The End of Summer

We were coasting towards an inevitable destruction. Both of us were fully aware of it, but willfully ignoring it. Leaving it for the future versions of ourselves to deal with. But the future isn’t always dealt with in the future; often, the future needs dealing with in the present. The future versions of ourselves aren’t forging their own path, a lot of the time they’re trying to make right the path the current version of ourselves has put them on. Who in turn are on a path that the past version of ourselves put them on. Time may be linear, but its influences and effects are contemporaneous. The decision you make today will affect every single version of yourself, forever and always. There isn’t a second of your existence that won’t be changed by even the smallest of choices.

But we were still coasting, and I had to pull the pin. And I had to do it whilst the damage would be minimal. Still massive, still world shattering, but smaller now than it would be at any time in the future. The damage was growing larger every second, and each moment of delay was another moment of destruction. What had been easy in the past, but would be difficult now, would be impossible in the future.

Guy

You head north on North Clark Drive to the intersection, and take a left onto Beverley Boulevard. Stop at the lights at Doheny, patiently waiting for the green that tells you to proceed. Glance at Bristol Farms to your right, at the car park. It’s quite busy, lots of people just going about with their days, getting on with their business, living their lives, oblivious to it all.

The light turns and so you do, a left onto North Doheny which soon becomes South Doheny. You pass Doheny Plaza on your right, not slowing down like you normally would to look up at the apartments, to imagine the people and their lives. Not today. Keep heading down Doheny until you take a right onto Wilshire, and follow it to Santa Monica Boulevard.

Take a left onto Santa Monica and head South East, past Century City, under the 405, all the way to the ocean. On days like today, Santa Monica seems to go on forever, the sun high above you as your mind drifts into the clouds.

But Santa Monica ends, it always ends, always in the same place. Soon you’re at the beach, parking your car in the parking lot next to the pier. Putting the handbrake on, turning the engine off, wincing as the air con stops but not moving, not yet. You breathe in, deeply, breathe out. In, out. Slowly, calmly, hoping your nerves will match your breathing and settle, knowing they won’t.

You reach over to the glove compartment, clicking it open, and look at the only object which sits inside. It’s smooth, black, when you touch it briefly the metal is warm from having been in the car all morning, from having sat near the engine. It’ll get warmer before the day is over. You close the glove compartment with a click, putting the object out of your mind. It’s not time, not just yet.

With a final deep breath in and out you open your door, and step out. It’s a beautiful day, like all days in Los Angeles. This place could be heaven. For you, it’s always been a kind of hell.

You walk slowly across the parking lot, up the wooden steps, and emerge onto the pier. Stopping at the top you look around at the people. They all seem so happy and care free; families with children, parents showing the kids things that they hope will help them learn and grow. Young kids, their whole lives ahead of them, not a care in the world other than whether they’re popular enough, or that they’ve got too much homework. Beautiful girls in daisy dukes and bikini tops, their bronze skin shining in the blazing sun. The pier is a happy place, full of vivality and life. You’re so jealous you want to cry.

You see a woman, young, alone. She looks happy, contented, nowhere to be, no one to worry about except herself. For a moment you envy the freedom you perceive in her. Turning away from her, you walk to the end of the pier and face the ocean.

The ocean stretches out before you, and much like Santa Monica it seems to go on forever. But also like Santa Monica, you know it doesn’t. You know it ends. Nothing lasts forever. Nothing can. As you say this to yourself, your mind is filled with good things that must end; you wish instead you could focus on everything that’s bad, and know that those things will too end, but you just can’t. Your brain just isn’t wired that way.

You watched the water, wincing at the sun reflected brilliant off it. Another beautiful day in the beautiful city of angels.

You put your fingers in the shape of a gun, and press them to your temple. You pretend to pull the trigger.

*

Those are the opening lines of the novel I always wanted to write but never did. Well, they’re kind of the opening lines. The actual opening lines were much more horrific, much more violent, but after lots of back and forth with myself, I changed them, toned them down. Instead of turning a real gun on the crowd, the character turned a fake gun on himself. I don’t know why I originally wrote with such violence, with such hatred. I was 19 when I wrote that, and as a 19 year old I was living a pretty comfortable life. Granted, I was studying full time, working part time, and trying to string together a social life in between, but as far as problems go, all the ones I had were pretty first world. I was far from Muley in The Grapes of Wrath, shooting at the people who had stolen my land, stolen my family, stolen my life. I was a 19 year old living in a dorm, I was light years away from a man who had had the land his father died on ripped out from under his feet. Sure, I was angry, but I wasn’t angry at anything in particularly, I hadn’t been hurt or offended or upset by anything singular event or action. Instead like most teenagers, I was just angry.

In Steinbeck’s novel, Muley had had everything taken from him; as a 19 year old, I still had everything in front of me. Of course I was dealing with the choices of my younger self, but I was still young enough to not have done anything really stupid. Not yet anyway. I was young and idealistic, but also, looking back, pretty naive. It’s funny, when you become a teenager you think you’re so grown up, you think you know everything, but as you pass into your 20s, 30s, and beyond, you come to realise how truly young and vulnerable the teenage version of yourself was.

There’s no excuse for the violence I was writing back then. Was it naive? Probably. Idiotic? Certainly. Unnecessary?  Absolutely, unequivocally unnecessary. Looking back, I didn’t know how good I had it back then. But you never do when you’re young. When you’re young, everything is simple, everything is black and white. It’s easy to lash out at society, easy to blame it for your problems. It’s only when you get older that you realise that your problems are just that; yours.

You can send it all outward, but fighting what’s outside of you won’t solve anything. Fighting the outer conflict won’t help at all. It’s the inner conflict you have to resolve. You have to find out who you are, you have to decide who you are, before you can do anything else. And no one can help you with that, you have to do it on your own. Until you do, you’ll be stuck with that violence, you’ll be stuck with that frustration. You can blame it all on free market capitalism as much as you want, but ultimately, realistically, everyone is living in the same system. If billions of people can do it but you can’t maybe it isn’t the system that’s wrong, maybe it’s you?

*

Was it me? I never figured it out, not really. I wrote those lines over 30 years ago, and I still have that frustration, that violence, within me. I never did come to terms with who I am. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t perpetrated any outward acts of violence; well, not many anyway. I’m just an old man still trying to figure myself out. I’m just an old man still trying to find my place in a world, trying to decide what my morals are, what my ideals are, what my plan of action is. I’m still trying to find that purpose, that drive, that energy. I’m still trying to market myself.

When I was young, and as I got older, I figured that the violence would eventually pass, but it never did. I think, looking back, even though I was a stupid kid back then, I’m a stupid adult now. That’s one thing these two selves of mine, some 30-odd years apart, have every much in common. I’m still frustrated, and that frustration still manifests itself in violent writings, and I still don’t know why. I think it’s the pointlessness of it all. I think it’s the fact that writing is a kind of therapy, a way to exorcise your demons without actually having to get up and do anything. Therapy from your own home; therapy for the lazy.

I wrote those words over 30 years ago,  but never got any further. There are many reasons for this, which I’ll no doubt elaborate on in these pages, if I even continue writing them. If I don’t, suffice it to say that in a world where wealth is generated based on providing a product or service that people, preferably a lot of them, require, writing a few lines about death don’t get you very far. Anyway, I never got any further, and now I probably never will. The doctor said it’s terminal, a year at best. I’m 54 years old. Fifty-fucking-four years old. I’m too young to die.

I knew it was coming. Well, at least that’s what I tell people. The fact is, I did what I always do, what everyone always does; i had no idea of what was coming, I’m just a natural pessimist.

I woke up with a pain in my testicles. This isn’t the part everyone always does, I’ll get to that part in a minute. The testicle part I hope no one has to go through. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Not that I have any enemies; I haven’t lived nearly an interesting enough life for that.

The pain in my testicles was a bad one, so bad I could barely stand, definitely couldn’t go to work. It’s funny that that had been my first thought; not my own health and well being, but the standing of my job. Was that the centre of my existence? Is it stil now? I shudder to think. I’d hobbled to the bathroom and sat down hard, unable to stand any longer. I tried to urinate, but nothing happened. Now I’ve urinated first thing in the morning, every morning for as long as I can remember. 40 years at least, probably more. And every morning, I go fine, no problem. But not this morning. The pain was so bad that nothing happened. I tried, but each time I did it was like an explosion in my testicles, accompanied by one in my head. I had to close my eyes, but instead of darkness what I saw was flashes of light, like fireworks on New Years. I’m no doctor, but I’ve had enough eye tests to know that this is not a good sign.

Sitting there on the toilet, unable to go, unable to get back up, feeling helpless as a baby; this is the point I did what everyone does. I thought to myself, this is it. This is why I tell people that I knew it was coming, because I was right. It was always going to be this way though; I’m the kind of person who says that to himself every time anything happens.

Headache? This is it. Stomach ache? This is it. Heart flutters, like it does every day, like every single person’s does every single day? This is it. I must have said to myself this is it at least once every day of my life. So I was bound to be right eventually. Throw enough shit at the wall and some of it’s going to stick. And the morning I woke up with my testicles hurting so bad I couldn’t even take a piss, I was right.

It stuck.

——————————————-

Would you like to know more? Email robertwelbourn0@gmail.com

The End of Summer is a story about Guy, 54, living in LA, who has just been diagnosed with testicular cancer and been given 12 months to live. Guy always dreamt of becoming a successful author, but never got around to writing his great American novel. Now, he’s writing a novel of sorts. Guy recounts his life, from meeting his wife Audrey, their falling in love and having two children, all the way through to his terminal diagnosis. Interspersed throughout are sections of the novel Guy always wanted to write, and finally is.

The true plot of The End of Summer is the idea that there’s always something behind the smile. No matter how happy someone looks, no matter how happy a family seems and how perfect their life looks from the outside, there are always secrets. Throughout the novel, Guy slowly tells all his secrets, and those of his family. He writes out of frustration, fear, confusion, and we slowly realise that his life is not all it seems. We get to peek behind the curtain, and see how the seemingly perfect family really lives.

The novel also explores terrible events, and what could drive a man to commit them.

The End of Summer is a autobiography-cum-memoir. Guy is trying to understand life now that he knows he doesn’t have long left. He ruminates on his family, what they’ll do without him once he’s gone. He laments that his children should be growing up and learning to love life, but instead they’re watching their father slowly wither and die. He explores his sexuality, monogamy, unfaithfulness, and how a person is supposed tol ive their true life when they don’t know their true self.

He reflects on the idea of mass shootings, and the factor race plays in them. He talks about his failure to become an author, and his life spent working as a lawyer, and the affect that has had on him, both literally and spiritually. The novel is an exploration of one man’s life, what has happened and why, and the causes and affects of both his actions, and the actions of those around him. It is an exploration of what lies behind the façade of the seemingly perfect family next door. On the surface, they have everything, but no one knows what lies underneath.

The opening section is a piece of misdirection; Guy wrote the opening lines of his novel 30 years ago, but never wrote more. The opening lines of Guy’s book are the opening lines of this one; the novel within the novel concerns a man committing a mass shooting at the Santa Monica Pier, before heading to Mulholland Drive to confront the man his wife slept with, before returning to the pier to commit suicide by cop.

Guy writes sections of this novel whilst telling his own life story. He writes about how he met Audrey, how their relationship grew and blossomed. He writes about their buying a house together, having a child, then buying a second, bigger house once Aud announces she is pregnant with their second child.

Secrets are revealed as the novel progresses towards the denouement; what decision will Guy make? Where will he end?