“Some walks you have to take alone.”
– Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay (Used with permission)
I remember the first time we came this way, the two of us. I didn’t know you then, didn’t know your middle name or where you lived. Didn’t know the name of your first pet or the dreams you had.
I didn’t know about the nightmares either back then, the ones with the blade slicing down. I knew you’d wake with a start, and I’d ask you about it. All you remembered, you said, was the knife coming down, the bright light from the edge that reflected into your eyes and dazzled you, the last thing you ever saw before you woke. Never his face. If you’d seen his face, maybe it would have helped. It would have been something, anyway. Something would have been better than nothing.
I stop where we always stopped, looking out over the village. There are new homes now, people who don’t know who you were. What became of you. Only a faded footnote in the newspaper, page four and then forgotten, a face on microfilm.
But I remember. How could I forget?
I remember the first day we walked out here. Right under there, that rich oak clothed in a green finery of summer, we kissed for the first time. I was so nervous you said you felt my heart tripping away under my clothes like a trapped sparrow.
Spring came green and summer came greener, winter on bare winds and skeleton trees, all through the walk we loved. How beautiful autumn became when I saw it through your eyes, the trees set on fire and burning with the last embers of summer. The anonymous plants you named for me, the birds that seemed to wheel and spin above, just for us, just for us.
It’s gone now, the warmth of autumn. Just dying leaves and the cold kiss of winter await me at home. An empty table and a silent night. There’s no laughter anymore, no lovers touch after midnight. No joy to come home to. Only the empty seat beside mine. My laughter is that of a lunatic, condemned to an asylum of pain.
I close my eyes, and still see you beside me, walking. Feel the easy warmth of your hand in mine. I inhale the scent of your hair and the taste of your skin. But then I open my eyes and you vanish, only atoms in the universe.
I leave the flower where I left the others, cleaning out the dead petals to make a space. For a while, there were others left flowers here, flowers and cards I didn’t read. For a while, others shared this walk we loved, coming here to stand and mourn. For a while, they came. Then it became ours again…mine again, alone again.
This walk that we loved.
I was working my way through Suzanne Collins’ trilogy of The Hunger Games, and had just started number three, Mockingjay, when a sentence leaped out at me. I had to jump out of the story to bookmark it and then keep reading – the book was too good to put down – but I came back to it later that day…and this was the result.
There’s a footpath that my wife and I enjoy walking along at the back of my home in the village where we live, and I imagined walking it alone…not out of choice, but because I had no one to share it with any more.
Some walks you have to take alone. Oh, yeah, ain’t that the truth.