A Flight to Hell & HeavenbyStarlight©
The aircraft came in from the west, banked, and lined up on the flight path for landing. As it dropped lower and lower, he saw the roofs of suburban houses. There was the whine and thump of the wheels being lowered. They skimmed over the city centre, and then briefly he saw more suburban roofs. The aircraft bumped as it struck the runway and they taxied towards the terminal building.
The flight had been hell. Not that the aircraft or pilot were at fault. From that point of view, it had been a perfect trip. It was the hell in his mind that tormented Bernard. He was returning to that which he had fled from four years ago. The torment was made worse by the schism that tore him apart.
In my country, our native animal, the kangaroo, is mostly not seen by day. At night, it is said, vehicle headlights fascinate them. They venture out in to the road, there to be captured by the oncoming beam of light, and are held motionless by their own fascination. In the morning, there is another mangled carcass at the side of the road to be disposed of.
Bernard had his particular fascination, but in his case, unlike the kangaroo, he knew the doom that it held for him. He had run from it, but found no peace.
There are many of us who, imprisoned by fears, bereavements or desires, flee to other geographical locations to escape. It is useless. The things we wish to flee from, to leave behind, run with us, for they are the contents of our own minds.
What is the cure? Well, as Hamlet questions, why should a man bear the burdens of life "When he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin?"
The other alternative is to turn and face the demon that haunts us, and force it to a culminating final judgement.
Bernard could claim no special virtue for his return to the place of his anguish. It was the death of his father that forced him to make this journey to hell, and he knew that the epicentre of his torture was awaiting him in the terminal building.
He entered the building through the glass doors, passed along the walkway, and at the end there she stood.
"Oh God," he thought, "why even in grief does she have to look so lovely? Why can she not look ugly and faded? What has to happen to mar her beauty?"
Others passing the same way as Bernard paid no particular attention to the woman standing waiting. If they had given her a glance they would most likely have seen a woman somewhere in her mid forties, a little on the plump side with well cared for dark hair and nice skin. They might have thought, "Not bad," and walked on. As the bard said, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
Bernard approached the woman and said, "Hello, mother," and kissed her on the cheek. She put her hand to the side his face, kissed him on the lips and said, "Hello, darling."
In an instant, a sword piercing pain ran through him. Her touch, her kiss, her soft contralto voice, brought back all he had dreaded to face.
It had begun when he had entered puberty. Before that he had always had a special bond with his mother, but that bond had been concerned with food and home and security.
With his change from childhood to manhood, something new entered into that bond. At first, not quite knowing why, he found his developing penis stiffening when he happened to catch a glimpse of her bending in tight shorts, or as she leaned towards him and he could see her unbridled breasts down the top of her garment. He found himself watching her as she moved, to see the sensuous movements of those same breasts.
Thus began his agony of desire. Living in the same house as his mother was like being a prisoner who is dying of thirst, while outside the bars of his prison is a glass of water just out of reach. He heard the orgasmic cries of his mother and the groans of his father as they made love, and he wept from frustration and jealousy. He came to hate his father for possessing the prize he longed for.
On holidays by the sea, his misery was added to when his mother went about in the scantiest of bikinis, and in front of him, his father made suggestive comments to her as his hands caressed her body. He was roused to fury when mother and father went for their "afternoon rest," in their bedroom in the holiday shack.
He was driven to masturbate repeatedly to try to relieve himself of the lustful burden he carried. When he began dating and having sex with girls, as he climaxed, it was always his mother's face he saw. When it was over, it was no longer his mother's face, and he felt a wave of self-loathing sweep over him.
He had even thought of raping his mother so great was his need for her, but hurled the thought away almost as soon as it was born in his mind. He wanted her lovingly and tenderly, not forcibly and violently.
And so his life went on in her presence beset every moment with the agonising pangs of his loving and carnal longings for her. All the while he sought to hide these feelings from her. If he had an erection in her presence, he would leave the room. She must never know what he felt for her.
He even tried to hate her, to emotionally reject her. He ceased any kissing or touching, and tried to keep physical distance between them. Yet no matter what he did, nothing would assuage his passion.
It was when he was in his early twenties, and about to start out on his career, that he decided that there was only one way he could be rid of his demon. He must leave home and remove himself to another city. Accordingly, he had applied for, and gained, a position far away.
When he announced his impending departure to his mother, she had wept. He had longed to embrace and comfort her, but he dared not. The feel of her body against his would either torture him with raging desire, or lead him to make moves she would loathe and hate him for.
And so he went to his new city, but it brought him no relief or comfort. Just as when he was at home, his sexual relations with girls had been a miserable failure. There was one woman, and only one woman, who could meet his needs, and she was forbidden to him.
When the call had come to say his father was dead, his first reaction was to try to make excuses for not attending the funeral, but a sense of duty prevailed. And now he stood in the physical presence of his loveliest dreams and worst nightmares.
She had driven to the airport to meet him with a feeling of apprehension churning inside her. She knew that her all pervading feeling should be one of grief at the loss of her husband, Tom, but she was not a woman to lie to herself, and whatever she felt about Tom's death, those feelings had been overwhelmed by the thought of seeing Bernard.
Bernard had not returned even for a brief visit since the day he left to take up his job in the distant city. She had asked him to visit many times, especially at Christmas or family festive occasions, but he always had an excuse for not coming.
Janet was not a naive fool. She was fairly sure she knew why Bernard had left home, and why he had not returned for a visit. When she contacted him to tell him of his father's death, and he had agreed to come for the funeral, and perhaps stay for a few days, she had been filled with joy. "Now," she had thought, "we might have the chance to straighten things out between us."
That had been her first thought, but as time for his arrival drew near, the prospect was not so pleasing. It was rather like one of those views that delight the eye at a distance, but when you have toiled your way to it, it proves no more pleasing than the one you have just left.
She had allowed her mind to wander down memory lane. When she had first found out she was pregnant with Bernard, she had been beside herself with happiness. It happened early in her marriage to Tom, and she felt she could look forward to more pregnancies. It was not to be. After Bernard's birth, try as they might, no further offspring resulted.
As time passed and she remained barren, she began to lose interest in her sex life. She focused on Bernard and his baby and childhood needs. Her love for the boy was as absolute as a mother's love can get.
He was the apex of her life, and she often had to deal with a disgruntled Tom, who complained of her lack of interest in their relationship. At such times she made an effort, and to placate him they engaged in sexual intercourse, with her playing a hidden game of "pretend."
It was as Bernard entered puberty that a change, at first subtle, took place in the relationship between Janet and her son. She had observed it first in Bernard's covert glances at her that were not unlike those of young men trying to glimpse a girl's more intimate body parts. "Just curiosity," she thought.
Later she could not fail to notice what was really happening when she saw his erections in her presence, and his hasty departures. Even later she was distressed by his withdrawal from her, his rejection of hugs and kisses, and in addition, she was disturbed by her own reactions.
The sight of his erections and the occasional glimpses she had got of his naked body when he changed at the beach, brought on a throbbing in her clitoris and erection of her nipples. She often had to cope with a delicious but uncomfortable wetness in her groin, and had to behave as if it was not happening in Bernard or Tom's presence.
At first she tried to fight against these feelings. She was a religious woman, and understood what religion and the law had to say about incest and incestuous feelings, but it did not help. Still they tormented her.
She tried to tell herself that her sexual arousal had its source in a general lack of sexual activity on her part. After years of perfunctory sexual contact with Tom, she made an effort to revive her former very active sex life with him. It failed completely to deal with the main problem in fact it made it worse. If she succeeded in having an orgasm with Tom, it was Bernard's penis she imagined in her. Once she only just stopped herself from crying out, "Oh, Bernard, my love," as she came.
Tom was delighted with the revival of his sex life, and fondled and caressed her, even in Bernard's presence. She understood what this was doing to Bernard, but was helpless to do anything about it.
She had thought of coming out into the open with Bernard but could not face the possibility that he would be disgusted that his mother should desire him, despite his own desire for her.
Janet tried to dress so as not to torture him, but then changed tack. She wore seductive clothing to try and lure him into making a move. She even thought, "Oh God, please let him rape me," but realised that she was being cowardly and was trying to shift the responsibility onto Bernard.
So when Bernard announced that he would be moving away to a distant city Janet, at war with herself and her irreconcilable emotions, was both relieved and grieved. For days after he left Janet wept in secret. Looking back, she realised that she had grieved far more for Bernard's departure from her presence, than for Tom's death. Terrible though she knew this to be, it was the unavoidable truth about her.
As she stood at the head of the walkway she saw his aircraft taxi to the terminal. She saw him the moment he left the aircraft. Her heart lurched as she took in his tall, upright figure striding towards the entrance of the building. Her decision to meet him coolly fell away from her and on his approach and his peck on her cheek; she flung aside her resolve and touching his face, and kissed him full on the lips.
At the touch of her hand on his cheek and the soft pressure of her lips on his, Bernard was overwhelmed by the feelings he had fervently hoped to avoid. The old stirrings of his virility were there as if there had never been a distance of time and space between them.
He tried to steady his voice as he said, "Just got to pick up my suitcase." As they waited for the luggage bay of the aircraft to be unloaded and the contents brought into the terminal, they said little, except those formal things one does say on those occasions, like, "Good flight?" "Oh yes, fine." What they in fact were doing, was to weigh each other up physically."
For Bernard his mother seemed to have changed very little. The beauty he had always perceived in her was still there. "Perhaps she has put on a little more weight. Her breasts a little plumper, her hips a fraction fuller," he thought. But his old desire was there, starting the flare up in his groin even at this moment. "A little tiredness round the eyes and despite her smile, a look of uneasiness. Suppose it is not unexpected with the death of a husband." So his thoughts ran.
They left the terminal building and headed for the car. On the journey to the house little passed between them. Barnard remarked on a few changes – buildings that had been torn down and replaced. Janet mentioned a few other changes that were not visible on their way.
Bernard's arrival had been in the late afternoon, so the evening meal, already partially prepared by Janet, followed soon after they got to the house. Commonplace remarks about the few alterations in the house, and some explanations about Tom's death from heart failure, occupied the rest of the evening.
Bernard felt the tension between them. Whilst he understood the source of his own tension, he could not really appreciate that which emanated from his mother. They were like two cats sizing each other up before a fight. Janet seemed to welcome him home, and at the same time be nervous about his presence. It was all very bewildering.
He had made no definite arrangements about the length of his stay, and his mother made no enquiry about it. Bernard had in fact taken a fortnight's leave, but his initial intention had been to spend as little time with his mother as he decently could, then be off to some beach resort before he got too sick with sexual frustration. Now, looking at her, he was torn within. The old battle – the desire to feast his eyes on her, and the awful pain of desire for her.
Next day the funeral was held, and with the service and the crowd of people that came back to the house to consume food and drink, there was little chance of contact between Janet and Bernard. When the last of the guests had left, both were too tired to converse. They both went off to their beds.
As soon as she had kissed him she half wished she had not. She felt instinctively that even this mild contact had disturbed him, and the throbbing of her clitoris informed her that nothing had changed in her feelings towards him.
As they waited for his luggage she determined that she would seek no further physical contact with him, and would keep conversation down to generalities, and information about Tom's death.
She managed to maintain a distance between them throughout the evening, and did not even enquire how long he was staying. She wanted to do nothing that would commit him to a particular length of time. "He must decide for himself without any pressure from me," she thought. If she had cut herself loose from all restraint, she would have cried out to him, "I love you. I want you. Don't ever leave." She kept this locked away deep inside her.
Despite the fact they were in a house of mourning, and tomorrow they must attend the funeral, that evening she was in an agony of sexual desire for him. She had to force herself to sit still as they talked, so great was her agitation.
The funeral over and the guests departed, she was relieved to find herself utterly weary and glad to go to bed, where she fell into a deep sleep.
When she woke in the morning Janet sensed that today would be crucial for her relationship with her son. Having dutifully attended the funeral, he could now legitimately depart. He might, of course, continue to feel a sense of obligation and stay with her on the grounds of her bereavement.
The thought of bereavement raised the further thought of Tom's death. In times of great crisis or bereavement, it is as if the body produces an anaesthetic to defend us from the worst agonies of loss. During the immediate period after whatever blow has fallen, we can behave in a perfectly calm and rational manner. It is only as this anaesthesia wears off that we begin to feel the pain. Janet was now beginning to feel it.
The pain of bereavement is essentially a selfish though perfectly natural one. The dead person is now beyond the joys and sufferings of this life. Whoever they were, whatever their achievements, whether young or old, their story is now written and the full stop added. There is nothing we can add or subtract from their story.
It is we who are left behind, whose story is still in process, who suffer loss. It is we who bear the pangs of what "might have been." Those words of love that were never spoken. The kindly deed that will never now be done. "We never did take that holiday together." Those who have grieved will know what I mean.
Janet now began to feel these pains. The business of pre-funeral preparations, and the longed for and dreaded meeting with her son, the realisation that the feelings of sexual love for him were still with her, had covered her loss until this morning. Now it struck home, and found a fragile target.
It came to Janet that she was now alone. Tom was gone from her life, and whatever may have been his faults or failings, he had been her companion. Now, when Bernard left, she would be on her own, with no close relatives living nearby. Desolation swept over her and she dissolved into floods of tears.
In the next room Bernard heard her.
He had woken early and heard the dawn chorus. He lay thinking about the day ahead. Should he stay on and bear the pain of her nearness so he might be of help in her time of loss?
He confessed to himself that he had had no great affection for his father in recent years. He had been too consumed with envy at his father's right to enter his mother's body almost at will. Yet now he was gone and would enter no more. At this thought the thoughts I have outlined above rose to the surface. "Perhaps it could have been different. If only…" But what was the use? Tom was gone now and nothing could turn back the clock.
He was still weighing up whether to go or stay when he heard the sounds of his mother's weeping. At first he hesitated to intervene, but as her sobs grew in volume he got out of bed, put on his dressing gown, and went to her room.
She was laying partially face down her arm lying under her face. He went to her and laid his arm across her shoulders. He said only, "Mother." He voiced no words of false comfort. He simply was present to her. She turned and curled herself into his body and continued to weep as he held her as if she were a child. As her weeping subsided she began to sob out her feelings of loss and regret in broken words and phrases.
This was the first time in years he had been in intimate physical contact with his mother. It might be anticipated that his sexual need of her would surface in all its power, but not so. He had always loved her as well as lusted for her, and at such a time as this it was his love that prevailed. He wanted only to comfort her and offer her his strength.
As she quietened he said, "You stay here, mother, I shall make breakfast and you can have it in bed. She gave a weak smile and said, "I hate breakfast in bed. You can make it while I have a shower, and then I'll join you."
While he worked in the kitchen Bernard decided what he must do. He saw that to leave now would be selfish and cowardly. If he loved this woman he must be here for her now as she grieved. He would stay for the full two weeks of his leave.
Over breakfast he asked her if it would be all right for him to stay for the fortnight. She started to cry again, sobbing out, "Oh Bernard, would you? I should love that."