APRIL 25, 2016

He doesn’t actually know what to do, so he runs.


After ending the conversation with Ione he barely even has to think twice before his shirt has come off so he can throw on a black one, he grabs his shorts, throws on his running shoes and off he goes. He runs to feel anything other than what he’s currently feeling because he knows that’s selfish. He knows that, at its core, none of this is about him and yet here he is, making it about him.

He runs and runs and runs and he doesn’t stop.

At first he’s just running to run, no music or anything, allowing his inner monologue to narrate the way the run will go and at this point he’s managed to shove everything else that might be looming in his mind to the side. The only thing that matters is the way his foot hits the pavement, the pacing of his breathing, the scenery in front of him. He allows this time out to serve as just that. A time out from everything and anything that might be going on. The literal pause in the world he’s been living in just so he could go out and not have to think for once. There are barely any places where this is a truth for Alex, but this is one of those places. Nothing else exists here.

He decides to take out his phone purely to listen to some music and continues going along. It’s so early and absolutely barely anyone is out yet, to be expected. He and Ione talked amidst Alex not being able to sleep and deciding to finish up some work after passing out way too early so suddenly it's 5 AM and here he is. There’s no worry about whatever it is he’s doing here. Never has been. Up ahead is the first person he’s seen, an older man taking a walk with his cane. He’s walking slowly but he’s whistling and when he spots Alex, he gives him a thumbs up and Alex replies with a, "good morning" and a nod.

An unfamiliar song with a familiar voice comes on and although it’s not exactly a main feature on the running soundtrack with the more mellow tone of the song, the words resonate and it fuels him even more.

If you could fight the battle and win
To miss the mark correct within
If your wish came true, your dreams made real.

Running for cover,
Running to hide.

Though there was no solid direction when he was first running, he knows this familiar route he’s taking now very well, where it leads, and he can’t help but smile somewhat because of it. It forces him to keep jogging along further until he’s there. The familiar grounds are comforting, though the place itself might seem eerie to some. He turns off his music and shoves the phone in his pocket, walking down the long path with a very clear destination. To his left, he sees a small girl and her mother speaking animatedly. To his right, an older woman and her two sons in a hushed argument as they speed off. He doesn’t stare, simply notices the other people around, until he spots the reason for this visit.

“Hi, grandad.”

The grave itself is about the same height as the rest, nestled right next to one of the trees. There is a distinction, because Miles had specified he didn’t want to be under the tree because the sunlight was too beautiful and the rain was too powerful. He wanted to be able to feel it all with nothing to be spared, even while he was no longer physically on this earth.

Alex sits down in front of the tree, leaning against it with his elbows resting on his legs as he looks over at the grave. To him, it is so much more than a physical object merely meant to remind everyone of their loved ones in the form of a stone and some loving words with a person buried underneat. This is his grandfather and he can feel his presence when he’s there. It became a thing when Miles first passed and Alex was back from tour, he’d just go and visit and talk to him when he was back home. About anything. Everything. He spoke about the girl he shouldn’t have been in love with but that he most definitely was, the mistakes he had made when the media attention had pushed him too far, the awards he won, the new house he bought, the guitars and their condition, even the damn food he had eaten, the way he was feeling, all of it. When he was alive, Miles knew just what to say to make him feel better so being around him was always helpful. There would always be an almost thoughtless way of living where he’d reach over to that phone and talk to his grandfather.

“You look well, I see that mum came ‘round for her birthday.”

He leans up for a moment to dust the corners of the grave, placing the flowers that were surely from his mother in the middle.

“We had a really great time, oh god, you should’ve seen the spread. The kids, too, they’re growing up. It’s crazy. Now I know how you felt when you kept saying how insane it was to see me get taller and taller. Pete still has the best stories, you’d have loved the one about his friend calling out some investment banker.”

He smiled, looking down at the ground and picking up a leaf to roll it between his fingers. He looked up again, leaning back against the tree once more and sighing slightly.

“Ione’s going through a tough time right now.”

Though he hadn’t been home much at all, he still had an opportunity to talk about her the last few times Alex was back in Wokingham. He provided the basis early on: she’s one of my best friends, we’re dating, I dunno if this is going to work but I ought to give it a try. Then the few other moments she came up in conversation: I’m in love with her and she loves me too, we keep fighting over what I think is nothing but it’s something more, she makes me so happy, I feel like I should keep trying to be better, she does this cute thing where she talks to herself in the kitchen, we broke up, we’re together again - I love her so much. Now this.

“I was thinking about bringing her ‘round here yesterday, just didn’t really work out with everything else going on.”

He was about to pluck some more grass from the ground until he realized what he was doing and stopped himself, taking a moment of quiet to just sit there and enjoy the calm that washed over him.

“She’s pretty sure her parents are separating, she feels like her friends are pulling away, the media attention is starting to get to her more than ever, she just wants to live her life without worry, she doesn’t want to be pulled around, there was an incident with some photos and she feels responsible for, my responses are not helping thing, it’s just everything is getting to her all at once.”

He’s taken to a stick, poking it in the dirt as he speaks.

“I feel for her, I do. She’s not here right now - off in Australia to visit a friend. I just don’t know what to do.”

He looked up at the grave, as if waiting for some witty retort.

“Yeah, there’s more to the story, obviously. She’s been pulling away for a while now. She’s been angry. I’ve felt it. I’ve taken a good chunk of it because the anger gets projected on to me since things get to her more easily these days. Well…I’ve taken it sometimes. Other times, I’ve not really handled it well, and I think this is the explanation for the way it’s been but I just don’t know how to take that when I go from all the things we've been going through and then it jumps to these new developments. It's not the first time this has happened, but see, I feel like a shit for feeling whatever bullshit I'm feeling when she’s going through all of this. Because it's not like I immediately get it and all is over. I know I should see the things that were done and not truly being her. That was her anger, her frustration, her sadness, but why can’t she just talk to me? Why does it have to get to this utter point of a breakdown before we can actually make things work? I just want her to be happy. I just want to be happy with her. Not conditional happiness. Just…happy. Genuinely, really, truly, completely, happy. No limitations on that. Why is that so difficult?”

He was getting heated in his own words. Not angry, just animated as he spoke and waved his hands around to further explain things that were going on. There was no one else he’d want to talk to about it and maybe a part of him liked the idea that his grandfather was listening and he could just talk things out without hearing someone else’s opinion. He just needed to get it out.

“Ione is…she’s incredible. She’s smart, talented, beautiful, loyal, caring, brave, emotional, honest. Difficult. She can be a difficult person to love. There’s this poem, right. One part goes, you can’t make homes out of human beings. In the poem it’s sort of speaking to the girl but I’ve made her my home, too. When the foundations of a home are shaking everyone feels it, be it things going on inside the house or just the malleable walls. By the end it says, you are terrifying and strange and beautiful, something not everyone knows how to love. It's not that I don't know how to love her. I know how to love her. It just doesn't always come across as it should, I guess. She is intense, she loves with all her heart, she can be harsh, she is unique. She is the most complex person I’ve ever known in my entire life. I love that about her, the layers, that there's always more to know and there's loads beneath the surface.”

He slides down a little more against the tree, his legs out in front of him, turning to look at the grave.

“I know she is dealing with all that she is dealing with, I want to put that at the forefront of everything and push everything else away. I want her to feel good. I want her to love herself. I don't want it to be so hard for her all the time, but it is. I don't understand the extent, but it is. I think I just needed to come talk to you about it because it’s been definitely getting to me. I guess I could've talked to someone else but they wouldn't be you. Plus, I don't want to start airing out all of our business. Sure, I know what’s going on with her now, but that doesn’t erase the way I was feeling. Yeah, I know. It’s selfish. That’s why I just needed to talk it through with someone who would understand. Not judge. So I could just let it all out, release it to the world, have it get away from me and I can keep moving forward and not be in this shoddy place while I'm going there.”

He grinned, shaking his head.

“Not that I want it all to float over to you, but it can just float on and away so I can see things as they are. Ione is in a tough spot and she needs me. I’d like to be there for her. Right now, that is the most important thing.”

A few drops of rain started drizzling down. Alex can’t help but laugh.

“You're making fun of me now, aren’t you?’

The rain continued but it's the light kind so there he remained. Seated on the ground, talking to his grandfather, allowing that comfort to take over.

We've been trying with each other to unravel the age-old story,
But I'm starting to think that there's a reason we don't understand.
And it's easy to blame someone else for my wants and my worries,
But I know, I accept that it's just a part of who I am.