Sunday, May 01, 2011

The ghost in the rain

It's been raining since morning and the wind has been driving drops like shotgun pellets against the windows of my room for hours. Outside, the gutters are choked with crabapple petals, and here and there clusters of maple leaves have blown down as well, as if autumn had arrived before its time, but night still hasn't fallen, even at this hour, and the trees that line both sides of the street show the pallor of new growth. I'll stay inside now until the storm is over; I've had my dinner and I've nowhere to go. I may have another inch or two of wine before I retire.

I saw him again today. He was standing in an alley, a few yards back from the sidewalk, in among the empty crates and windblown trash. He tucked himself into the shadow of the adjacent building just as I approached, but it was too late. When our eyes met he averted his gaze at once, but as I stood there watching him he lifted his face again after a moment and under the brim of his soaked fedora I could make out his features, the same dismal eyes, the soft nose that could almost have been a woman's, the small, frightened, half-opened mouth. I chose not to intrude any longer. Already I could feel the pain he felt at my discovering him again, though I have never pursued him or presumed on his sorrows more than I could help. I went on my way. I didn't need to look back to know that already he would no longer be there, that he would have shuffled off to some other forsaken corner, away from the crowds and the lights and the din. By now we both know that he can't escape me, any more than either of us can ever leave this city. Weeks will pass and I won't see him; he will trace his silent and mysterious routes through the streets and back passages, unseen, as I trace mine, and day after day our paths won't intersect, but sooner or later, just at the hour when the city is at its most forlorn, in the shadows of the giant beech trees of the park or down in the deserted cobblestone lanes by the docks, just when I think I've forgotten him at last, I will sense him even before he appears, and then I'll see him, he'll be there once again, my curse as I am his.


zoe said...

beautiful writing!

Chris said...

Thanks, Zoe.