The Burden

The Burden

(a cautionary tale)

(written whilst listening to Brothers in Arms - disturbing)

The oppression was palpable - the heavy hand of justice resting permanently on his shoulder, never allowing rest of any sort, awake or in slumber the pressure was brought to bear. Another day another dollar - work beckoned as usual - this man never shirked his responsibilities - he had a good, sound heart; why then, was he tainted in such a manner?

Guilt can take many forms, some of which can be easily considered something else entirely, but try telling that to this man, who had dragged his unhappy carcase around for decades - he had heard it all before but it didn't make a blind bit of difference.

Through the murk of his life he made his sorry way. As if in a fog - as if reality was nothing more than cold, thick soup, where to take a mere, single footstep was a struggle, this man being only too willing to imagine it so; to wade through the congealed, rank substance without remonstrance - needing to feel the effort - yearning for it by all accounts.

Caught between a rock and a hard place. Memories he had and memories he so wanted to revisit time and time again: his one solemn wish was to relive such times once more, but he wasn't allowed to enjoy the moment, the reverie, as the hounds of hell were waiting to take great big chunks out of him should he attempt to - the guard dogs placed there by his own insistence - a necessary hindrance; which, at least, afforded him some peace of mind however tenuous in nature.

Still, he tried, though - to think back when life was good - wholesome - complete. Despair is all it conjured up - wrapping its arms around him as would any cruel ghoul - or dementer for that matter, only too willing to suck out the rest of his tortured soul given half the chance. There was no quick way out. No magic bullet. He hadn't yet paid his full dues - it was as simple as that - would he ever? Not in his mind. What came next is the thing? To feel far worse to be his lot even in the after-life? Was the door to purgatory the only one he could step through when the time came - the only choice made available to him?

Was this man a murderer? Had he broken commandments as laid down by God? Was he the Devil incarnate? No, he wasn't. Just a man life had managed to break something of great value deep down inside of him - snapped as if but a twig and of little consequence; but, as a ripple in a pond can grow to become a wave on a distance shore, which drowns some unsuspected on-looker, so it was the in-consequence, in this instance, was slowly suffocating this poor unfortunate. You could easily say he was in the wrong place at the wrong time; but, don't you dare say so to this man's face as he would bite your own face off as a result. However painful was his condition it was better than no condition at all. This man had experienced both the good and the bad, and the good vastly outweighed the bad. His penance was but a small price to pay.

It isn't always doom and gloom with this man - please don't think that. We are not talking about a depressed person here - he doesn't appear so in any way shape or form to be so should you meet and hold a conversation with him. There are no outward, obvious, give away signs. There are also long periods where he himself feels in light spirits, where he can laugh with the best of them, as if he doesn't have a care in the world. But, he knows, only too well, the heaviness will return; and when left alone with his thoughts they drift back to where he feels most at home - to the emotively, conflicting quagmire of the past - inexorably drawn as if a moth to a flame.

Don't kid yourself you are somehow different from the person in this depressing saga of a story. Have you something hidden away in the dark recesses of your mind? If so, could it come back to haunt you one cold, bleak day in the future when you least expect it? 'Monkey on your back', is a phrase which has been in existence for a long while, being nothing but a truthful idiom, borne out of observation. No-one on this earth is free from ensnarement - the monkey being very agile indeed, with a tenacious grip. Once in position it is practically impossible to shake off.

What is the nature of the beast? What could manifest itself in such a manner? What behaviour are we talking about here? Far too many to list; on top of that one misdemeanour might well be nothing much of anything to one person, while being a sin of monumental proportions to another. What about a loss of sorts? Soul destroying by all accounts. Whatever it was the outcome was the same - a guilty, burden to bear being the result.

So, he soldiers on. Step by solemn step he makes his way through the world, dragging a broken spirit behind him as if a reluctant passenger. Always his subconscious throws questions his way, which bounce of the walls of his skull, never waiting for a sensible answer, leaving him with a permanent, subtle headache no tablet could cure. If only he could respond, to give his side to the story, but there is no-one there to listen to his plaintive wails. A phantom haunts his thoughts, a ghost with no desire to communicate, only to make its presence felt when defences are low. Always goading - always probing - always looking for weakness so as to dish out more pain, being relentless in its insistence.

It wasn't always like this. The condition had crept up on him gradually. The older he became the worse he felt. Less energy, less of everything that drove the passions of his youth meant more time on his hands to consider the past. Reflection and eventual loneliness did not make good bedfellows. And to top it all there was no-way of solving his regret - what had been done wasn't fixable - the damage permanent - 'if only', being the brain numbing mantra he repeated to himself over and over.

How can you change that which is unchangeable? Well, you can't, can you. All you can do is bury the evidence of any wrong doing as deep as you possibly can, hoping no-one will ever find out. Physical evidence can be disposed of in all manner of ways, and is, with much of it never to see the light of day again. Wrong doers get away with all sorts on a continual basis. Some can forget the memory of such wrong doings in a blink of an eye; not so those who harbour a conscience. Another consideration is a guilty conscience can makes its presence felt when child-like arrogance fades. It is not for nothing does a priest offer confession to the condemned - to those close to the end.

Some inconsiderate people forge their way through life like bulls in a china shop, breaking all manner of things along the way. But with an action there is always a reaction - for a high there is always a low - to take advantage of the gullible can be enjoyable too, though, at another's expense - someone's pleasure can be another's pain. And like parasites some live off the good will of others all their lives until the host can no longer offer support, being slowly drained of strength over the years. Looking back can uncover these misgivings - these misdemeanours, and it tends to occur when a period of hardship has taken the edge of a person's bluster. Can you honestly say you have led a blameless life?

Where can this man go for help? Is there anyone out there who can offer a lifeline? Doubtful. The best he can hope for is someone to share the load - that is if he is capable of confiding in someone - 'spilling the beans', so to speak. But, don't you think he has already tried this approach - time and time again? Bent people's ears until they became bored with it all. In other words - whatever ailed this man he was stuck with it. A time machine might have helped, where he could start again, with his behaviour tempered and under control. Fat chance of that though.

The haughtiness of youth. With raging hormones and rocketing levels of testosterone these world shapers stomp over all around them - it is how they are made to be - cruelty is part and parcel of the transformation from youth to maturity; and in some immaturity is allowed to reign supreme for far too long. The longer this period of innocence and self indulgence the more chance of sobering contemplation later on as no-one remains a child forever. An irresponsible adolescence can create a lot of baggage.

Wisdom could be this man's saviour - reason could be the key to unlocking his defence systems, unleashing the mental antibodies. Is it any wonder those considered 'wise' are not the most happy of people - as such knowledge is hard earned. But it takes a level of intelligence this man lacked. Introspection always reached a dead end - an impasse, the only conclusion being morbid, self pity.

Is there a moral tale to be found here - a word or two of caution maybe worth taking note of? Not really. Life has a funny habit of surprising even the most respectful amongst us - you never know what is just around the corner. As I have stated on more than one occasion a 'burden' could be anything at all - it only takes the one straw to break the camel's back. Be mindful you are not loading your own unduly is all can say.

There are far more insidious creatures than monkeys out there, with far greater appetites, making their growth and weight unsustainable in the long run. A demon of your own making could be the most terrifying of all. Don't feed the troll and don't allow him space to grow either as he is not as you or I but something very different - something to be wary of - something with the keys to hell in its pocket. Be careful he doesn't manage to take your hand to lead you off screaming down into the darkness as that is where he comes from and where he wants to return with you as his everlasting plaything. Don't worry, though, in one way, as you will not be in isolation should you journey there yourself at some point - there will be lots of company, and the type of man depicted in this story will be joining you soon enough.