Reflections by John Graham


by John Graham

I wonder what Susie would say if she could see me now, standing here like an old fool watching the tide come in.
I wonder what her Mother would do if she could hear me now, still calling her Susan Susie - turn over in her grave, no doubt.
Is that what we really do? - turn over in our graves? It would be ridiculous, really. I mean if there we were, lying on our backs facing the blue skies of heaven, why on earth should we then decide to turn over and face the fires of hell? It just wouldn't make sense. Her mother hated me calling her Susan Susie. She would glare at me then change the subject, whatever the subject may have been, and address her daughter properly. "Susan," she'd say and glance in my direction before raising some totally trivial matter.
Susie didn't care what I called her. All she cared about was that I would always be there for her, no matter what. And that's what I tried. God knows I tried every day since the first day we met.

"Are you absent-minded?" I had asked her, pointing to the brooch she wore. SUSAN it said in marcasite letters.
"What do you mean, absent minded?"
"So you're Irish, then." I said. "I knew the moment you answered my question with another. We all do that, don't we?"
"Do we, indeed?" She smiled, realising she'd done it again. "So what makes you think I'm absent minded, then?"
"Simple," I said. "Why else would you have your name on your coat unless you keep forgetting what it is?"
She smiled that lovely smile again. "It's in case I get lost - Someone who found me could take me home."
"Well, it's a good job I've found you, then." I answered, thinking I'd won.
"But I'm not lost yet. - At least I don't think so."
"Well then," I said, "let's find out. For instance, which way is it to California?"
"I don't know," she giggled.
"What about Toronto, then?" I teased her.
"I don't know that, either." She laughed then.
"See what I mean? You are lost. I'd better take you home, hadn't I?" And I took her home for the first time.

There's something about the seaside, something that other places just don't have. Well, they don't have the sea, of course. If there was no sea you couldn't be beside it, could you?
You can always bring someone to the seaside and say to them; "There! Look at that sea!" And they'd be able to do just that - stand there, just like me, with nothing else to do but look and watch the tide come in.
Can you imagine someone in the countryside, saying; "Come and look at this hedge. What do you think of that?" Well, they wouldn't bother to look, would they, because a hedge doesn't do anything, really. It grows, of course, but they couldn't stand there and watch it growing the way they could watch the tide come in. A hedge just stands there doing nothing, just as I stand here, doing nothing.
The tide, though. The tide's always doing something - going out, coming in, whispering, murmuring, roaring. But always doing something. Not a bit like a hedge at all.

I should have listened to her, I suppose. "You're an old fool,     she used to say. "We're on borrowed time now. We could sit together in the park and watch the children playing as we once did - or stand at the harbour wall and watch the tide come in."
It somehow didn't make sense to me. Not then. Retiring - giving it all up. What for? I used to say. Sit at home and wait to become old and frail and bored. Wait until death sneaked up in the middle of the night and robbed me of another dawn? Worse still, spend my days sitting in the park watching children play or stand by the harbour wall watching the tide come in?
My days. But they weren't just mine - they were ours. They were our days and now they're gone and I've left Susie home for the last time.

You'd hardly know the harbour now, not with all the changes they've made - the old boatyard gone, the slipway, the jagged rocks; the rock-pools - all of them buried beneath, of all things, a car park. Not even something majestic or grand - but a car park. They didn't ask me or my Susie or anyone else whose precious memories they buried underneath all those tons of concrete. We swam in the salt-seawater of that bay, walked on the sandy beach, bathed our feet in the rock pools on a summer day. Even now I can remember one such day; she was young then - pretty, fresh-faced with eyes that danced with joy. I can hear her laughing as she sat beside the rock pool.
"Come and see this," she called and giggled "Look! Look at the reflection! See? See how it changes when the breeze ripples the water? " She waited. "There! There it is now! See? You'd think I was smiling - smiling through the ripples!"
"You'll not be smiling in a minute," I said, " - if you look at that sky." Even as I spoke the first drops of rain were falling in the pool. "There," I said." That's reflections for you - smiling through the ripples and crying in the rain."

It's such a final thing, a funeral. Take a christening for instance, a christening's such a joyful thing filled with hope and promise. A beginning - a beginning of, well, almost anything you can imagine. Like the tide coming in, whereas a funeral is such a final thing.
CRANFIELD, the notice read, SUSAN - and, in brackets, SUSIE .AT HOME. I read it over and over again. I don't know why - it wasn't going to change anything. It wasn't going to make it go away, it wasn't going to bring my Susie back. It was a funeral and a funeral is such a final thing.

I almost bought a boat once. Not a large boat - clinker built with a little rail running round the bow. I was going to paint it myself - the top half white that would gleam in the sunlight, the bottom half blue to match the sea. I was going to call it Susie. I never did get around to it. It was one of those things, a question of time, really. I just never seemed to get the time.
You can't get near the boats nowadays with the new marina and everything. Not that it matters, I suppose. There's no clinker nor carvel now, no hand painting, no polished brass, no class - no class in anything, really.
I stood and watched one the other day - a funeral. I couldn't help thinking they don't do anything like they used to. Not anymore. You wouldn't have seen shoes that needed polished or trousers that needed pressed - not in the old days.
They're strange things, reflections - smiling through the ripples, crying in the rain…

John Graham