Reflection in a Window

...there is time for happiness, without forgetting.

I managed to get home tonight before the rain. I've been listening to it falling on my roof all evening - sometimes the headlights of a car go past, throwing a pale kaleidoscope across the wall. I've been listening to the rain, though it tells me nothing. It seems that I've run out of years. There doesn't seem much point in replacing the wallpaper now, or seeing to all the weeds in the garden. And my butterflies, so carefully looked after for so many years - Heaven knows what will happen to them. I hope they don't just get thrown away... Well, I suppose it wouldn't matter. I'll have to decide how to tell everybody. Perhaps I'll put off telling some people for as long as I can - the the fewer tears the better. Then I must put my affairs in order. But first I will write a few last things.

My beautiful Genevieve passed away nineteen years ago. Our wedding anniversary is coming up next month, and I would like to visit the place where I proposed to her. I think there will be enough time.

Whenever I think about the travelling I did after she died, the things I saw, the sight of a new castle or cathedral, a beautiful bridge or river, faces and stories, every memory has a feeling of adventure, but also grief. I still remember, not long after I began to travel, being told that we never get over the loss, only learn ways to live with it. I think that was true, for a long time. Although grief might be delayed, it cannot be escaped. But there was time for happiness, without forgetting.

When I'm gone I will be mourned by some, then sooner or later I'll be forgotten - but while I'm still here it is enough for me that I was happy, and remember, and be grateful. I hold on to the memories of what she looked like, the things she said, even the way she walked. Some things aren't hard to remember... but other things I desperately hold on to, not knowing if, after nineteen years, I really remember properly - the way she would turn towards me as we walked, to say something in her quiet way, the way we could talk all day and still not be tired of talking. She would always point out the short-sightedness of my opinions, without making me feel stupid. But I can't remember an example of it. At other times we would find ourselves in a comfortable quietness, alone yet still together... And on rare occasions, when I would least expect it, she would make a funny face at me. It always made me laugh. Did we ever argue? I honestly can't remember. I suppose we must have done. What unnatural creatures we would have been if we'd smiled our way through our entire lives!

She loved to sing - her voice had a gentle, ethereal quality which always captivated me. Perhaps I was biased. She had joined a choral society, and every rehearsal she wore a mustard coloured beret, as if it were a symbol of her happiness - for a while her friends called her 'Beret Girl'. At Christmas she would organise a little group to sing carols in the streets of Madingley - it was part of everything we did at that time of year, along with the gifts and the Christmas Tree. We had a glass finial to decorate the top of our tree... One Christmas when we were young, as she placed it at the top of the tree, she said to me,

"Well... The year is almost over."

How do such moments become enshrined in memory? What had I replied? It became something she said every Christmas as she finished the tree, our own little tradition, and as we grew older it would remind us that each Christmas seemed sooner than the one before. But when we knew it would be her last Christmas, and in those last months, when we had time to say goodbye to each other, did I do everything I could, did I say everything? She was frightened, we both were. There are things, even after all these years, which hurt too much to think about. But after she was gone, Christmas was only about memories... I thought about her, and I tried not to think about each year being over. The beret, the tree decorations, the carol music and all the things she loved are stored in the attic, although by now most of it must be eaten by the mice. After she died I could never bring myself to look at them.

I remember once, before we were married, seeing her from a distance, after she got off a cab. She didn't know I could see her. She walked along, and suddenly skipped once, then kept walking. I never asked her why. But I think that was when I decided to ask her to marry me.

Somebody must have helped me to buy the ring, but I can't remember who. Then, in September of 1887, we travelled to Somerset together. It was there, in Glastonbury, in a little inn, that I proposed to her.

And we grew old together.

Not long after she died, I saw her reflection in the window pane of a shop. She seemed to smile at me. Then I turned to try to see her, but of course she wasn't there. For a while I kept searching in reflections, as if she still lived there - shops, windows, water... I still do, sometimes.

I will try to visit. I'm sure they'll help me. I think there will be enough time.

 

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September, 2013

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