Later, I drove them back to the jetty, paid the boatman his fare, and the boy and his mother the wages. They could go back to their village. That’s what they had decided. The journey was silent, haunted, a schoolboy leaving church before the end of the service, eyes looking but nothing said. Head hung in guilty silence. Looking in the woman’s eyes, grey, flecked, wrinkled, and silent. The boy held her hand. He was thin, tall, worried.
The decision had been easy, once they had seen the house. Beyond repair, reclaimed by nature. I kept telling myself that these people didn’t need any more broken promises, any more broken dreams. The back roads and lack of opportunities that had put them where they were.Those broken glass thoughts, smashed like a mirror, that cut so deep; I should have checked out the house before I took them there. Seven years bad luck.
Why do anything? The sands engulf us all, and our monuments. These distances we walk are just tree ring in the cycle of deep time, grains of sand on that big old beach of time. Grooves in the long playing record.
It starts with that itch, that desire to improve things, education, environment, health, to provide a better quality of life for the people, or to offer them the chance of doing that for themselves, and it end with a desire to protect what you build, when it needs change or even a new idea, which of course will be replaced in a generation by another new idea. Networks and communication; that desire to control and own, to enslave and offer none of those golden fruits is the end of empires; Corruption and decadence.
The greatness of the cliffs, hammered by the sea in those endless waves and tides, spume, foam. Those mountains, once proud, eroded over time. The map, so carefully traced, changed before it’s finished. War, politics, plate tectonics.
Doctors say ‘first do no harm’,this was echoing through the dry thoughts in my mind.
Only those who do nothing make no mistakes.
I had said good bye to the boy and his mother, but I turned round, drove onwards. I drove back, through those bitter years, those bitter mistakes. I would rebuild the house, remake my monument. After, the dust would claim it. That was inevitable. I would try to learn from those errors of the past, those mistakes that lead to machine gunning opponents and horsewhipping slaves, in a bid to hold onto the best fruit in the tree. To go beyond that monkey madness which possesses us all. Those who took not just the best fruit, but all the fruit, leaving nothing behind for the bottom, those poor strugglers, honest in labour, futile in work. Taking even their pride, making sure that work wasn’t a solution to their grinding poverty. They were in no position to negotiate building the house, building the society of tomorrow would lead to the temptations of continuity. Ensuring it could never be changed, that somehow this time we wouldn’t make mistakes and that afterwards the country would be milk and honey.
Building the house must have seemed like that, resplendent in its beauty, those well-kept, pristine and manicured landscapes. Sweeping down long forgotten hills. The land had come back to reclaim the house.
I went to work, this time with the land, this time with the people.