Why, This Is Hell
A cautionary morality by Ivor Sukwell in the form of an epistle to his grandsons by a gentleman of middle age, to be read by them on the occasions of their fifteenth birthdays.
Mephistopheles tempted Faust with promises of riches and power; nothing so grand for me, the Devil of Conventionality simply showed me a world of horrors if I did not conform, so meekly I conformed and gave my life to the world of Normality, and for forty years that has been the trouble of my dreams.
The shades of the prison house did not begin to close upon this growing boy, he grasped the bars, pulled tight shut the cage and threw away the key all by himself.
In my beginning was my end, for Time Past and Time Future are both contained in Time Present, and everything points to the same end, which is always the present, and you cannot escape the present; you cannot go back and open again the door into the rose garden, and even if you could, that garden would be full of weeds now, the roses withered.
And when you had opened that door, or, because it was open, you”d had the courage to push it open wide and step through into that rose garden and stay in there, the thorns on the roses would have torn you to shreds, and the fear of the thorns was stronger than the beauty of the roses.
Oh, yes, I know Marlowe and Wordsworth, Eliot, Thomas and Shakespeare; not well, but well enough to misquote them when I need to, and that too is my fault and his fault. I met them, and others, while I was in the rose garden with him.
I should begin at the beginning, though my beginning was not the same as his beginning, though I didn”t know that until later. I was fifteen when I first caught a glimpse of the door into the rose garden, but, at the time, I didn”t recognise it as a door or know anything of the rose garden that lay beyond it.
He was simply there one Saturday evening. He”d been there before, been there every Saturday evening since early May and now it was June, but he was just one of the team then, no different from any of the others. They were a decent collection, some a little rowdy, some the quiet type, and they tolerated my fifteen years as I did the scoring for them, and a boy who keeps a neat and accurate scorebook is worth tolerating for men who count every run as though it were gold.
The June evening when he became a person was a warm and golden evening and the team was happy because they”d won a game they had not expected to win, and the beer was flowing more freely than usual, and, for the very first time, it flowed in my direction as well.
Being fifteen I was thrilled and excited, I was being included, I wasn”t just the boy who did the scoring, I was a man like they were, a man drinking beer. A very weak shandy was my usual permitted beverage, but now I was being given beer!
I can”t remember now if I liked it or not, but that wouldn”t have mattered anyway, it was beer, a grown up drink, and I was being included in the drinking of it.
I emptied my half-pint glass in an eager gulp and someone filled it up again, and down that one went as well, my glass held out to the man with the jug so it could again be filled.
It was not filled, a hand stayed the arm of the jug filler and a voice said, “No more for the lad, fetch him a coke or something instead.”
I was filled with teenage anger; I”d been being treated like a man and now this �. this person, was treating me like a boy!
“Mothers have noses that make a hunting dog seem smell blind,” the person said gently, “We want you in the score box next week, not banned from here forever.”
The logic of that penetrated my brief burst of anger; if my mother caught the faintest whiff of beer on my breath then she really would never let me score again.
“You must know my mother,” I couldn”t help grinning, and he said he didn”t, but all mothers were the same. Someone called for fish and chips then, and the person grinned at me and said they would do fine to kill the beer breath.
“I wish,” I said, fish and chips cost money and I needed what I earned from scoring to see me through the week.
“You go get them for everyone,” he says, “I”ll collect the orders and the cash,” and he did and gave me a piece of paper with it all written down and a pile of �5 notes, one for each order. Except that he gave me one too many. “Get the chippy to put down the cost beside each order,” he said, “So we can give everyone the right change. No need to bother with your own.”
He wasn”t just sending me to get fish and chips for everyone, he was sending me to get some for myself as well, and that was when he stopped being a person and became him.
He was there every Saturday after that, always looking out for me, allowing me one half pint of beer and sending me for fish and chips and never expecting me to find the money for mine, and in the bar, or outside if the evening was warm, he was always either beside me or close enough for me to know he was there, and nobody seemed to find that strange or wrong in any way, and the thought that people might find it strange never entered my teenage head.
I knew he liked me and I liked him, we were friends and I liked being his friend, and slowly I began to make out that door into the rose garden and began to wonder what was behind it, where it would lead to.
Cynics would say, without kocaeli escort hesitation, that he was `grooming” me, but `grooming” is the preparatory stage in the intended seduction of a minor, and I know he had no intentions at all of attempting to seduce me; he simply liked me and I liked him liking me. Yes, I know he more than just liked me, but that knowledge came later, after I had been in the rose garden and knew I couldn”t stay in there.
He was, in many ways, like a father, but in other ways nothing like a father. I had a perfectly acceptable father, your great grandfather, perhaps a little puritanical and definitely over-protective, but, in being a father, he had forgotten what it was to be a boy, especially a teenage boy. He, on the other hand, definitely did remember being a teenage boy, and treated me like the `wannabe adult but still be a boy” that I was.
I know that by now you are thinking that surely I must have known it was all about sex. You are fifteen, as I was then, and a fifteen year old boy thinks of sex at breakfast when he sees one cornflake on top of another cornflake, so you are right, my thoughts did include sex and I hoped that his thoughts did as well.
No, you haven”t misread; your grandfather, when he was fifteen, wanted a man to think of him as being sexy.
I wasn”t lusting for him, I never wanted him to molest me, I simply wanted him to think I was sexy, that if he found me in his bed one night he wouldn”t simply turn over and go to sleep.
Should a boy of fifteen want a man to think of him as being sexy? Answer that question in your own head, but you answer it, do not let the rest of the world answer it for you, because your answer might not be the same as the one you know you are supposed to give.
He came into my thoughts sometimes at night when I was doing what all boys of fifteen do at night before they go to sleep, and a thing I have no doubt that you do as well. What thoughts, I wonder, will slip into your mind, bidden or unbidden, when you do?
He didn”t come every night, and he never came without me asking him to come, and when he did come, I wondered if I was there in his thoughts as well, because, at those times, I wanted to be in his thoughts.
Did he think I was sexy? That was a question that did trouble me, and it troubled me because that was the easy answer, he liked me because he thought I was sexy, because he wanted me in his bed for real, not just as a night time thought from time to time. That was a nice, simple explanation, an answer I could deal with, an answer I could understand. At fifteen I knew well enough that there were men who liked boys in that way, they weren”t supposed to, were not legally allowed to, but they did, and there were boys who liked being liked by a man in that way as well.
You know that, perhaps you know that very well, perhaps, like your grandfather, you are tempted to be one of those boys. Perhaps you have also seen that door, perhaps even ventured into the rose garden beyond it, and that”s why I have written this, so that if you do go, or have been, or just perhaps still are, in that rose garden, then you may get some understanding of what Hell is like.
What would you do? Perhaps I should ask what did you do or what will you do? it makes no difference, the past and the future both point to the present, and the present is inescapable.
I did what I had to do, I did what seemed to me the only way of finding out if he did think I was sexy; I allowed him to see what a boy of fifteen is not supposed to let a man see, and I did that in a toilets on a Saturday evening after an away game. He was standing beside me, not close, a respectable distance from me, not attempting to see what I”d got until I got desperate and let it just lay on the palm of my hand, presenting it to him to see.
Then he did look, and, because he was looking, I had to push it away and rush into a cubicle because I couldn”t let him see what him looking at me had done to me.
On the way home I was squeezed into the middle of the back seat and he was beside me, an arm draped carelessly on the seat back, except that it wasn”t careless and his thumb gently stroked the nape of my neck for the whole forty minutes it took to get home.
You probably won”t believe me, but I knew there was no sex involved in that thumb stroking my neck; he was simply telling me that he liked me a lot and it wasn”t necessary for me to do what I had done, but he was thanking me for doing it and he thought that I was special, very special, and he wanted to be near me, close to me because that”s how much he liked me.
I knew then, I knew there was a door and that door led into the rose garden, and I knew I would hold his hand and walk into that garden if the chance ever came, and, almost at the end of July, that chance did come.
The when, the where, the why and the how no longer have any importance, just that he conjured to opportunity for me to spend five whole days and nights with him.
What would you have done? You know there is a door and that door leads into the rose garden and you know he has contrived this opportunity to be with you for a whole week, that he has made this chance for you to take his hand and walk into that rose garden. Will you take it? Do you have those fifteen year old urges to discover what the rose garden is like?
I did, and I took that chance. I took my first steps towards a Heaven that I turned into darıca escort a Hell.
I will not regale you with the details; I”m sure your fifteen year old mind can paint them for you in far more vivid colours than I could write them, it is sufficient to give you the basics.
I knew there was only a double bed and that we would have to share it, but we would have our own sleeping bags, and though we would be close, we would be untouchably close, and it was my suggestion to unzip our sleeping bags, use one to lie on and the other to cover us; sleeping bag zips, I claimed, always had a habit of ending up in uncomfortable places. It was, I must emphasise, my suggestion, not his, though he did not, and I knew he would not, protest too much. I knew he wanted to be in the rose garden with me, and I knew as well, that he would never try to take me there.
We lay, side by side, modestly covered still with our briefs, until he said quietly into the darkness that he had something very serious to say.
“You”ve probably worked out,” he said softly, “That I like you far more than I”m supposed to like you, and that having you where you are now is about as close to Paradise as I could dream to get. You are quite safe, you”re far too important to me for you not to be safe, but I need to know that you can cope with being liked as much as I like you, because if you can”t, I”ll back off and ease away.”
I knew that I was safe, I was with him and that was where I wanted to be, but I did not want to be safe in the way he meant I was safe. I wanted him to take me by the hand and lead me through the door into the rose garden, and, being fifteen, young and foolish, I had no care that roses have thorns, and I said that I was happy and that I could manage to cope with being liked as much as he liked me.
I turned onto my side, and in the darkness I offered him my lips to kiss and then we did not need the modesty of our briefs and the door into the rose garden opened wide, and together we entered Paradise.
The roses of Truth and Beauty bloomed in profusion in that rose garden, the Truth and Beauty of a fifteen year old boy who knows he is not simply liked too much, but is adored and has walked hand in hand into the rose garden with the man who adores him.
Beauty and Truth are all you need to know, yes, I discovered Keats as well, and as you must know what is painted on the side of a Grecian Urn, you also know all you need to know.
I had seven orgasms that night in the rose garden, though the last was in the morning when we woke, but as we were still in bed I counted that as seven, and each and every one of them was another rose bursting into bloom.
There was no intercourse, all was done by hand and mouth in the way of the ancient Greeks who painted the truth and beauty of men and boys on the side of their urns; we did not have sex, we made love, and though the latter is often used as a euphemism for the former, I promise you there is no truth in that.
That week in the rose garden was the happiest week of my life, it was then and it is so still now, though the memory of that Heaven burns now with the unquenchable fires of Hell.
We did not leave the garden behind us after that week, though never again did we make love; nor did we indulge in the monotony of sex, and I remained green and golden in the glory of his adoration, living still in the memory of that garden, the reality of the Truth and the Beauty, until a bird in the garden told me I must leave.
Human kind, it told me, cannot bear very much reality, and you will not survive in the barren desert you call your real world if you try to remain in the rose garden. `See,” it said, `Roses have sharp thorns.”
I listened to the bird – what else could I do? I was back in the real world now, the door to the rose garden closing slowly behind me, and roses do have thorns. My glory in his adoration shone too brightly for others to ignore and I had to dim that light; the thorns had begun to stab and scratch.
I tried not to be too close to him, to make it seem to others that he was not special, and he knew that something was wrong; before I had always sought him out, wanted to be close and feel the warmth of his adoration, but now I remained distant with my soul in conflict, longing for that warmth and fearful of being burned by it, and, in a secluded moment, he asked if I wished to end all, forget that we had been together in the rose garden. He did not wish to, but would do so for my sake, and I shouted that was not what I meant, not what I meant at all, but, being foolish and ignorant, I did not say those thorns were scratching and making my heart bleed.
I knew the fault was mine, but I could not blame myself; I was fifteen and the demands and conventions of the world I lived in, what I believed had to be the real world for me, would not allow me to bask and revel in the glory of his adoration, and so I placed the blame on him, on him for showing me that door, on him for leading me into the rose garden, on him for revealing Truth and Beauty to me.
Of those, it was only the last that he was guilty of, but that last was, to me, the greatest treason, though I knew he had not done that right deed for the wrong reason; but if I had not been shown the face of Heaven I would not have had to take the steps down the spiral staircase that leads to Hell.
At first I tried to distance myself, but that did not gölcük escort work; still he was there, waiting in vain hope for my signal that all was well and that I would, once more, permit him to adore me.
Then I took another step downwards, attempted to make him angry, make him jealous, make him reject me, because that way there could be no blame on me, and I could not permit any blame to attach itself to me because that would mean I would have to admit to myself that the fault was mine, that it was me who could not cope with the reality of his adoration.
At times that seemed to work, I did make him angry, I did make him jealous, but never could I make him reject me, always he was there, waiting and longing for me to return.
Another step downwards, and I told him that my feelings for him were not the same as his for me, and that was no lie, by then I had convinced myself that all the fault was his and he was to blame for liking me too much.
Sadly, he agreed with me, accepted that if our feelings were the same, then we would not be here, not in this real world, but somewhere where Truth and Beauty could still be seen, and he watched me build a wall around myself, a wall to keep him out.
Still he camped outside my castle walls, there in case I should open the gates for him, but inside my castle was now my real world, and even though it did not have a rose garden, it had other gardens and other flowers and I convinced myself I was happy in my castle where I met and married your grandmother, and, without knowing, descended more steps down that spiral staircase.
I did once dare to step from my castle, but I found he had also built a wall now and lived in sadness behind it, behind a wall that served to protect him from further hurt, for still I had the unknowing power to hurt him, to drag him down into Hell with me.
We contrived a truce then, each in our castles, me in Castle Normal where you live now, he in Castle Resigned Despair, each behind our walls and I vowed never to hurt him more. All the flowers in my castle gardens have withered now, though I can smell again the scent of roses and suffer the torments of knowing that never again will I see them.
Too late now to do what I should have done forty years ago, too late to say, “I love you,” because I did then and do still now. A smile would have been all I needed to do, a smile to say the thorns are too great a pain for me to bear, I must return to the world they call the real one, but I do love you still, and he would have smiled back and said he understood and Hell would have been defeated, and roses would still be in bloom, in bloom unseen but in bloom still.
I had seen the face of Heaven and turned my back on it and chosen to believe that safety was in Hell.
The Hell of other people is safe, but there are no rose gardens in Hell, and the greatest temptation of Hell is to have you believe that rose gardens are Hell.
That is why I have written this for you to read on your fifteenth birthday, and for you to pass to your brother when his fifteenth birthday comes.
You may not know of the door into the rose garden; you may know of it and yearn to enter there with someone very special, with your own him; perhaps you have even peeked through the cracks in that door, or pushed it open and have been in that rose garden and suffer now the torments of the thorns.
This you must know, this side of truth they will not tell you, those other people who created Hell, and if you do not know it, if you submit to their temptations and believe they speak the truth when they say there is no truth, no beauty in the rose garden, then the terrors they threaten you with will be too great to bear and you will turn, as I turned, and say “Get thee behind me Rose Garden,” and you will leave by the door that leads down to Hell.
They will not tell you that you can escape the brief torments of the flesh they promise only by choosing the endless torment of your soul, a torment they keep hidden from you; the gardens of earthy delight they lay temptingly before you appear full of brightly coloured flowers, but there are no roses amongst them, and only when it is far too late will you realise the pathways in those gardens are made with the shattered shards of Grecian Urns.
You do not have to listen to those siren voices, do not have to leave the rose garden by the door that leads to Hell. You can, if you are very brave, stay in there with your him, but at fifteen the consequences of such bravery will seem too terrible to contemplate, and the Hell of the Normal will seek to destroy you both for daring to disobey its rules.
You can, though, leave the rose garden through the door you entered by; walk to it hand in hand with your him, turn and face the Truth and Beauty of the garden and swear you love him now and will for always even though you must leave the garden now, for human kind cannot bear very much reality. He will give you one last kiss and hold your hand as you leave the garden; though you are from then apart, he will be always within you and you in him and the roses in the garden will not wither and die.
That is what I did not do, I could not bear even that little of reality and that is why I am now in Hell and why I write this for you.
If you do venture into the rose garden, then, when the bird tells you to go, remember me and do not take the path to Hell, and then it may be that you will, in the years to come, enter once more into the rose garden with a boy who is the king of your kind eyes in the blinding country of his youth, and you will love him and know it is your duty to protect him from Hell.