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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

*New* Three Letters (Part 5 to End)

Maybe that's why I am writing this letter. Perhaps it's thinking about England in the summer, perhaps it's the sounds of the river at night but my mind wandered back to the place of long afternoons, listening to Pink Moon and Lay Lady Lay. Can you still find a way back to the taste of cheap wine, the feel of grass between your fingers and a world that was all shimmering reflections? All those people disappeared into the world. How would they be recognised now - perhaps only by the sound of their laughter? I'm afraid I once damaged the environment in your name and took a penknife to the willow we used to sit by. I can remember wondering if the bark would ever grow back. If you ever find yourself driving past one weekend . . . Well perhaps not, it's probably so sadly different. But I know your name will still be there, carved in the memory of a tree.

*She re-folded the letter and tapped it several times against her top lip. From the hall the clock calling out the quarter hour, then a moment of stillness - time stalling - before, faintly, the clock in her study responded. She took out the next envelope. While her fingers searched for the flap she looked at the Queen's silver silhouette. The letter was written on paper so white and thin that as her gaze fell across it she saw it as a shade of blue. The date was April 1976.

*Do I remember that September afternoon when I first met you? Is it possible to remember the slide into sleep or the hypnotist's fingers on your eyelids? I only know that it happened because at some stage I awoke. Some things are clear, the lucid fragments of a dream, a conversation over the phone one Easter. We both felt down because I was working in a stuffy shop and you in a sorting office. I hated it and asked you how it was that time moved so slowly. It's okay, you said, it doesn't matter, because it will end and time passed is all the same, and anyway, in the end it's not time that you're left with.

You told me to go look for happiness and bring some back when I found it. But you can't bank happiness. You can't keep it for when you need it and you cannot give to someone else simply by having it yourself.

I thought I would be content to watch the river flow past and drift away on the scent of water lilies. I watched days become nights and nights gently give way to days, believing I was shedding my cares when really I was storing regrets. Now I know that reading is dreaming, that dreaming is sleeping and thought inaction. When I wake I find that all I have left is thoughts of you.

*The noise of the cat jumping clumsily onto her lap, the feeling of her pressing up and down with alternate paws, claws snagging loops of cotton.

This time the silhouette is not the Queen's but that of Nehru, a white head against an orange background. The stamp is stuck on at an odd angle (but still stuck after all this time!) and he stares down at the scraggly lines of a familiar address. The letter itself is written on a school child's lined paper, as her eyes run down the page they linger on the date, Nov. 1968 and the dappling of yellow blotches. What were they? Had they always been there?

*I still can't believe you decided to go. Why go back to the grey, the dirt, the noise, the rush? There is a lifetime to do those things. I know you chase that dream of yours, but the dream is so sweetly deferred here. Here I feel as if I am absorbing the sunshine and serenity. Since you left we moved further east where the earth here has a reddish tinge and so does the food. Today we met a group of Americans. We got a ride on the roof of their van and helped them collect firewood. They say there is an old man who sells the beads you wanted from the front of his hut, and eight miles of white sand.

I am writing this in a flickering of orange and blackness. This is the best time, talking and reading, the world melting away into words, although sometimes a phrase is so beautiful I have to walk around a little just to let them settle in. One of these made me think of you. 'Do that which makes you happy to do, and you will do right.'

*The freezer's cooling mechanism rattled, then fell silent, and she realised that she hadn't been aware of the noise it was making. In its absence the air in the house seemed to hang with that same question; how would her life have been if she had managed to send just one of them? But the air received no answers and went back to its lazy circulation.

In time she would fold the letter away and place it back in the envelope, place the envelopes back into the bag, the bag back into the tin and the tin into the trunk. She would cover it with layers of cloth and place down the seat and lock the catch. But now she just sat for a moment, the noise of the cat's contented breathing filling the house.

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