It is silent except for the crunch of snow beneath my boots. The flakes flying into my eyes. I am a character in a story. This is London. This is the Never Ending Story. I am Bastian Balthazar Bux reading a stolen book in an attic. I trudge past the grave through the trees and into the sculpture field. No sound except the silence of snow. The distance is hazy. Snow falling on cedars. We walk here by starlight almost one month later. The snow is melted by then and my heart, a little softer.
The water is frozen. The lady at the house, Claire Darling, tells me a man drowned here swimming one day. She said they didn’t find him for four days until someone thought to drag the pond. The kids listen as she talks, wide eyed, blonde-haired, sucking fingers. Later they laugh, throw dead leaves in the air, take my hand, show me tulips pushing through the ground.
The Loop: a daily 5 km walk passing farmlands and rural suburbs around Ledig House. Once I passed four vultures pecking away at a dead beaver in the middle of the road. Later I found a letter in a puddle. ‘Bill Inside!’ it said. Soggy. Eternally unopened. Its fate undetermined.
It all happens as it should. Every leaf has its place on the ground. Still somehow my eyes shift, flutter, look away, wander. My pulse in my throat, beating like the first sparrow in the trees.
The Abandoned House. March 2015.
The truth is everything is beautiful if you love with all your heart.
One day Okwiri and I hid in the other house. We waited in the darkness. Jaques made jokes about bananas. Salma went back to her room. The sky had a a light in the east. Alien. New York city, we joked. It couldn’t be, too far away. The Northern lights? Something, as big as a calf streaked across the drive way. Later we discovered it was a giant cat.
That night, my birthday, the outside was not dark enough to match the brightness inside.
She and I, one night, tied his shoes up in a tree. ‘They went for a walk, to see the world’, he said. At night, I could hear the rain on my attic roof.
One evening, while the sun set over the Catskills, recalling another moment on the beach, I rolled down the grass on the hill. Straw stuck in my hands and hair. It felt painful to relive. That was the first night I got sick.
‘I recall once, the stumble, the long, long road to summer,’ is something I know I will say two years from now.
Black dog bounding. The horse that wanted carrots. The kids that played in a moving house. The big dark skies. The crunch of snow. The squeaking screen door. The vegetables cooking. The desolate air of a stagnant winter. These are the things I will carry.