The howling started later.
First it was getting lost,
in a not altogether unpleasant way.
seeping through the undergrowth,
a tentative cry.
Steps ahead clearly marked
lest you should stray onto
the road more travelled.
A long walk, the longest yet.
You’re welcome, as you’ll ever be,
in the far side of the forest.
Oh, you didn’t mean to visit?
Well, what now?
Just sit. Sit as still as you can.
And keep yourself company
Until the howling begins in earnest.
It definitely did not happen
in your private hospital room
in the small hours of Wednesday morning,
the drip-feed still two-thirds full.
Nor did it happen
when I only longed to see
your overused drab raincoat
appear in the hall.
And surely not when you
failed to turn up on time,
or at all.
With or without a cause.
Our flawed exchanges weren’t the reason
or the mismatched intentions, those very few.
It wasn’t triggered by something tangible.
Nor did it take place at a given point in time.
Time could not be determined
with any reasonable
margin of error.
Bare feet leaving drops of water behind
across the cold wet slimy tiles
in a bathroom where I never set foot,
a single bulb over the mirror,
pulling closer, pulling us both
into our shared likeness.
And still, you didn’t die when you did.
Tell her something kind.
Tell her you see your palms and they’re dry and white.
Tell her something cruel, for she cares not what you say.
Explain where you come from,
so she might forgive.
Laugh, because that is what a sickly night is about,
and make her understand what savage hatred feels like.
Cry — if that helps her move closer.
And tell her something kind,
one more time,
because she’ll not be around for long.
“No, it did not strike me as unusual. A thing like that just happens, I guess. Nothing wrong with it. Time is relative, they say. John was starting school when Peter wasn’t even one. And James was in 4th grade already. They came four or five years apart. Almost ten…
Two rooms in my apartment I almost never enter.
For months at a time I completely forget about their existence.
Unconsciously, I block them out.
I have other rooms in the apartment, there is no need to use those two.
Sometimes months go by without me setting foot in them.
“This really is not necessary,” she said, matter of factly.
“I know,” he said, a statement of acceptance.
“I don’t need to be entertained.”
“Perhaps I do,” he responded, while badly wanting to believe her.
The car passed the lot next to a sprawling supermarket. It slowed down a little…
“Can I ask you a riddle?”
“Do you like riddles?”
“Is that a riddle?”
“No. That’s a question.”
“I like riddles. The good ones. Is yours good?”
“It’s very good. Okay, here’s my riddle: I’m invariably complementary, dog-eared, I sit on a periscope and order vanilla ice-cream with hazelnut topping straight from the bar…
It’s 7.02am. and I am standing steady at the end of the pier in my swimming trunks, toes clawed over the edge. Today sunrise is at 7.13am, but I know it for a fact that eleven minutes prior there is sufficient light to start my swim across the bay. I…
“Excuse me. I’m sorry, may I…?”
“You’re…? Oh, you’re talking to me. Do we… know each other?”
“No. But if I may, I’d like to say you’re the spitting image of my ex-university professor.”
“Oh, is that right? Well, um… that’s interesting. Good day.”
“Do you mind? May I stop you for a second…
When that infant two rows behind you keeps screaming its lungs out throughout the flight, across seventeen hundred miles. A brief pause every now and then, when exhaustion takes over. But you know it’ll soon start again.
And you think: All that effort. For what?
You can no longer recall…