--> It happens at sea. The lapping waves and the water’s surface with its shiny viscosity created by the light prompt me to recall those moments. I remember more clearly then, what those flashes of innocent intimacy were like.
Memory is not text, not even remembered action, really. The past is recreated by recollections of an atmosphere, a sound, a temperature. Remembering the arrangement of the furniture often reveals more to me about a moment than the people sitting on it. So is the nature of key moments in our story of young Rufus and Flip.
Images such as dappled sunlight are not a routine physical reality. They are as much a precise instance in the lifecourse as a particular sixteenth birthday. Our first experience of mottled sunlight is a rite of passage, a singularly unique occurrence in our young lives.
Roll the film. Capture it.
Close your eyes and recollect this patterned lightness on the patchwork English country landscape and you will see young Flip—dark, tan, laughing—happy to be with you. There has been no other instance in your life like it. You wish that this moment will go on forever, but, even in your youth, you know it will not be so. You have been taught this in songs and they are sad ones.
Your soul has always been an old man’s, your cautious, fearful, doubting heart. We are forged as we will be early in life and spend the rest of it unravelling that fact. The child somehow knows that as a man you will seek to recreate this moment over and over again and so you prepare yourself for such a journey, even in your youth. Play the Mahler 5th. You understand it intimately.
You and Flip walk over hills towards a wood. This is not a memorised landscape, however. It is a recollection of a three-dimensional physicality consisting of the soil under foot, the sound of the swish of tall grass, and the crunchiness of pebbles mixed with earth. The intensity of the English sky’s summer blueness creates a light pressure against your skin. The warm country air is more uncontaminated than any you will ever breathe again. His arm around your neck as you walk is the last uncorrupted act of commitment that you will ever experience. This is the purist state of coupling.
You are in the stream at a point where the water, the great purifier, creates a deep pool. The chilly water laps against his body, as you will lap against his. The surface of the water makes a fluid partition that allows grazing against his body beneath it seem easier, less obvious, but still dangerous. The pretence is played out above the surface, the risk and the release beneath. If he ever objected … but he never did. The physicality of your relationship remains in its purist state.
You can smell him on his shirt that you have innocently taken home with you. That night in your single bed under the farmhouse’s eaves you lay next to this piece of worn cotton clothing and dream of his unpolluted perfect being. The shininess of his young dark skin, his naturally sun licked hair, his smile’s innocence, his warm arm around your neck, laughing, always laughing.
Flip’s mother rings your mother. Her shrill screaming coming from the telephone reverberates around the farmhouse kitchen. Your father is uncomfortable situating himself so intimately next to your mother who listens with the receiver away from her ear. She turns her back on you as you stand in the doorframe, bracing yourself for what your unfounded guilt convinces you is the earthquake to come.
Flip’s mother says that she has found the dirty letter that you wrote to her son. She screams down the phone line that you are a filthy unclean pervert and she is coming to your parents’ farm with a kitchen knife to sort out the whole family. Then she is going to make sure the entire village knows about their evil son and your wicked intentions. She is going to report you to the police for the criminal that you are.
Your mother is crying. Your father slams the kitchen door and walks out into the barnyard. You can hear him near the barn shouting and swearing, thankfully muffled from inside the kitchen where you remain. The tall case clock in the hall ticks away its heavy unrelenting passage of time. It seems more strident than ever tonight—even louder than your father’s shouting or your mother’s crying.
You know that tonight is the end of innocent intimacy. It is probably the beginning of something else, but you are unsure of what that is.
The next morning, very early, your father tells you that you must leave the village. He will drive you past the junction where you and Flip met up so many times to the railway station in the nearby town. He tells you to pack you clothes. He will give you the train fare to get to London, but then you are on your own.
He then mutters bitterly, “That’s where your kind go, don’t they, Rufus?’
The surface is broken.
Read the first instalment here:
This is the second instalment of the background story for the short film, Rufus Stone, to be produced as the key output of our three-year research project, "Gay and Pleasant Land? -a study about positioning, ageing and gay life in rural South West England and Wales ". The Project is a work package in the New Dynamics of Ageing Project, "Grey and Pleasant Land?: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Connectivity of Older People in Rural Civic Society" and funded by the British Research Councils.
A second article, 'Exploring Sexuality, Ageing and Rurality in a
Multi-Method, Performative Project' is now available electronically from the British Journal of Social Work.
Two short A/V pieces we created for conference/workshop dissemination are also available. They both give the background and an overview of the methods used in the project.
Gay and Pleasant Land?
Exploring sexuality, ageing and rurality in a multi-method project
PHOTO: Mikaela Maria