forced me to look at myself, and now I see everything comical in my suffering. He's right. What an absolute idiot I am. I pine over this or that endlessly, and if a wind blows I find reason to suffer for it. It's all just a joke, and if my love could see me now she'd join in and laugh too.
“You're smarter than you look, you know”, I admit.
“Course ah em. Now don't spose ya cood spare two bucks for eh clown, coodga?”,
“Yes, hang on a second”,
I throw my hand into my jacket pocket and shuffle around for coins. I collect a handful and count up the total, being four dollars. So, for his wisdom I give him double, but when I do he looks confused, lost. He mutters to himself, again and again,
“The world's eh joke... eh joke...”.
He repeats the phrase, laps it up like water but it only makes him more thirsty. It becomes clear to me that he's out of his wits, and my former sorrow erupts within me. I can't bare the sight of him. I have to leave, and as I do my heart quickens and shudders with greater urgency following each step. I don't fear him but his words. The endless phrase grapples my soul with it's tragic and ironic intonation.
“The world's eh joke... eh joke...”