Saturday, December 1, 2012
Downland: part two
Nearing the Beacon, Ridler felt a sense of relief: he needed to be out on the Downs, needed to be nearer the sky, be able to feel the air, be able to see the world as far as he could, but he always had a sense that no sooner than he felt free, the counter of confinement tugged at him and he had to return to the fetters he had forged for himself. For over twenty years, he had had to live with the limits of his decision to become a spectacle. He had no regret: he and Gladys had lived well during those years – but a price had to be paid. And he had quickly learned that price. Despite all the attention, the gazes of fascination at the World Fair, there was also opprobrium. In Times Square, he had not seen the man as any different from the amused and opened-mouthed throng who parted as he – literally head and shoulders above them - and Gladys, sightseeing, moved through them. Not different until Ridler felt a smart on the side of his face, felt the droplets of blood on his chin and saw the man, flick-knife hanging lazily, mouthing angry words back at him as he melted into the crowd. Never since had he put himself so close to so many people; and never since had he ventured out without scarf and hat to conceal. Except here - the Downs – where the warmth of the summer air, like balm to a wound, caressed and soothed his skin.