A boy kicked my head the other day. Didn’t mean to, I think, because he was running quite fast. He just kind of tripped into me, thrust his foot to my head, turned around to inspect why that had happened and then ran off again.
That’s the most contact I’ve had for a while. Ooh, I’d say about… five years. Wasn’t the most thrilling of experiences, but it was enough to remind me that I’m still here, existing. And enough to remind me that things are still going on out there, in the big wide world.
Some around here have it worse, I suppose. Well, really, a lot worse. Decades and decades and decades and never a passing glance. No one pays them a visit, and you just watch them growing all desolate and nasty.
But best not to think about them too much, you see. Because it’s a slippery slope. There just comes a point in time where no one comes to see you. You think: ‘Ah. Gone a bit quiet. Sure it’ll pick up though. They’ll come see me again.’ Never do. No one comes, ever again. And if someone does, it’s to fall over you, or to steal junk from you. Once or twice you just get people who feel like exploring. They’re the worst. As soon as you get one of their naïve, wide-eyed, intrepid explorer pity gazes, you know you’re past it. You know you look old and unappealing beyond redemption. You’re a relic now. And you’re alone for good.
Hasn’t happened to me yet, but I know I’m getting there. It’s on the horizon. I suppose getting booted by that kid could be the first sign. Another very blatant sign is my neighbours. Catherine, who lives on my left, hasn’t seen anyone for ten years. Showing it too, if I may add. She herself needs a good scrub, and her garden needs a definite prune. Who’s going to come visit you if your front lawn looks like that? Maybe that was a little hard.
On my right side, Edward and Audrey are doing better. Eight years without people, but they still look approachable. Probably helps that they had a bit of money. When they came here they put it to good use, and ensured that their get-up was far better than the average. The rest of us have to deal with dirt and decay, but they continue to be all nice and pristine-looking. They still look fine… Stupid plastic flowers…
I’ve gone all bitter again. Definitely spent far too much time on my own.
But it’s not all bad, and it’s certainly not boring. After a while, you just watch the visitors for other people. I can see all the new ones moving in, and all the visitors they constantly get. A whole bloody lot of them. Some of them get one a week. Mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and aunties and uncles and friends.
Good for them.
New arrivals bother me. I was watching one today, actually. This morning. I find that they are always far too beautiful, and they always get so much fuss. Everyone comes to watch them move in. Crowds and crowds. Everyone they could have ever possibly known. And the new arrival just sits there all shiny and dolled up with giant flowers, listening to silence whilst they settle down into their new home. So many flowers…
I remember a lot of flowers. I used to have a lot of flowers. Maybe that’s why they annoy me now, as there was one point when I had some – far too many of them, in fact. I mean… I’m not complaining. They were nice. It was when I first came here. But after a while colossal bundles of real flowers just die away and look rotten and gross. And the people who had given them to me – whoever they all were – never came back.
No one came back.
Raining now. Just because it isn’t gloomy enough here. The congregation who were there for the new arrival this morning have all dispersed, back to wherever the hell they came from. And I’m just sitting here, trying to think about when I first came here. I don’t know. I suppose there probably wasn’t much to remember if I’ve forgotten about it so completely.
I can see a man right now, looking around. Was he here for the moving in session this morning? Well, you missed it, mister. And if he’s looking for the new arrival, they’re not hard to overlook: smothered in so many bloody white orchids they look like a giant snow drift. But after a quick glance in the new arrival’s direction, the man looks nonplussed and begins to search elsewhere.
I watch him. He looks unusual, strange. Five years of looking at black suits tells me that he’s a wealthy, wealthy man who looks as lost and as conspicuous here as a king in a ghost town. And five years of looking at bereft expressions tells me that he is forlorn beyond words. His face pale and shrunken, eyes red raw, mouth open and loose as if grief is strangling him…
And his strange search is growing fruitless.
Now he begins to prowl through the wilderness, clambering through the rougher thickets that only the explorers tend to tackle. He clearly doesn’t know where he’s going, because he’s coming near me. Well, I think, if he’s scrambled all this way just to also kick my head, then be my guest. Go on then, if it will make you feel any better.
He stops. I see he has something in his hand: an old crusty letter. The man is fervently scrunching it up in a hand, holding it to his chest as if it powered his heart.
Hm. A letter. What letter?
But the ache of the search is over now. The man’s found what he had been looking for. I have a visitor today… The man, by some prank of the gods, wants to talk to me.
“I got your letter,” the man says. His voice is a flickering whimper.
I say nothing, astounded.
“I’m sorry,” the man falters, looking me up and down in despair of my state, trying to catch the tears in his throat. “Oh my God… I’m so sorry…”
Oh, I don’t look that bad, do I?
“How could I have been this late? How could this have happened? After everything…”
I wonder if I know him. Maybe… maybe he had once brought me some flowers? If so, that was very nice of him.
The man bends down. “I was so careless… I had just tossed your letter to the side. I’ll read it later, I thought… But I forgot. My love, I just forgot! All these years… But that letter had warned me of this… Of what would happen to you… But… I-”
It was very nice for the man to bring me flowers, I think. Thanks. He’s crying now, and I don’t quite follow why. He continues to murmur “I’m sorry” through shuddering breaths. For a while, the sound of the rain fills the emptiness.
Finally, he composes himself. He stands. “Please, forgive me. I was a fool. A completely blind fool, my love. But… I suppose you’re alright now. And you’re alright here, without me. I was never good enough for you, although you always thought I was… You were always so kind…”
I forgive you. You brought me flowers. You’re talking to me now. You’re fine. When weren’t you?
“I never understood why you were ever interested in me. And I suppose I’ll never know now. There’s nothing left but this letter…”
With a shaking but soft hand, the man reaches out and touches my head. Right where I was kicked. It’s like he knows…
“I’m sorry,” he whispers. “Forgive me, and goodbye… Catherine.”
Catherine? Oh no.
With the same hand, he thoughtlessly brushes away some grime off my face. And there, carved into me and dabbled in grey rainwater, is the etching of my actual name. I’m not Catherine. Wrong one, mister. Try next-door.
“Oh.” The man looks left, then right, then tries the one next to me. He scrubs away the dirt to find his lost lover. The man smiles bitterly, kisses the stone and leaves.
False alarm. I’ll have to omit that encounter. Back to just the boy kicking me in the face. But that outcome makes sense, of course. I remember no letter. And I don’t remember him. I suppose the man gave me no flowers either. Fine then.
Oh well. Maybe next time. Well, maybe there’ll be a next time. If so, maybe then. I don’t know. But there’s no rush though, no rush at all… It’s not like I’m going anywhere.
Unlike that boy. Who runs around in a graveyard anyway?