He tells me as we sit, huddled on the cliff face – a pact to jump, our lives unravelling. He tells me there and then. That he punched a horse on the jaw, one evening ‘when the drink took hold’.
Kicking chalky dandruff off the vertical whites, the angry sea shakes fists at us. And I can’t quite believe what he’s telling me, what with all this beauty around. He was ‘drunk and depressed’ and the horse, ‘in his way’.
I don’t want a pact to die with a man who deals his woes in equestrian anger. We sit in silence. We watch the milky skies blot the winter sun. It burns a final amber smile into ghosts of cloud. Seagulls cackle in mirth as they dive to join the crumpled sea, bobbing like cotton reels. But we don’t look down.
He’s ashamed he hit the horse. It was shocked; rocked and stunned, it fell to its knees. We stare at the shadows slumping round the stocky lighthouse as it mourns the humps of disappearing rock. And I’m here, with this idiot. And there’s no settling my mind, until I know why he was so unkind to that horse.
‘Modern society,’ he tells me. ‘Modern man and modern pain’. His wife no longer needed him, his ‘workplace is a joke’. And that day, when his fuse was burning close to rage, his team had lost. His face, already bloodied, wrapped in a hooligan’s scarf that the horse began to chew.
And he landed his punch. This bollard of a man, without neck, or brain, on the long golden face of a beautiful creature while it chewed his scarf and then buckled in pain. And soon it had gone viral, for all to see. Where frustrated young men with tribulations would punch horses.
Something takes hold inside of me. Revenge for society’s ills and all my stoicism and anger resign to alcoholic clarity. ‘I think you’d better jump,’ I say, and with a simple nod; he’s gone, leaving just the amber blush of a late slumping sun to hug my soul better.
Beena Nadeem is a north London based writer and journalist. She lives with her eight-year-old daughter and partner, pianist Ian. None of them wish any ill to horses.