It has been a long time since she had felt so bereft and alone. The music trickling from beyond the doorway did nothing to lift her from her cloud of doom. There were the sounds of laughter, of people chatting, the clinking of glass, and the swell of anticipation and excitement. It was a festival. She did not know why she had come, dressed up in this ridiculously extravagant creation, frothing over in silk roses and wisps of lace, only to sit here in the darkness, feeling alone, so very alone. Was there a chill or is it only herself? There was so much coldness within her, an absolute abyss of emptiness just waiting for her to take that small step and then swallow her up. Why couldn’t she just let go and fall in? It would be so easy and so free, just to lose herself to the vulture waiting below and to feel the absolute relief as the cessation of feelings comes. She should know, for had she not surrendered to it many times before? Why not tonight? But that was the problem. She had walked in, wallowed in that insensible state and how she longed for it again, that pleasure of feeling absolutely nothing! But soon the feelings return and you find yourself lying on the cold hard ground, desperately needing to move but your muscles stiff, and with the sharp stab of a rock at your side and experiencing the painfulest of discomforts. And then to crawl out of that lowest state will always require much, much more than you have to give, forcing you to crawl and beg. A state of utter disgrace, shame. It simply takes too much. But neither can you stay there and linger for the brief numbness had worn off and your need to escape is greater that if a thousand needles were ever so gently prickling your flesh.
A hand was upon her shoulders, gently shaking. "Miss. Miss, Are you all right?" Bewildered, she looked up. There was a figure in grey behind her. Tom? No, the features focused in her head. It was not he. Disappointed, she somehow managed to nod her head and murmur a soft "Yes, of course. Thank you." A meaningless reply. But he seemed to find something deeper in it, some hint of encouragement. Pulling out a chair beside her, he asked "May I?" Polite. How could she say no? So he sat and poured out the champagne. She couldn’t bear to touch it before, but now she accepted. He was nice and courteous. Charming, really. She tried to respond in kind, to flirt back. What else was there? But it was impossible. Slowly he started to draw back. Even the best of rogues needs some encouragement.
"Well, there is a lovely spot just down the stairs. If you ever change your mind." He said by way of leave-taking and picked up his grey jacket and left. No he definitely was not Tom. Tom would never be so blatant. He was much more subtle. How long has it been? It seemed like an eternity since the accident, since the news came. An eternity of learning to smother her feelings, of dampening the pain, the loneliness. Of not living. Why shouldn’t she live? When was the last time she actively did something. She can’t remember. It was all too murky, mixed. Why shouldn’t she at least try to live? Why can’t she? Maybe she will go down. Why not?
She picked herself up, holding the glass still within her hand, and walked away. Out she walked into the encroaching darkness, unaware and uncaring where she walked. There was a strange numbness in her limbs and the swish and swirl of her gown lightly caressed her legs. There was a fluttering within her heart, the frantic beatings of dove wings against its cage. Her breath quickened and shallowed as she drunk in the night air a sip at a time. She reveled and rejoiced in that slow heightening of her senses, picking up the curl of a leaf in the wind, scenting the faint wisp of fine spring rain, feeling her skin tingle and with eyes penetrating, opening the colors of the darkness before her. It was good to feel the living fire of excitement building up again, that overwhelming awareness of something, something just beyond the next moment.
Slowly, painstakingly she made her way down the escalator, through the dark corridors. Where was she? There was a light just ahead. Aha! Quickly she picked up her skirts and hurried toward it. The glass was still clutched painfully in her hand. And the white silk trailed behind, silently, as she ran toward the light. It was a train station. What was a train station doing here? There were people waiting for the train inside. Curious, she placed her hands upon the cold, glass panes and peered in. From far away she could hear the loud whistle of a train and then the accompanying clankety clank. People started to rise out of their seats, picking up various objects, a coat, a scarf, a crying baby, a briefcase. They were all leaving.
Suddenly she saw, amid all the commotion, the colorful crowd, a somber figure in gray. With the grey bowler slightly askew, the body leaning slightly to the left, his profile clean and familiar, beloved. Her eyes opened wide. Could it be? The goblet dropped from her hand, spilling champagne all over before crashing to the dark ground. Shattering, unnoticed. Her attention was riveted to the man. Her hands were uplifted, pounding upon the glass windows. Her mouth was open, deep desperate cries emerging, pouring out. But he does not hear. He does not turn. The train is here. Solemnly, he enters the train, handing over his ticket. And then he was gone, vanished into the belly of the long beast, surrounded with its stoic steel, impassively mocking her. Heartbroken, wretched, she collapsed upon the cold floor. Senseless sobs wracked her body, tears spilled over, mixing with drying champagne amid the white silk of her gown. All was gone.
A Day Remembered
The Meeting of the
A Ghost Outside