I am writing in order to make it clear that our dalliance is over.
As I walked out of your presence into the sunlight yesterday, it was blindingly obvious to me, yes blindingly, that there was nothing left. As I staggered and whimpered my way to my car, barely seeing where I was going, I was forced to ask myself how I had come to this.
I know you experienced something as you looked deep into my eyes, because I heard you murmur huskily: “beautiful”. It was apparent that you had been moved.
I admit that I had become entranced by your little mannerisms and funny tricks, such as asking “which is better …the first one or the second one?” knowing full well that they were both the same…and the amusing way in which you would put up a chart that no one could possibly see, and ask me to read the bottom line.
However, what won me over most of all was the elegant way in which you surreptitiously wiped a spot from your cheek after I cackled at one of my jokes, and then realising that I might have sprayed you a bit,. I apologised asking “did that get you?” to hear you say in a dignified manner “No”. Ah yes, for Gympie rabble, you hold yourself very well Catherine.
You shouldn’t worry about being 32. I could sense your unhappiness when I asked your age, guessing 35, because your eyes widened a little and your lips quivered slightly as you stammered “No, I’m …um..um…32”. I know, it has taken you two years to realise that you are now over the hill. No longer young. On the slippery slope to 40. It’s not a nice feeling.
When I was 32 I had a conversation with my Senior Programmer of the time, Ron, in which I discussed my dismal future outlook, and I was surprised to hear him admit that 32 was the worst year of his life. He also told me that his mates at that age had felt the same. But they consoled themselves by all getting drunk together at barbecues at each other’s houses a lot, and tried to ignore the jibes of their younger wives; because everyone got married a lot younger in those days Catherine. There was a lot of pressure put on young people to ‘raise a family’.
Most of them regretted it; not the getting drunk at the barbecues, but getting married so young, because such young marriages rarely survive the terrors of reaching 32. I’m not saying you are terrified by any means, as I am confident that you will get over it in due course. It’s not just you Catherine, other people get old and wrinkly.
I thought it would be nice to let you know that I have referred to Fowlers Modern English Usage and you are in fact correct to say that the word “absolutely” should only be used in the context of it being descriptive of a noun… and whilst I doubted your example of “Absolutely yes” it turns out that because “Yes” is a noun then you were absolutely correct. I’m not sure why I have raised this matter here, but it has been troubling me, and as you know at 2am such issues take on enormous importance.
I should not end this note without pointing out that I did detect a tiny element of sadistic pleasure in your applying that blast of air to my eyes that made me jump and say “Oooh!”. But I think I understand why you did it, and I forgive you.
Oh, and I must point out that I thought Amanda handled the situation very well when I sat down at the reception after saying hello, but without introducing myself, because I reasoned that as I was the only person there at exactly 10am she would realise that I was in fact me. I could see her looking at her appointment record because she wished to address me in a friendly manner, and then she said “Ernest?” to which I replied “Jim”.
This took her aback for a moment as she looked down to see if she had made a mistake, and then said in a relieved and somewhat self-satisfied manner, “known as ‘Jim’”. I said nothing to that in a smug sort of way, recognising that I had finally scored a small win in my life-long battle for recognition of my true self.
You see my parents named me Ernest James because they were sucking up to my mother’s father, my grandfather, old Ern Smith. They expected, I think, to be showered with largesse or something owing to their enormous sacrifice. But they weren’t.
Old Ern didn’t like my father. He didn’t drink you see, even though he was probably shell-shocked from the Great War and you’d expect anyone to drink after that wouldn’t you? But Ern didn’t, and he lived on his Soldier-settlement 10 acres at Penrith, which the family fought over when he finally carked it, and his first wife died very young (I think just to get away from the miserable old coot, but no one has admitted to that), and he couldn’t maintain any sort of relationship during the rest of his life, probably owing to his shell-shock and abstinence, and church-going.
On the other hand my father came from a long-line of drunkard gambler ne’er-do-well gold miners. (I sense, Catherine, that you are now starting to realise what may have repelled you when you looked into my eyes).
But he was sharp as a tack and could see potentially great benefit in calling me ERNEST James. I think Dad believed that old Ern had money buried somewhere on his block. Who wouldn’t have money if they were abstinent and in property? But, regretfully, it all came to nothing, and in the end Dad got his own back in a way by insisting that I be called “Jim” instead of “Ern” (Thank the Lord!) But as you now know, I have been saddled with Ernest my whole life and find it terribly difficult to shed it.
I did try once when at fifteen working on the NSW Railways as a Junior Clerk in the Goods Shed at Inverell, I filled in a form writing my name as ‘James Ernest Barrass’. Much to my horror I received an official letter from Werris Creek Headquarters :
It has come to my attention that you are not using your correct name. Your Birth certificate clearly states that your name is Ernest James Barrass not James Ernest Barrass. Please refrain from this practice and use the correct nomenclature in future.
Signed Horace J Brown
Now I didn’t know what ‘nomenclature’ meant, but it scared the pants off me and owing to the implied “OR ELSE” in the missive I never tried it again after that.
Hence my disgraceful treatment of Amanda. You might explain it all to her if you have the time?
I think that’s about covered it, so it being now 3am, I shall retire once more.
Ernest ‘Known-as-Jim’ James Barrass