People say it’s the smell you try to hold on to. The smell of a person. Clothes. Blankets. Cushions. After they’ve gone. Of course this is true. I’ve lived through it. What’s less noted is the way voices come and go. The first time I realised I could no longer wholly recall your voice, after a couple of years or so, it was terrifying. I felt ashamed. To only have this faint echo of something. And then it came back strong. Sometime later. Suddenly. You were there. We spoke. And then you went again.
You come in waves, tidal remembrances.
07:20 is the time he leaves the house, pulls on his coat, blows a kiss, says goodbye, gets embraced, steps onto the concrete, breathes the air, checks his pockets, flicks his hair, buttons his coat, checks his phone, walks down the street for the last time.
07:20 is the time she closes the door, waits until he finally disappears, and holds her gaze, never wanting to turn her back, however long it takes for him to return, knowing that he won’t, but that if she only believed harder, she could change the fates that the judges decreed. How she cries.
To S___ on High Street it would be the time when the names were erased. She counted them up, window-shopping in the spring sun. The names that were now gone, in such a brief spell of time. Sam T and Granny F. Uncle, suddenly. The fit guy in the year above. And now they disappeared off the TV and magazines. Icons, faces she loved and cared about. Time had been luscious and now it was cheap. The summer ahead was loose change. Comes to nothing. And who to turn to? Who would go the distance with her, in her life?
Yeah can you get some now now
Hear it comin’ yeah yeah
Howlin’ howlin’ oh yeah howl howl
All the way and back and down down
Down the line now baby
Oh come on now keep it yeah
Storm is raising
Storm is raising
Storm is raising
Can you hear it rainin’ rain rain
Whistle blowin’ blow blow
Wind is rattlin’ now a huff huff
Huffin’ puffin’ huffin huff puff
Trees a-fallin’ on the line line
Trains a-rattlin’ all the time time
Woah Mister Driver you’d better
Call it off off
Aww it’s gettin’ hot hot
Awright, lemme hear ya
I am told that Robert had been a radical. He certainly shirked definition, never committed to anything. I’m not sure that makes someone a radical, just an arch-critic, a cynic, a difficult bastard. Others say genius; I’d argue a fantastic populist. They say he was an intellectual; he was simply willing to share his views loudly, eloquently, forcefully. I do know he was a misanthrope, a miser and a drunk. He gave little away to anyone, probably hid from himself, but liked gifts. I met him and he glared at me, had nothing to say. And now he is gone.
At the place where two oceans meet a white foam forms a rough line on the surface. We encounter light and dark, warm and cold.
Outside the hotel room the sky was grey. On the TV the skies were all blue. Microphones were pointed towards a grimacing face. In the corridor, staff brought room service to guests. I washed and changed my shirt.
In the hospital machines were wheeled out. Condolences were offered. At the airport where families rushed in the engines blared.
The correspondent says critical but stable.
I would come to think of this as a sea change.
In the spring of that year they dug a giant pit in the shape of a grave. It stretched north, south, east and west, growing as eager townsfolk took up spades and bent their backs to hollow the blackened earth. Over the weeks the pit was filled with millions of words torn from newspapers, TV interview transcripts and antiquarian journals as the people thronged to bury a lexicon. The words were burned by torches and interred under a deep layer of soil. Then came the rains. The soil washed away and the ashen words reappeared like a stain, a scar.
An obituary stated that oxygen was his making. Air, and good publicity, had delivered fame and fortune. In reality, success was mechanical. He invented a forced-air pump that inflated almost any object. Industrialists, financiers and the public sector all bought into it. With a quick shot, the pump blew air into balloons, bubbles and even man-made fabrics. Clothing was puffed and padded, foodstuffs aerated. The air was a cushion. But the cushion collapsed. In the pump factories, the failure was systemic. Bad engineering caused multiple injuries. Whole communities were scarred. And, his cruel mind clouded, he ran out of breath.
We were trying to remember his name. Annie was finishing her wine and I had lit a cigarette; was wondering about brandy. I could hardly even picture him but Annie seemed to know. How could I forget? It was like seeing an old school photo and one of the pupils was blacked out in the picture. I couldn’t see him properly. Annie said he had died. It seemed possible that there could’ve been some tragedy. We hadn’t gone to his funeral though, not knowing him that well, she was sure about that. I so wanted to remember – a name, life.
xx saw xx xx xxx xxxxxxxx. x thought xx xxx xxxxx xx xx x xxx crash xx cancer. xxx xxxxxx news xxx xxx xxxx harrowing. xxxxxx? Oh xxxx xxx xxxxxxx xx xxxx xxxx another xxx? xxxx xxx xxx xxxxx xxxxx xx xxxxxxxx. xxxxx xxx all xx us, xxx I xxxx. xx xxxxx xxxx shared xxx xxxx xxxxxx. x xxxxx xxxxxxx xxx. xx xxxxx xxxx xxxx xxx years ahead xxx. Why xxxxx xxx speak? x xxxxx xxxx listened. xx loved you xx xxxx. XXXX. xxxx xxxxxx xxx xxxx xxxxxxxx. xxx xxxx xx xx xxxx xx this? xxxx xxx xx xxxxxxx? xxxx?