He had left the house a long time ago it seemed and travelled far to get to the end.
At the beginning he wasn’t sure that it was even a decision that he had made himself. But where there was once satisfaction and comfort in the old place there was now remorse and a lingering sourness that permeated the pores of his skin. It had started when he had found the letters. Promises of love and adulation to another. The replies were odes to joy and love and lust not born of falsehood but built upon the keen excitement and honesty of a soul naked to truth. It was this that had stripped him of all resolve and anger. It would have been easier if there had been devilment and derision in those notes. Angst and bitterness from her would have given him some succour, some reason to rile. But there was none of that and the realisation saw all the will slip from his body leaving him with a shell like impotence. When she returned to the house she knew straight away from his demeanour and she sat in the kitchen and cried, not tears of remorse but tears of pity for him.
He had left the house that moment, knowing that there would never be anything more to say between them for all their days.
So he walked for the longest time and when it became dark he stopped and rested by a tree stump until the full moon rose high enough to light the way again and he got up and carried on. The night air was warm that time of year and the heat of the day still radiated from the tarmac road. There was a pleasantness to feeling the night move around him, through the air, the sounds and the smell that was a different world from any that he had ever known and he followed that feeling on and on until dawn.
Those first days were a blur now and he couldn’t remember how or when he had ate or drank or where he slept and rested. Fields and lanes had become as one whole. He had lost weight and his feet blistered in his shoes, the skin on the back of his neck baked in the sun and grew hard. He had stopped at times but when the light of the moon had risen above the horizon again it had dragged him on further down the road.
One day many days later he reached the town of Portland and here he stopped and watched the town go about its business. Then eventually hungry and restless he found himself at the docks amongst the fishing boats and warehouses. Here he met a man named Cody and the next day he agreed to help the man fish. The boat trips started early and finished late, the work was hard, the conditions poor and the pay meagre, but he didn’t complain. After several days he bid goodbye to Cody who asked him to stay. He shook his head and waved goodbye and that night he saw that the slenderest crescent moon had returned. He went south.
Day followed day from one week into a new one and he carried on walking. Where he came across a town he would sometimes stop and find a little work if any was going. Just to buy food and water and when he needed it he had bought new jeans and shoes. Sometimes the work wasn’t so easy to come by and he carried on walking tired and hungry. His hair grew long, his body lean and hard. He shaved and washed when he could, knowing that people didn’t like straggly strangers asking for work. But he only stayed in one place long enough to get going again. Time past without meaning and eventually he realised that he had left Maine and sailed right through New Hampshire and into Massachusetts.
Sometimes people would stop and talk to him but never for long, in Connecticut he was mugged by a group of men in a station wagon. When they saw he had nothing to take, they spat on him, beat him to the ground and when done drove on in disgust. He bathed in a river and by the time he reached New York State all the bruises and pain had gone. It didn’t seem to matter at all. The road took care of all things.
New Jersey was hard. Winter had come and his time on the road seemed to stretch out ever onward without remorse. Finding work got harder, there were more people all looking for the same easy labour. The cold and rain and snow were constant companions through the long months and only the new moon could move him on any faster.
He spent new years eve by the Potomac in a brick barn watching the snow fall across the river and there he slept for two days straight.
The bleak winter gave way to spring and he found himself before the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. There he met Corrine. She was inquisitive and thoughtful and like him she didn’t speak much, she didn’t need to. She kept her eyes and a ball of blonde hair under a straw cowboy hat. She drove the biggest pickup truck that he had ever seen and when he looked at her she would smile at him with blush lips and he felt himself melt away. Together they drove across the high passes and through deep valley’s to where the wild things were and in the lakes they swam together naked and alive in the cooling clear waters. When they made love he could see so deeply into her eyes of the brightest blue and silver that he swore to the heavens that she was a spirit. Her body was pliant and giving and he gave everything that he could return, though he knew it wasn’t all of him. He had lost too much already to be whole of a soul again.
He drove with her to the coast at Norfolk to her home town and there he got a job working the hotels. She took him into her apartment and introduced him to her friends. In those days he had felt a new person emerging from within him, one that he had never felt could exist in all his life and for the few months of the summer that followed he was content and imbued with a new sense of being. She had an old record deck that took 45 and 78 Shellac’s and he bought vinyl albums from a specialist store. They would sit curled together fingers and toes and listen to Johnny Cash and Lou Donaldson singing from years long past as they felt the sea and sunset settle over them through the open French windows riding the salt air.
Towards the end of the summer he thought he saw the pale fingers of Autumn in tall clouds to the West. That evening he saw the moon rise again and realised that the shape of its crescent light had eluded him for many months. It stirred him and lifted the night around him once more, until he could feel all the things that he had left behind so very long ago in Maine once more. He picked up his old clothes and moved on.
Corrine caught up with him at the state line.
He couldn’t tell her why. She fought him for awhile and she knew that when she asked him why, his silence was answering a question from a different lover. Tears streaked her face. The sky above seemed so vast.
“I thought I’d found you.”
Later he couldn’t remember who had said that.
North Carolina rained on him for days. Warm sodden drops that landed like water from a faucet that didn’t cleanse him. He marched for days without rest that became weeks. When the weather broke the heat of the land was that of late summer, cloying, tenacious and humid. Canyonous walls of cloud would threaten great storms, but never break the sweating air and stifling nights. He realised that like in the north (months or was it years past?) he had travelled so very far and quickly without knowing.
South Carolina and here he felt a keening for the first time. A feeling of remorseless imperative. A sense of an ending that carried his senses into a withering apoplexy until at a crossroads somewhere deep in the land, his right foot struck out of its own accord, in a defining manner and he followed with his left to what he then knew to be the way.
The road ran out of tarmac at the end of an avenue of tall dark trees. All around were low fields of grass and trees that hid the land from the world for endless mile after mile. The trees were tired oak, old roots, thick branches dark and tall, spread wide across the road bent into a high brittle canopy that cast shadows down to dapple on cool ground. At the end was a low white painted house with slatted wooden walls under a ridged roof line of adobe tile. A house built by generations long past at the end of the only road that had ever been.
And there he found himself now.
He had left the house a long time ago it seemed and travelled far to get to the end. And this house was where he had been going all along. He didn’t need to think it. The last of the road undulated into earth beneath his feet and the house reached out to him, to carry him the last few yards.
There was a woman sat on a swing chair on the porch. She was reading and the chair rocked gently too and fro. He passed through the gate at the low picket fence knowing that he didn’t need to be invited and sat down next to her. She wore her strong dark hair tied behind her head, exposing the lean muscle and tendons of her dark neck. Her pale patterned dress started below her rounded hard ebony shoulders, cutting off the swell of her firm breasts with chiffon. She spoke without looking up from her book and the smile that played across her lips ran through the air to his.
“I’m glad you’re here.”
He broke down then and cried. Deep wracking sobs that scoured his soul of all the buried emotion, brought rushing to the surface in a voluminous flood. She caught him in her strong lithe arms and held him firm, until the pain had worked itself free.
“Why here?” he asked in shock.
Her response stifled him with knowing.
“How long were you together?”
He answered as best as he could remember, because he realised that he had never thought about it before, and in that was part of the answer for all that had happened.
“So long, for someone so young,” she said and he remembered the moment they had met at a juniors party. The image flashed across his mind a shocking pastel coloured relief from years long lost. The memory seared across his consciousness so fast and vivid that he thought he might touch her again if only he could be so swift. Would it change things if he could?
“Your pain,” she said and touched him feeling it.
“Is that why I’m here?”
She stood up and unclasped her dress letting it fall to her hips where it stayed caught below the curve of her slick stomach. His eyes raced away from her naked form and then back across her taught skin to her dark wide aureole. The heat of the day was like syrup in the air.
“I’m here for you now,” she breathed and reached out to cup his face in her supple hands.
When she kissed him it was all the secret wishes of childhood come true. Innocence and care and love and the other things that matter so very much. And he knew that all that he was, and all that he had been, had happened for this moment. He had found here with her, a purity of love beyond all knowing while the moon shone high and full above them.
“Come with me.”
She dug her hand in to his, nails biting his flesh insistent and in some distant and dead corner of his memory he saw a spinning playground roundabout and a child falling from a swing, dashing his face against the biting gravel that chewed up his skin and spat out blood. In that moment his feet stopped at the threshold but the rest of his willing body carried him over into the house.
Then he saw the blood. Every inch of her skin covered in it’s hot burnished stew, and her face turned bleak and griffin like. Deep dark crimson eyes like bottomless mine shafts burning into his soul, held a malevolence that ripped and tore every sane thought from his ruptured mind. He began a scream that would last for all eternity.
When she had finished with him, she lay his body down amongst the others. There were so many of them now and they were piled on top of each other silent markers of the passage of time. Some were as old as the house itself withered to dusty bone, crumbling beneath the weight of all those above, but the basement was large and deep and there was still room for more, so many more. She returned to the porch and waited. Knowing they would continue to come by the light of the moon. On and on, forever.
July 30, 2013