She’s incommunicado, just in-her-bedroom-though, the truant fugative absentee lets go, she permits me lonliness but never solitude, that licence signed since in triplicate to leave this house un-left but imbued with lingering loss.
It’s a wild night, that much I confess to myself, setting out in hat and coat and scarf. Too wild for the likes of me, the sane and the still-too-sober, to be out of doors, too late to be wandering the streets, far too late to be stepping out and into the woods. And as the light of the last street lamp flickers and disappears behind one too many trees, my pluck goes with it, another flame extinguished whether by lack of oxygen under the heavy midnight drape, or by the thumb and forefinger of the forest that says, simply, no.
But I was called, away from the hearth and my glass by a sensation that said seek, a call to a void that said find me. It came in the clink of glasses and the rhythm of merriment. Out the door it giggled in the gurgle of the rain just-stopped, flowing in the gutter. And so it led me away from my home, through the village and out.
The trees offer no respite, from neither cold nor gale. Ignoring the thunder that has moved on to rumble in the distance, the distillation of rain through the trees takes me back in time to wet me with a storm that I happily sat-out in the warmth of the pub. The wind whips between trunks and branches to lash about my limbs, to take my hat and fling it far – and at that I find the folly of my endeavour. Emboldened by a drink that lies and says I’m sober, that stokes my nerve, that builds me up and will, I know it, knock me over.
Now home is in my mind. Out the dark and the wet, back to a house with warm winter glows, the comfort of my wife’s scolding tongue. But which way?
You’ve been adjusting your clothes all afternoon, they keep sticking, you’ve told me. Everything sticks to your summer skin, except your bra strap which refuses to hold onto your shoulder. Eventually you give up and let it hang loose. You look like you have no desire to be here, indoors, like you were dragged in by some vague sense of professional duty; like as you padded barefoot from your bed to the door you literally picked up and put on the loosest clothing you could decently wear. You look like you’d rather still be there, sweltering on that bed, surviving the summer, a little high, a little buzz to stoke that glint in your eye and make the furnaces hours pass faster. But you’re not, you’re here, with me, for our sins. I assure you I’d rather be there too, high, buzzed, with the curtains drawn, ineffectual, against the sun.
“In my bedroom?” you ask.
This is perhaps taking me too literally, I meant in a more general sense, I’d rather be there in that kind of place, where summer becomes something we ignore rather than endure and sit here to talk and pretend it’s not all just too much to cope with. My problems seem insignificant when it’s hot enough for heels to prick the tarmac outside.
We can open all the windows you want, turn this room into a vortex of contradictory currents, but every one of them is hot and we both feel like we’re cooking in here. We stick to our chairs, sweat pours off us, and the way it runs down your throat and drips from your collar bone when you lean is making it impossible to concentrate. This is something I’m still unsure about, if it’s deliberate, not the sweating, but your apparent lack of self-consciousness around your body. Maybe you don’t know, maybe you don’t care, maybe you know and care and want me to, too.
“This is madness,” you say eventually, “today’s session,” you shrug, hands folded on your lap, “will take place outside.”
It feels odd being out with you. I’m used to us talking indoors, for the experience to be contained in that single familiar space, but out here, as we cross the street between parked cars, I feel like what we do is vulnerable, like you might be fallible.
Across the street and between the trees of the park the enclosed space returns a sense of comfort, an encircling hum of nature’s summer that stops just short of claustrophobia. The village sounds fade to be replaced with the insect buzz, that noise of frantic activity on a minuscule scale. And we move through the shade of the trees, drawn towards the cool of the pond that idles overgrown somewhere ahead.
It seems we have the park to ourselves today, what passes for busy in the village is all going on elsewhere. We could be miles away but for the steeple always visible above the trees.
The trees give way to long grass and the pond, its waters invitingly clear, and here, on the bank, we sit, partially shaded by the waving tendrils of the willow. Our conversation, the purpose of our being together today, never stood a chance, it didn’t even begin again. We sit in the long grass and the breeze blows away our obligations, scatters them like seeds and pollen on the pond.
“This is nice,” you say, barely forming the words, just exhaling them. “Just being out, without agenda or objective. When was the last time you just sat in the grass and watched the world?”
“There’s not a lot of world to see right here,” I observe.
“Then watch the clouds,” you say sleepily, and lay on your back. “Come.”
I lay recline beside you, uncertain until I’m flat and then I feel a summer’s exhaustion ease.
“Fuck,” I breathe, “sorry, but… fuck.”
You nod beside me and hum your concordance.
“Time to get my feet wet,” you say, the smile showing on your voice. And you kick off your shoes and lower your feet to the water.
The noise you make sends shivers up my spine and I feel your knuckles touching mine.