Sunday, April 23, 2006
Rock, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds
He is a ruined man who lives in an old house. The roof of his memories has fallen in. When it rains now the water pours down without mercy. The walls turn the colour of nostalgia. The floor shimmers, slick with images. Somewhere, a metal bucket rings with each drop, like a bell, calling out to no one.
Outside the earthworms are lifelines from which the hands have vanished. They stretch towards some impossible distance, exposed in their vulnerability. He is careful not to step on them. He is careful not to step in the puddles either, even though technically they are inside his house and he has a right. He walks across the floor of his ruined hall on tiptoe, trying not to get his shoes wet.
It seems to him that these puddles are there to mock him. In them he sees (or imagines he sees) a map of his dissolving life. In the old days he would have taken a mop and levelled out the odds. Now he no longer believes in justice, and lets the water collect the way it wants to, watching the stain of the puddle as it colonises the entire surface of the floor.
What little furniture he has has been pushed into the corners, drawn back against the wall. As though it were debris, salvaged from the wreck of some great ship. He opens his drawer for a change of underwear and finds a white film growing on all his clothes. It is the colour of his hair.
"These fragments I have shored against my ruins", he thinks. Then cannot remember what comes next.
Small, green plants have cracked their way through his walls, even on the inside. He tries to weed them out but they are stubborn and their roots run deep. He lets them be, afraid of shaking the house to its foundations. A tendril of ivy trails from the roof like a chandelier.
He never goes out at night. Instead, he insists that the night come to him. When it's clear out, he will sit for hours listening to the sky breathe. Clouds frost the pane of the darkness, the stars are condensation. The day is a sleeve that rubs everything clear.
Now that they have disconnected the electricity, there are no lights left to see by. He is glad. He lights candles instead, feeling a strange communion with these flames that ache so helplessly in the night. Their suffering contained but faithful, rising in twinges, always coming back from the brink of being extinguished. Just like the pain in his bones.
One day a letter arrives for him. It has been left out in the rain and the address has leached away until it is unreadable. So naturally the mailman assumes it is his. It is not. But he reads and rereads it anyway, feeling no guilt, grateful for the love the writer has sent, even though to someone else. Love is something he gets too little of now, like the bottles of milk that are no longer delivered.
Just an old man in a ruined house, waiting for the sun to come out. So he can finally get his shadows back.