Thursday, 25 August 2011

There's a Doolittle in that story, too.

Lochlan is sitting out front on the bottom step in the blazing sun pounding back beer. Boots still on but untied, lethal. Jeans and t-shirt filthy, hair tangled in loose ringlets, endless red waves. He's an ocean of fire and if you asked him, depending on the day he would tell you he plays with fire. Ask him tomorrow and he'll tell you he works on the midway or the circus, depending on the year. Ask him the day before yesterday and he'll tell you he makes art but not every day and ask him next week and he'll tell you what he does is not as important as who he is.

You won't get a straight answer because there isn't one and he'll lecture you for being curious about what he considers the dumbest line of questioning in the universe, after the ones that require subterfuge, of course. Those questions have no answers and he'll just burn them down anyway. Problem solved. Harness fire, the one thing the Devil can conjure and you will begin to fight on even terms, and equal ground.

Only he won't fight with the Devil now. They've reached an impasse after thirty years. They can almost tolerate each other. They can get through a meal together. They stand in the same place, as equals in the amount of mistakes they have made, crimes they have committed, hearts they have broken and time they have spent. Their promises rest at the same numbers, their hopes for the future are mirror images of one another, so when I tell you Lochlan is no less guilty and no more innocent than Caleb, I'm not lying, I'm simply stating the facts as they are written, plain as the nose on my face.

The only reason I call Caleb Satan is because of his epic tattoo, the Gaelic word for devil, Diabhal, stretching from shoulder to shoulder across his back. He's had it for a very long time and now you can sleep at night.

(I did mention it before, years ago. Dear reader, you are skimming. Don't do that. It's not fair.)

So the redhead sits in the sun and waits for the dark and then he becomes who he wants to be, the Commander of Flames, Stirrer of Embers, Keeper of Heat and Light. The guy who will call out to you with the slightest hint of a Scottish accent and a wicked dare to come and try your luck.

He is all talk to you and all heart to me. When I take a step backward, he is there to catch me when I stumble over those dumb boots, left in the way, no matter where I am. When I need him he empties his arms from whatever he was doing and holds me. When he wants to cause problems all he has to do is flash that smile and my knees weaken and it ruins life for just about everyone else.

I can't explain it but I know what's around the corner next. A scarlet sea of risk and inherent comfort. A warmth that can't be found anywhere else and a lifetime supply of simple pleasures, like sitting in the sun, getting drunk off his face and proclaiming he would be a great busker, if only he were still young enough to take the financial hit with as much enthusiasm as he had before he knew what it was like to feel full.

He'll be forty-six in a week and a half, but you wouldn't know it if you saw him and I know it but I still can't believe we're at this unbelievable place where time can march on but we haven't moved a muscle.

He has not aged the way I have and easily passes for thirty. I'm really hoping for a Rip Van Winkle moment one of these mornings but when I point that out, Lochlan just laughs until he cries.