Clash By Night

We stood in the driveway with our bags, staring at the beat up old caravan. It was the only thing Freddy had inherited from his father – we were surprised he got anything at all, considering they hadn’t spoken in more than ten years – and we’d spent weeks talking about what to do with it. Freddy wanted to drive it down to Dorset and push it over a cliff, but I didn’t think that was very environmentally friendly and besides, how would we get back afterwards? In the end, we decided to just drive around and see what happened.

After circling aimlessly for a bit, we headed towards London. We spent the first few days living in a service station car park, only venturing out to buy coffee and Kitkats. Freddy sat playing his guitar while I spray painted pictures on the outside of the caravan. As the next day was my birthday, I was allowed to choose a destination. I woke Freddy early and announced that we would depart immediately for Dover. Freddy rolled his eyes, then grinned and hugged me.

After out initial excitement, we soon realised neither of us had the faintest idea how to actually get to Dover. We consulted the map and I, somewhat reluctantly, let Freddy give me directions. After driving for about a million hours, stopping every so often to argue about whether or not we were going the right way, we eventually made it onto the M25.

Freddy spent most of the remaining journey smoking joints and reciting ‘Dover Beach’ to me. I found it soothing, although when he got to the last verse I started crying inexplicably. Freddy patted me on the shoulder and said, “There, there. There, there,” in a vague attempt to comfort me. It might have been more effective had he not been quite so stoned.

That evening we had a picnic on the beach. Then we took off our shoes and socks and ran into the sea, in and out of the tide, like I remember doing when I was small. We held hands and laughed as we spun across the shoreline, twirling each other round until we were dizzy. Then we sat, arms tight around one another, as though afraid to let go, watching the sunset. “And here we are,” I said softly, resting my head on Freddy’s shoulder. “And here we are.”

And there we were. Sitting in the dark, in the cold, holding each other tight. We were so happy. 

They didn’t find Freddy until a week later. When I joked to the police that he’d probably tried to swim to France they said I was suffering from shock. I wasn’t shocked though, not in the way they thought. Deep down, I had always known something would happen to take him away from me. I just hadn’t expected it to happen so soon.

We had fallen asleep on the beach together, but when I woke up he was gone. It was still dark and I ran to the caravan, praying he’d be there. It had started to rain and I stood, soaking wet, screaming Freddy’s name. The wind swallowed it up, throwing it back out into the wild and stormy sea. Gone forever.

I wore blue at the funeral – Freddy would have liked that – and recited ‘Dover Beach’. I had practised for days and somehow managed to get through it without breaking down. I didn’t want to cry there, in front of all those people. None of them could know, could ever understand. No matter how much I did for Freddy, no matter how much I loved him, it wasn’t enough. I could never take away the darkness. That’s why he walked out. Everything got too dark.

I kept the caravan, and the guitar, although I couldn’t bring myself to play it somehow. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything much. Mostly I just sat and stared, not seeing anything, not hearing anything. Lost in my grief.

A year later I went back to Dover to scatter Freddy’s ashes. I stood barefoot in the sand and said the poem one final time. Then, tears streaming down my face, I scattered the ashes into the sea.

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