The room is empty. The oak floorboards have a dull shine, the finish spoiled by dusty foot prints and the sad circular stains of glasses consumed. A yet to be attended to feel. The wisps of laughter hang in the air. She was alone.
The river here heaves up on the bank like an old man getting into bed.
Birds cry downstream. A gull perfects a theft, executes drastic turn in air that could break bones. I do my duty walks like perimeter guard, shoulder walking cudgel the way I carried my carbine back there at 23, know the pound of it to an ounce; knowledge of the scabbard hangs on.
I’d rather the river and the tired water’s run as 86 years weigh a heavy canteen. Nothing is like a river’s to and fro against this sea, tide-wash, catch of kelp, air sting full of briny sea’s salad smells, perpetual anger, always earth-dig, sand-flush and rock-wear, drag on the moon, where a ship’s ghost and canvas call.
The distance between the house and the cliff isn’t long, nor is it short. The distance is the distance. Years ago flowers bloomed here in ever increasing numbers, filling the landscape. Their lithe youthful necks stretched upwards basking in the warmth of the sun’s rays. But no more. Time’s passage stole the flowers beauty and they began a slow, steady decline.
The ice will wake you. You’ll hear it dropping in the plastic cup, sense it being passed in front of you to the woman in the window seat you haven’t spoken to since the flight began. You’ll drift, then you’ll open your eyes and stare into a face that would be prettier with less make-up. Her strip-light smile won’t fade as she asks you, patiently, for the third time if you’d like something to drink. You’ll order a gin and tonic even though you don’t want one because that’s what you do on flights. While she rummages for the gin needle in the haystack of unwanted brandy you’ll wonder if you’ll get peanuts or mini pretzels.
You’ll bet on pretzels.
And you’ll be right.
December sweeps her dead hand around my throat. My capuche swooshes open and I come to life in the morning hour rush. A beggar scratches the furrows between the cobblestones outside the metro station. When I get close to him, the automatic doors open and the warm breath of the subway hits me. He looks up at me, then back down again to the cobblestones.
I walk out on to the escalator, a boy runs past me, then a girl, then another boy. The latter boy shoves the girl when he rushes by her, down the escalator. She yells, but keeps going. Yesterday the fungus to the right was green, but today it’s covered in white foam.
The subway train comes in and I get on. It’s full, so I stand. I can always tell which state the country is in by looking at the adverts. Education, insurances, job seminars and cheap groceries. I’m reminded of what the prime minister said; the lowest unemployment rate in Europe by 2020.
Promises aren’t worth much to the poor. That’s why the adverts look the way they do, and why the beggar scratches the furrows of the cobblestone.