The River’s Bend – Have You Ever
Have you ever ridden a horse bare back into the middle of a stream and experienced the weightlessness of the animal as its feet ceased to touch the river’s floor?
The sensation of the horse slowly drifting sideways, downstream, as the gentle current pulls it further from its goal. For me it was a very real and wonderful experience.
The sun warm
The icy water fresh from the mountain
Mixed feelings of goose bumps and sweat on my skin
My girlfriend and I would battle mid-stream to demount the other amongst laughter and squeals.
Both of us
Spending breathless minutes in the chilly water
Scrambling to remount our steeds lest we froze
Thawing out on large sun soaked boulders
Everything fresh and clean
The realities of life far from our childish minds
Yes the river’s bend brings back many good memories
But alas the ghosts of the bad season are always close to the surface and I cannot reminisce, about the river, without the poison of its time inflicting the shame that haunts me.
It was there, on the warm sandy shore with its sheltering rocks and overhanging ferns that my innocence was taken.
At fourteen years of age I could not call it unconsented, but I question as to whether I was fully aware of all the consequences that my promiscuity would bring. There was no love on my behalf and only a distorted, self-centred lust on his.
When I reflect back on my naivety I am beset with shame not because of my misconduct – no, that could be defined as juvenile experimentation. No, the shame came from what he went on to do and how neither my friend nor I had the ability to expose him.
To have stood by, calming the animals, while he forced himself upon my companion and then for years continue a perverted relationship with her still dumbfounds me. I can only cringe at my cowardice each time it is remembered. How meek and foolish must my comfort have been?
It never occurred to us to report him. How could we tell of his crimes without exposing ourselves? We were conditioned by society to know that we had done wrong. We had no mature confidants to navigate us through our dilemma. Our relationships with parents and teachers were those of mistrust and harsh consequences.
Through a series of events I was able to break from the unhealthy situation but my friend was not so lucky. The entrapment of alcohol and drugs claimed a stake in her life. Although we did keep a threadlike relationship going for some time the thread was as thin as the worn out clothes of our childhood.
Decades have passed and as I reflect upon the river’s bend I change the memory. My new characters are turned into people, wholesome and sincere. There is no remembrance of my friend or our dark acquaintance.
I am happy to keep them out
Of my new world
The warm sand becomes a place of seclusion
Where my lover and I entwine in romantic escapades
Surrounded by the beauty of nature
Ferns spread patterns of sunshine over our bare bodies
All the fun of the water and horses become part of his life and I am morphed into the blissful contentment of a virtual reality. We cavort and play with an innocence that is recalled from almost another life time. The days are always idyllic and we delight in each other.
I wonder … when I am old and they return me to paddle my feet in the river’s bend, will I see the past for what it was or will I see my fantasy and believe my flimsy illusions to be real?