Passing Stranger

By Mihangel

12. Epilogue: a little inaccuracy

A little inaccuracy sometimes saves tons of explanation.

Saki, The Square Egg

So what is this inaccuracy?

The first half of what has gone before, as far as the point in Chapter 7 where Jonathan swims into my life, is simple fact, even if interspersed with self-analysis which may or may not be valid. But the eagle-eyed may have noticed that at the outset I described this screed as "a patchwork of episodes, musings and metaphor."

The metaphor -- the allegory, if you prefer, or the parable -- is Jonathan. He does not exist in the flesh, and never has done. But at the same time, paradoxically, he is utterly real. He is that same guiding spirit, that same inner mentor, whom my boyish mind constructed, who saw me through my youth, and who then faded into oblivion. But in March 2003, at the time of the invasion of Iraq, while Hilary was in China, he did come back to me, abruptly, astonishingly -- dare I saymiraculously? -- and unsummoned. Just as he had long ago guided the teenage Michael through his perplexities, so he now guided the ageing Michael. He did persuade me to cast off my current burdens. He did show me how to heal my hurts. He did straighten out my thinking and set me on a more even keel of self-acceptance. He is with me still, as invaluable a companion as he was fifty years ago. While as a living creature he is a fiction, while the story of our meeting is an artifice, he none the less proved a real turning-point in my life.

Why did I adopt this artifice? There were three reasons. Whether they pass muster is not for me to say.

First, the main problem I faced was how to stress the immensity of that turning point. I felt that the vein of introspective narrative which I had followed hitherto would not do it justice, and that a metaphorical reality, a truthful fiction, would be more effective.

Second, I needed a means of expressing something of my philosophies and my way of life, for the sake of friends outside the family who had asked for information about me. Information of that kind is more easily set down, and more digestible, in the form of dialogue than of turgid self-examination. And for dialogue I needed someone to talk to.

Third, it may of course be that my story-telling instincts die hard.

Apart from this epilogue, all of Passing Stranger, remember, was written in 2003. There is no need to dwell on events since then. They have been good. My regular net-friends have grown in number, and many are now close friends. We talk deep things, and we talk honestly. Half a dozen I have met face to face on one side of the Atlantic or the other, and four have even stayed at our house. They are a blessing.

And my stories have doubled in number. Some of the newer ones, as the observant may have noted, incorporate fragments quarried out of Passing Stranger, which I had not expected to be published. Hilary still reads and criticises everything in advance, as does Pryderi now, as will Megan in the future. And those who plough through the acknowledgments may also have noted that I always thank Jonathan for his support. Disembodied he may be, but he is never far from my mind. Alongside Hilary, he is my fulfilment.

March 2009

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