From that day forwards the wild slim alien would not voluntarily talk about his origins, and became extremely discomfited if I tried to persuade him to do so. I learned not to ask: ‘What are you thinking?’ To a troubled mind, there is no escape from such a question except through deceit, and I did not want the awareness of a lie infecting with its toxins the calmness of the atmosphere in which we once again began to co-exist. It was as if, having reached a crisis point, and finding himself standing at the crossroads with full-blown insanity signposted in one direction and the chance of recovery in another, Bill had chosen to set himself against the uphill gradient of the latter; had chosen to contain what was wild and alien in him within the framework of my protection – and whatever protection his own damaged mind afforded.
I thought again about going to the police, before it became clear in those next few days that he was fighting hard to regain permanent control of his mind. I couldn’t think how I might approach them without suspicions arising that I knew more about the person after whom I was enquiring than I was letting on. I even went as far as looking up contact details for missing persons in Australia and New Zealand, but I could not bring myself to ring or email. I did not want to lose him; and it was my considered opinion that he was already lost to anyone that loved him from before, because he remembered no-one. No-one born on this planet, at least.
As yet unaware of the life growing within me – for it did not seem a lie not yet to tell him in his state that he was to be a father – we found a plane together, and lived happily upon it for those weeks before the baby showed. The plane was a bed, in which we made love, with less abandon than before, but greater consideration, giving ourselves pleasure which had depth if not height; but the plane was also the land outside our door – the tortured circuitous paths which followed the ceaseless three-dimensional wriggles of the Cornish coast. In the embracing arms of out-of-season coves that we had to ourselves, we would cool off from the up and down efforts of our rambles in sun-warmed rock pools or – once Bill had overcome his fear of returning to the element from which he had apparently emerged free of memory – the sea itself.
After swimming we would lie in the sun and dry off, listening to the waves rush or lap, slowly allowing ourselves to move towards a state in which, invisible from the coastal path above, we would lick the salt from each other.
Afterwards we would eat the fresh rolls and the fruit we had brought along, and drink sparkling water, warmed from the sun on the black bag in which we carried it. Soon we would set off again, either for home or further along the path. On one such an occasion, I determined to spoil our usual peaceable silence.
‘This can’t go on forever, you know. I’ve got to get back to work. So we can eat. You know, that thing you like doing so much. And you need to find something to do too. To keep yourself busy while I’m busy. I don’t care whether you earn any money or not but you need to start filling that mind of yours with the day-to-day so that at least for a time you can stop dwelling on whatever or whoever it was that you were in the past.’
He thought about that for a while, then said, ‘That’s the problem though – I don’t know what I’m good for. Couldn’t I help you?’
‘We could try – but you’re a touch on the clumsy side and I have my doubts that those will ever be potter’s hands.’
‘Sandy might let me work at the bar.’
This was, at least from Bill’s perspective, rational; plausible even. But I was reasonably sure that while Sandy might be happy to engage with Bill’s weirdness himself, he would be a shade less keen for his customers to encounter it. Plus I didn’t want him that close to alcohol on a regular basis.
‘I think you’d probably drop too many glasses for Sandy’s liking. But we could ask him,’ I added, seeing something like a flicker of disappointment register on what had become a habitually impassive face.
He thought some more, gazing out at the swell of the sea.
‘I want to hang glide.’
This was dangerous territory. Not because hang gliding seemed to me an insanely risky pursuit, but because Bill was evidently searching for ways to bring himself closer to the winged alien he imagined he used to be. I cursed myself for ever crediting his story once he had discovered lodged in the previously inaccessible vaults of his mind. I cursed myself for wanting to believe, for letting myself be subsumed in the powerful romance of becoming one with an extraterrestrial. I cursed myself for playing along with the notion that the stories he told about flying over Badezon must be true because the detail of his narrative was so exacting. We had seen the hang gliders one afternoon, rising from a headland on the westerlies, steering once airborne for the flat land set back from the beach. I knew he had been struck by the sight at the time, asking me who they were and what they were doing, but he had not mentioned them again until now.
I laughed, nervously. ‘I’m not sure you can make a living out of hang gliding.’
‘You said that didn’t matter.’
‘It would cost a lot of money – for the equipment, for lessons.’
‘If I work for Sandy, I can pay for it.’
Having opened up the subject, I couldn’t think of a reasonable way of closing it down. Once we reached the next cove, and the old fishing port that crowded its steep sides, I rang for a taxi home. Bill sat in the back while I sat next to the driver in order to soak up the majority of the conversation. His interactions were still unpredictable. Soon I would have to step away, and let the wild slim alien explain himself to the people he met without a minder by his side.