Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Natural Fibres

The rope is rough in my hands, thick. Small spikes dig into my skin. The pain a gentle reminder. Always natural ropes, fibres. They always work the best. Gloves would have helped, but no matter now. It's just a gentle prick.

"It's just a gentle prick." Lies, as usual. A sharp pain, then the spread of dull ache as the injection was forced into my gum. Waiting for the numbness that never fully came. A lie, that gentle prick, as much of a lie as any words from their mouths. The sound of the drill, the noise and vibration. The pain building. "Raise your hand," he had said, "raise your hand if it hurts too much." A fist clenched hard, holding on. Being strong. Eventually raised as it became unbearable. But nothing. No relief. Nothing but lies, constant lies leading to searing agony. A litany of lies that never ended.

Rolling the rope in my fingers. Carefully measuring against my hands, just so. It's important to have the right length. Folding over itself, wrapping around. Important, but you can always start over, and keep going until it is right. That's the key, really, keep on going until you get it right.

"Pull it apart, start again, and keep going until you get it right." The words brusque but not unkind. Shere Khan moved onto the next station, scouts all involved in different knots and rope activities. I pulled apart my attempt at lashing in disgust and threw the pieces to the ground. Then I sighed and picked them up again. Practice, persistence, and keep going until you get it right. I tugged on the rope, but it wouldn't come. A quick slap from Jamie and the wood was on the ground again as well. 
"Loser!" he said, kicking the pieces out of my reach. 
"Tosser," said another scout. Familiar taunts, but losing none of their virulence in familiarity. As I bent to pick up the wood, I felt a push on my back and I sprawled forward. Laughter and other boots greeted my attempts to rise until I stayed still, face in the dirt. Finally boring of their game, they moved away. I picked up the pieces of wood and the rope. I had to keep on going until I got it right.

A quick swing. A miss. Using the weight of the knot to my advantage, I try again. Another miss, but closer. I pull more of the rope into my hand and throw again. After an agonising moment lasting for centuries, the rope slides over the rafter. Without a ladder, I make do by letting the weight pull the rope to the right length and then tying the tail tightly to a side post. A quick test of the knot proves it to be secure. Testing the other end makes sure it won't slip. There will be no mistakes.

"What the hell have you done this time? Moron!" I stood shivering and dripping water onto the deck. I knew better than to try to go inside this wet. No matter what I might face here, that would be worse. Much worse. And if I had lost the boat? Let it drift down the river? My supposedly secure knot had slid undone, slick synthetic rope letting the knot work loose under the influence of tide and wind. The swim had been cold, the return trip exhausted me. I had been lucky that I had noticed quickly. Not quickly enough.

Slipping over my head. A little tighter. There, resting gently around my neck. Not too tight, but not loose. It mustn't be too loose.

"It mustn't be too loose. Nor should it be so tight it wrinkles your collar. Let me see now." His voice was soft to match his face, but this was one teacher who was always impeccably dressed. Long pants and tie every day, regardless of weather. The students spoke of him sleeping in a tie, not knowing they were carrying on a tradition of decades. The ordeal all the boys were going through was in preparation for Graduation. A momentous day, a time of celebration. For most. For me, a joyous time in a different way. Not a celebration with friends, but a celebration at leaving a pit of destructive ruin. I carefully adjusted my tie until it was perfect. It felt good.

It is time. All the preparation is done with. Only one task remains. I take a single step forward, and gasp despite myself as the rope tightens. All the knots hold, as they should. A darkness comes slowly, warm and welcoming. I am done here, gladly I accept the embrace that is offered. I close my eyes as the rope stretches and twists, spinning gently. I am content as the darkness pulls at me gently. It is over.

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