When this year dawned like years must none of us suspected that, before the hedges had grown green and the gardens begun sprouting the endless forests of weeds we never quite managed to control, Oedipus would be dead. But he's lying in his grave, and its only March. Just to think: he had plans for April!
He was going to sea as soon as the warmer breezes blew from the West. He had his boat ready and he was learning the ways of the oceans from library books. Many a time he interspersed his few sentences with salty interjections, like â€œavastâ€ and â€œshipmatesâ€. He talked of ropes and sheets and port and starboard and the gales that might rock the briny. He even bought a sailor suit and paraded himself round town wearing it.
People stared and pointed â€“ of course they did â€“ and that's when we started calling him Oedipus. I don't know what it was about him that took us back to the ancient Greeks and their legends, but something must have. And the name, for the few weeks he had it, stuck.
His tales were something marvellous to hear, of magical lands beyond the oceans, of golden sands with naked girls gyrating and laughing and smiling, of wizards with their cauldrons and long gowns making dreams come true with a wave of this or that wonderful wand. He went on and on about those places, for they were culled from his dreams and he dreamed every single night.
And the year turned, and he elaborated on his plans, weaving his words with a rare kind of magic.
Then he grew sick. It was sudden, like the chestnut leaves dying from the trees first in Autumn or the unexpected snows that bleach the world before Christmas some years. The sailor suit was put away, for good â€“ though he didn't know that - and he lay on his bed and, one full moon, sighed and died.
And that was that, except for the way the winds him down the chimney or the birds chirruped our special name for him. And there were other things, too, that suddenly started happening.
No sooner had the gravedigger piled the last spadeful of muck on top of Oedipus' coffin than the wind turned Westward and wouldn't turn back again, as if it was waiting for a sail to breach the briny and flap its way across distant horizons to a world where dreams come true.
We all knew what it was, of course. It was his dreams. He might have died and the worms got at him, but his dreams wouldn't die so easily. They were too powerful for that. They were etched on time like a love-heart can be etched on the growing wood of an oak tree's mighty trunk. And his dream carried something with it as it made for the havens where the ship was docked. I saw it, I watched it, a figure like a man, like old Oedipus if the truth were known, and it went aboard his special ship and pulled on ropes and sheets and raised a rusted old anchor and sailed away.
I watched it go, from a quiet place, and waved, and Oedipus waved back.
Â© Peter Rogerson 06.03.10