Written by Lucy Wallis
Illustrated by Lucy McDonald
I held your diary in my hand but I didn’t read it.
I imagine stored there within tiny fragments of your days, a kaleidoscope of being. Daily weather reports, and bird sightings, jumbled up with the minutiae of thought that flickers along the inside of your eyes (which is where I imagine my thought lives – but I never asked you where you kept yours).
Today started fine and turned to rain. The leaves have begun to turn along the A40, and every night so far this week I’ve heard the geese pass overhead. I thought you’d like to know.
I looked out of the back bedroom window over a garden much overgrown, and fields much unchanged since I sat on the edge of the bed a child a sent my dreams out there to run like Hazel’s ghost in the cartoon version of Watership Down. I never spoke to you about it, but I’m sure you read it. The country in that book being the country you grew up in.
I heard a blackbird while I was sweeping. It’s only natural, being as it was after the rain.
Standing in your shed, the smell of old oil and damp wood, and working things I saw a spider had strung her web across the small window panes in its corner. The Autumn light oozing through dusty panes to leave a streaky, blinking miasma over the fact that all of your things have been unhooked and packed away and all that’s left in here is a rusty saw, and a nice new home for spiders.
I’m not sure what sort of spider it is.
Up the garden, the vegetable patches and flowerbeds are all overgrown and the apple tree bears fruit for the dropping because there’s no one here to pick them. You have gone elsewhere.
Back upstairs now to the front where we crammed ourselves in making your 3 up 3 down a port in all our storms. The sun has become brilliant, and in the beams that break the silence the dust dances in eddies. Swirling in the current of all our comings and goings. Except no one comes. The house draws shuddered breath as the afternoon draws on and the curtains, undrawn, catch themselves in whichever breeze unsettles the dust.
Memory settles in the corners of all the rooms and collects inside the cupboards and drawers. If I opened up the cupboard with your cups inside I might find whole days tucked inside the mugs. 11th June 1985 jumbled in with 1st September 2001. I might find 2002’s February, or 2007’s march. My memories, my mothers, the whole family’s, yours. Stored under the sink with the dustpan and brush and the WD40.
In the garden, I look through the window at where you used to sit and where you don’t sit anymore and think about how nice it is that you’re not sitting there at all and you’re freer than all of us to go where you will, even though I wish you were sitting there just now. No, actually, I wish you were outside, or in the shed doing things, or up the garden digging.
The last time I saw you, you read me Seamus Heaney’s ‘Digging’.
The August day was high and clear. No clouds. I heard a skylark in the field that morning and told you all about it.
When I read it now I hear you reading to me inside my head somewhere. In my head, you say ‘By God’. You say ‘By God, the old man could handle a spade./ Just like his old man.” and In my head, I reply to my memory of you “But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.”
In the silence that follows I playback you reading me the end:
“Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.”
So after the cleaning and the clearing, I left the windows unlatched so that whatever may be left of you in those back rooms might find its way out through the overgrown garden, over the back fence, and into well-known fields. To wend and wind your way onward. Freer still than the birds are free.
I go home to dig new furrows with my pen. The earth turns over.
and I leave my window unlatched too in case you come by in the night to
Lucy Wallis (she/her) is a writer from London or Oxfordshire – depending on who’s asking. She created this zine from a tiny flat in Paris. Her life long goal is to become a morning person, or a writer other people tell their friends about. Her greatest fear is that only one of these is possible. You can find her on twitter & instagram @thelucylist
Lucy McDonald (she/her) is an illustrator and audio creator from London. She loves all things auditory and visual and can most often be found with a big set of headphones on and a pencil in hand. You can find more of her work on instagram @lucy_walks_about
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