Finding Paradise (chapter 13)
Friday 10th July
Jerry woke me early and helped me get all my stuff together to take me to the airport. He was very efficient.
So this was the day, the day we would be leaving this strange country? Nothing felt real anymore, it was like I was in a dream. I almost felt like nothing could touch me at this point, that nothing could break me any further. I got up and I didn’t even get a shower. Jerry was taking the lead, as I was on autopilot and went wherever he suggested. First stop was the hotel to see if the ticket had arrived.
That was when found I could be broken further. I had to catch that plane there was nothing else I could do. Jerry insisted on taking me to the airport. He would keep Ray’s things, go back to the hotel and wait for the ticket; if there was still a slim possibility that it would arrive. He could then get him from the hospital and go with him to the airport. Sounded like a plan. Not necessarily a good one, but I didn’t have a lot of choice, I had to trust him. I gave him the rest of the money, it was useless, a closed currency which was of no value out of Morocco. The money seemed to be the cause of everything and I didn’t want it.
He took me to the airport early so that he could go back to the hotel, get the ticket, go to the hospital, get Ray and bring him to the airport. He was very optimistic about it. I said goodbye to him and thanked him for his help.
I checked in and the flight was called after a little while. I was one of the first to board. I sat down in my spot and the other passengers took their seats. Still no sign of Ray though. I imagined that any moment now an ambulance or taxi would pull up beside the plane and someone would shout;
‘Hold that plane!’ and Ray would be rushed on board.
But it didn’t happen. The plane started to move and even though I knew there was no chance now, I still imagine them running alongside it waving and telling the pilot to stop. That would just be ridiculous. It wasn’t going to happen.
We sped up and I ‘popped,” The tears fell uncontrollably down my cheeks. I had left him, again, I had left him there. In that place!
It wasn’t a cry of joy or relief either, it was actually a feeling of great sadness and guilt. The seat next to me was vacant but for a briefcase, I sprawled across it and cried. Really cried this time though, with noise and sniffles and everything. A man came and pried the briefcase from under me without showing any concern for my well-being, and sat somewhere else. Not even the stewardesses seemed to care. Maybe things like this happened all the time on planes flying from Morocco; just another crazy tourist getting into trouble.
The journey was scary. The plane hit innumerable air pockets and frequently dropped in altitude. It was more like a roller coaster ride than anything else. I didn’t really care by this time, I thought it might even crash, that would have not have surprised me at all, especially if I survived it. After a few hours we touched down at Heathrow airport, the landing was just as scary as the flight. I had pretty much got myself together again by now and went and waited for my baggage, I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to be there to pick me up, I hadn’t even thought about it.
As I walked through passport control I saw Ray’s parents in the arrivals lounge, I started to cry again. Obviously they had been expecting to see Ray. They stood up to greet me and asked what had happened — I told them about the ticket and then his mother said the strangest thing.
“This all has to do with Nigel Shultz doesn’t it?”
I was rather taken aback by that statement. She then went on to explain their version of Nigel. How when Ray had been living there he had wanted to leave but Nigel was always begging him not to, when poor Ray finally got up the courage to pack, and actually make his way towards the door, Nigel slashed his wrists in front of him. Ray got in such a state and instead of phoning an ambulance he called his mother.
‘Why the hell didn’t anybody tell me this before we went!?’
They took me from the airport to my brother’s house and they went back to Liverpool. They were going to have to contact the Embassy again. My brother was living in London at the time with his wife and daughter. Sue’s sister, my other sister-in-law, and her boyfriend, Jed, were also visiting them at the same time.
My brother asked me what had happened and when I tried to explain, I was interrupted when I said Nigel’s name. As soon as Jed heard the name he stood up.
“Nigel Shultz? That guy used to help out with the boy scouts and he was kicked out for messing with the kids!”
Well it figures.
I now had to adapt to my new surroundings and decided I would start by taking a shower. That is when I weighed myself and realised how much weight I had lost. I had gone from 7 and a half stone to 6 and a half stone. The last week I had practically not eaten at all. I just hadn’t been able to. It was like eating cardboard. When I get stressed, I can’t eat. I don’t have any trouble sleeping though. I had a sleep in the afternoon, I was so tired. I hadn’t really slept much the night before and it was catching up with me.
My brother woke me to tell me that my mother was on the phone. I was a little dazed and not really together but I understood that she would be picking me up from my brother’s the next day. I didn’t speak to her long. Dinner was ready.
After dinner we went for a walk around the city. I just recall seeing the down-and-outs, sitting in the doorways, hands extended asking us for money as we passed. It made me think of beggars in Morocco. I could almost understand how people need to beg for money there, with no welfare state, they didn’t have a lot of choice, but here? In London? London is one of the most modern cities in the world. Most of them looked like alcoholics or drug addicts. They had basically wasted opportunities. It didn’t make sense.
Morocco had been a huge disappointment. I had expected a country filled with mystery and Eastern appeal. Instead I had found a country in a metamorphic phase between east and west. The greatest culture shock for me had been the Western influences, just as much on the people as the culture. The old cultures were dying and soon there would be nowhere left unspoilt. Like a fungus, man was spreading across the earth. Sucking it dry of resources, making its land infertile and polluting the environment.
Nature would have her revenge for sure.
We wandered around Chinatown and talked about trivia, it was a good walk. Good for clearing my mind. We went back to the house and chatted a little more. Any comments I made about Morocco or the rest of my journey seemed to go unnoticed and almost ignored. I went to bed. My first night back in England, the green and pleasant land.
I couldn’t help but think of Ray, there alone. I felt so guilty for having left him there. I couldn’t have stayed! It wouldn’t have made any sense, I only had enough money for one ticket. I just couldn’t think about it, thinking about it and getting stressed wouldn’t change a thing.
In the morning my mother phoned again and told me the good news.
Ray would be arriving at the airport that very day and we were going to meet him; apparently she had told me that the night before, but I hadn’t digested it very well. It was a bit of a scary feeling to be honest as I had no idea how he would be, mentally that is. Mum was going to take me there to pick him up after driving to my brother’s place.
Once in the jeep with her, the first thing she said to me was that I would have to find a place to live as she was selling the house and I couldn’t live there anymore. Great! She also told me not to be surprised if Nigel was smiling ear to ear like nothing had happened when we met him.
It was still a shock nevertheless.
As he walked through the passport control he smiled almost like a movie star with the paparazzi to greet him! It gave me a chill. He told us how the previous day he had been all ready to go. Jerry had got the ticket from the hotel and had taken him from the hospital to the airport, just before the plane was about to take off. When he had tried to check-in they had said that, because he had been in a mental hospital he would need to be accompanied by a male nurse! So he had to go back to the mental hospital. However, as luck would have it, there was a gentleman from the Red Cross passing through Agadir from Casablanca and he was informed by the embassy of Ray’s predicament. This gentleman went and signed him out of the hospital and took full responsibility for him.
Ray spent the night at his house in Casablanca, an English-looking country cottage, as he described it, smoking cigars and hobnobbing with an English gent and his wife! And there was I, in turmoil thinking he was still sleeping in that awful place.
Ray then went on to say that the man had no idea why Ray had even gone to that place in the first place as he looked alright to him. He also added that Jerry had gone through his bags in the hotel and stolen lots of clothes and my camera! That is when I remembered that I had left the walkman under the bed in the hotel!
After we picked Ray up we went back to Liverpool. Oh joy!
Ray went back to his house, and I don’t even remember talking to him much at all, I really do not recall the conversations. He had to leave home too — his parents were not happy. We ended up moving onto a flat that belonged to a friend of my mothers’s. It was only vacant during the student holidays though. So we would have to find something else.
Things were not good between Ray and me; the first time he ate in the flat he started to eat from the pan, like a maniac. I thought at the time he was being pathetic, but I realise now he had been through a lot. We argued all the time and he denied ever losing the plot and said it had all been my fault. I had been the one who was insane. I had been the one who had left him in that place. I did leave him there, but if I had lost the plot, we would both still be there!
We couldn’t find work and ended up having to move to London where we worked as a live-in bar couple. The wages were good and we made new friends and we started to slip into our old ways again, it almost felt like nothing had ever happened. But every time we locked our door in the evening I couldn’t help but get that locked-in feeling. I couldn’t help but think he could ‘flip out’ again. This time though, I didn’t want to be around to see it. So I finally decided it would be better to split from him. I had saved some money and could maybe get bar work somewhere else. So we split.
I bumped into him a year or so later in London, he was back to his old tricks, (before he met me) high on cocaine and living it up in low places. The funniest thing to me was that he had become a postman. That was the last time I saw him. Every now and then I would check through Facebook, to see if I could find him, I never did. I began to think that he must be dead.
Then 29 years later out of the blue I got a message off him via Facebook. He told me a marvelous story of how, at the age of 30, he had turned his life around, in a big way. He now had a great job, a wife and a family of his own.
This made me very happy.
The End ;)