I’ve come 20 years too late to The Beach party, but better late than never. I read Alex Garland’s 1990s classic over the course of a few days and couldn’t put it down. For any fellow late-to-the-partiers it’s the story of Richard, who finds himself on an idyllic island in the Gulf of Thailand, where a collection of backpackers has founded their own utopia. Typically, as well as other books to explore this theme, such as William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, there is a snake in Eden and the community implodes.
There was an interesting phrase in the book where Richard, the narrator talks about being ‘damned by a glimpse of paradise’. He feels spoiled for future pleasure by what he has seen and experienced on the island in his early weeks on it.
This phrase has resonated with me for the last few weeks, as I’ve been involved in a ‘relationship’ for the last six months that promised so much, but ultimately delivered so little. It’s taking a lot of energy and self-restraint to disengage myself from it, and do I feel damned by a glimpse of paradise? Yes, I very much do.
I have very little close family, barring my son, and this guy introduced me to his family and his children, telling me that I was now part of his family. He was physically affectionate, something I’d missed in my long lonely married years. He spent two months integrating me into every part of his life, and encouraging me to allow my son to make a bond with him, but a week before he was to go away on a month-long vacation, pulled the plug and told me he wasn’t ready for a relationship, suggesting that I’d been the one pushing for one. This is far from the truth, I’d been very, very cautiously trying to trust what he was saying and very slowly allowing myself to have faith in what he was offering. But he’d taken the lead, not me.
Each time I think about what I’ll now be missing it makes me sad. The ‘family’ unit we’d created; the hours and hours we spent talking, sharing our secrets, the feeling that I’d found someone who ‘got’ me, who was my soulmate. I’m now grieving for a lost ‘paradise’.
But what has saddened and hurt me the most is that I’ve always been someone willing to believe the best in people, now I feel that I’ll be more guarded and less trusting in future. More cynical about promises and less willing to give freely of myself. I’ll be slightly harder as a result now. Mostly I just feel sad, but thankfully not alone. I’m good in my own company, which is a plus, for at least I can now go back to myself, find my freedom again, lick my wounds, and maybe have faith that something that good can come again.