Easter 2022 Portugal

Last night I made Indian food at home for friends. A convivial evening. The weather has been spectacular this week. The religious parades a little lacklustre, they don’t compare with the magisterial opulence of the spanish equivalent. Yet, even though I don’t believe in christianity, I bow my head before those who do.

This morning the apartment is scented with cassia, cardamom, coriander…

Last week the rains were gratefully upon us.

The sky is dove gray, the cloud ombréd into anthracite onto the horizon. Spring storms are coming. Gulls wheeling over the Rio Gilao. The swifts are no longer screaming, they are hiding in their mud and saliva nests under the eves. The deluge comes, polishing the cobbles. Parasols flap and drip onto miserable tourists. An inescapable torrent. I may have left the window open.

I am unpacking my unhealthy, enmeshed relationship with women. I am the one… I have consistently had unhealthy relationships with women. I am the one. Ending in dismay, disloyalty, disappointment. I could make a million excuses but I am the one. Whether it is George or Samia, rich or poor, bright or not… they open the door to their misery and like a fool, I rush in.

I wanted to save my mother. I couldn’t. I was powerless. I wasn’t enough. I lay in bed listening to the screams. I couldn’t save her. I was just a boy! What could I do? In my teens I ended up resenting her because she couldn’t save herself. Nor us. I know my brothers were terribly wounded. They sabotaged their father’s funeral.

Truth never picks a side.

A famous friend is crying hard about the pressure of fame, success. She is crying because she hates talk shows, she hates the publicity grind. She is bleating and moaning, the hard rain is falling. It is difficult to listen, knowing just how they reaped the rewards of the entertainment industry. I am full of judgement until I admit I’ve been there myself, equally indulgent. I’ve written about it, the loneliness of success.

If I believe my creative gifts are god given, yet… when the universe delivers I wonder: am I deserving? ‘No, you are not.‘ I hear the voice in my head so clearly, speaking to me using my voice. ‘You are an imposter, you’ll always be an imposter.’

Remember that night? The night in question, that night, that great night… leaving the theatre deafened by applause, even though I had many who would have congratulated me I had no one to call. I was completely alone, enduring the discomfort of the moment, so fearful, I wanted to call my mother but that door was closed to me. I felt so fragile, it was impossible to enjoy my success. The intensity of the moment was nothing I had experienced before. It was so overwhelming I ran away, I fought it off. I am only deserving of punishment. I have stripped myself of every opportunity presented me. I have sabotaged each and every gift. I have behaved like a lunatic.

Ana, Samia, Donna, Eleanor, Georgina, Hilary. A longer list exists… I am sure. Women I wanted to save, save from husbands, boredom, grief, family, loneliness. When will I ever learn? Maybe this is the moment? I am the one? It always ends up the same way, even when I have set the boundaries, considered my motives, written the contract. The outcome is always the same: RESENTMENT.

Ana calls me her husband, George wants to marry me, Donna is furious when I tell her friends I am gay. Samia meets me in Paris for what? She woefully reminds me how old she is. What became of them?

Drawn to their helplessness, tiny Ana lost on her huge sofa, penniless. Donna consumed by her hoard, piss and shit saved in plastic bags, Samia shamed by her menopause. Georgina’s body wrecked by Parkinson’s, her bank accounts raped by her daughter. I have learned, just now. This day. Unless those who have becomes victims to circumstance take hold of their own lives no one can help them. What could I do? I was just a boy! I can momentarily drag her out of poverty, over the shingle to the restaurant in the wheelchair… but I cannot will them to live, to stop making the same mistakes.

By consorting with a woman and her shame, I can only fail. Those who saw me wrecked by grief must never lay eyes on me ever again. When ‘saved’ what do we need with our saviour? If incapable of saving, we slip into the oily, cold water of failure. Like Jack from Rose.

Men I know sharing how they drank and used drugs like heroes: they drank like Travis Bickle, snorted like Scarface, loved like Nick Cage in Leaving Las Vegas. Their cinematic memories, their euphoric recall is so often vulgar and self-aggrandising. If I drank like a character in a movie? I am Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Baby Jane Hudson. King baby. Writing a letter to daddy. Knocking back the bourbon, controlling the outcome, taking hostages.

Looking in the mirror. Crying. Drowning in self pity.

Thank God I cast myself in another movie. The movie I am living right now. Am I happy because of the therapy or the anti depressants? I am luxuriating in the moment. I love my things. The temperature is perfect. I do not wish to shut the door on my past but, thank god, I am not my story. My story, the story of casual violence and hopelessness merely gave me excuses to behave badly. ‘If you had my story you too would be a monster’, that is the lie we tell ourselves. Without my story I have no excuse. I am the one.

My mother ended up saving herself. She has the life she wants. I respect and accept that. It has taken decades of reflection to own my part. It was a process aided by the voices of so many willing to share their truth. Faith overcomes fear. I know, no matter what, I will be ok.

For that, this Easter day, I am very thankful.