|She’s gone. I’ll never know the like of her again.
So many miles travelled together, good and bad, but never dull.
I saw her as few ever had, lying at rest under a sinking sun, sailing through storm torn skies when lightning was so sharp it stitched clouds together.
She was not mine of course; she belonged to the world, a symbol of man’s hope. Now, whenever I sit on some windy shoreline, looking out across any ocean, I hear it all come back, the sense of smell, the heat, long after the burning has gone, still lingering in my nostrils.
“Lay still, lay absolutely still.” It’s the voice of my friend, Steve. Tears are rolling down his face.
“Steve, I can’t feel my legs.”
“Lay still, do you understand?” Sirens sound in far off streets. The hissing of steam fills the air, as if someone has placed a red-hot poker into water just behind my head.
“What happened, Steve?” I choke out. He doesn’t answer.
My fingers are burning with cold as I see myself in the reflective glow of a fire burning in Steve’s eyes. It occurrs to me I might be dying right here in my friends lap and I begin thinking of all the things I want to say so as not to die without being forgiven.
“When my kids have grown, Steve, tell them it wasn’t in vain."
Steve hears the prayer and looks down at me.
“Listen, you’re going to be all right, don’t think about anything else. You’ve got a chunk of metal in your back, do you understand, don’t move - don’t attempt to move. Do you understand?”
And there is no more to be heard.
I wake up in a hospital and for three months I lay still while surgeons play around with my spine. I feel totally alone, no-one knowing where I am, and I wonder what I’ve made of my life.
There is no touch of hand at my bedside, for what woman was ever going to let me occupy a place in her heart if I will continually risk myself for unreachable ideals.
I've seen so much; the breath taking beauty of the arctic-bound humpback whale, the mermaid on the rock in Copenhagen, the sensual Kiss of Rodin, the Alpine Clematis bending in the mountain winds, but I've never seen my own foolishness till now.
“You’ll walk,” Steve says, “I just know it, and the doctors say you will.”
True enough the surgeons played it right and after my third month of treatment I walk out of the hospital.
The French had bombed and sunk the Rainbow Warrior, killing one friend. Goliath came for David and won. I don’t know why, when I look out to sea, it all comes back to me so vividly; not when there are so many beautiful memories of the Rainbow Warrior, so much achieved. We had our failures, of course, but she handed me friendships and adventures, and now she is gone.
Almost thirty years have passed since that terrible night in Auckland. A new Rainbow Warrior carries on the tradition. The original crew has grown older, grown beards and bellies, but I guess that was our time. It was also the time of hope… and I wonder if that time is ever truly in the past.