Ghosts here, welcome apparitions, playing in Summer dusk. Light like I haven't seen since they were born; dense, syrupy, gold and auburn and scarlet. The first whisper of night's chill on the air, cooling the kiln-day.
Sweat and sweet grass, old wood and the peaty ripeness of compost. Flower plots dripping with jewels after a brief shower, three minutes worth of rain so violent, I was afraid it might hammer through the ceiling, drown us all where we sat.
Out here, away from TV and sofas, from carpets and comfort. Out here, away from familiar faces, finding those I've forgotten:
Spectral children, dancing and darting through the bushes, rolling across the grass, shrieking at one another as they hang from yellow-leaved willow branches.
Hearing her, in my thoughts: the woman shrieking, barking at us from the kitchen window: “Keep it down! The neighbours don't want to hear your bloody noise!” “Get down from the damn tree. I'm not gonna drive you to hospital if you break your damn necks!”
An unfair potrait, perhaps, but the most enduring: the woman red, swollen and bellowing, the way her jowls flushed and quivered, the way her eyes seemed to shrink, burning in their pits.
Not afraid of her; not after a time. Realising early that her bluster was exactly that: just noise, empty threats, no more consequential than the wheezing of a punctured balloon.
“Such a little shit...”
Not at the beginning, not here: this ghost, this boy, with his azure eyes and white-blonde hair, his striped “pirate's” shirt, his ragged denim jeans.
Laughing, crying in the dirt, quivering at the sight of splinters in his fingers, of grazed knees, of cut shins. Laughing at those that suffered likewise, who wept in his place.
Closing my eyes, inhaling: the perfume of dead Summers, this...nothing in comparison; echo of an echo, copy of a copy, bled of colour and texture and meaning 'til it might as well be translucent, a sketch scratched on clear acetate.
But where the ghosts play...
So dense, so sensory, so real. I can be there, with them; see and feel as they see and feel: what it is to be weightless, fearless; to tumble and roll in filth, to bruise and swell and cut and not care, after the initial tears; to climb trees and have no notion of falling,breaking arms or legs or fracturing skulls.
Happy idiots, blissful animals, one and all. Dead as the Summers I remember, now. Dead as the one I walk. This garden...a cemetery, as I am: one I should have left behind, stopped mourning at, years ago.
Still here, the man who maintained it; who watered the plants, who trimmed the bushes, who clipped back the coniffers, when they grew too rampant: a thinner ghost, one not so in love with the light and colour; a stretched and weary thing, slumping where the children run and gambol, frowning and fretting where they laugh. Muttering to himself, as he casts rainbows across the flower plots, sad-eyed, frowning; a face about to slough from the bone beneath, leaving him with a smile he can't deny.
So like him, despite myself; seeing him and more and more with every passing day. Some possessing ghost, some hideous, hereditary virus: always assuming I'd be more like my Mother, resembling her side of the family throughout childhood, adolescence, my university years.
Now? The mirror a tragedian, telling me stories sorry enough to make me weep; the same mask, growing slacker and looser with every day, waiting for the moment it will tear and peel, leaving my despair naked.
They don't know. How can they?; They don't know me, any more than I knew him. A stranger to them, as they sit and slump on their beds, in front of their computers, over their phones and tablets. Hardly speaking to me, with such contempt, on the rare occassions they do. What am I to them?; Some stranger in the house; some befuddling, confusing intruder. I see it in their eyes, every time they turn my way: that worm of disgust, a reflection of what they see: a lost, weary, pointless thing, awaiting a time it no longer has to sustain eating shit.
Not here. Here, I belong again; here, I am welcome, where the world melts, were cemeteries meet sunlight, and memory bleeds into waking.
Calling me, inviting me to play. So many ghosts; not just children, but more ragged species: lightning-eyed, wild-haired; the older tribes, as feral as their appearance suggests, coming here as I do; to mourn the escalating decay of childhood, to gnaw over the betrayals and disappointments of the world, unasked metamorphoses of mind and body.
Knowing him, this feline-faced, emerald-eyed youth, with his predator's smile, his wiry, reptilian frame. Knowing him, in all of his secret bitterness, his sly contempt: the cruel fantasies he basks in: of those who disappoint him combusting, skinning themselves before his eyes; of daily apocalypses: tsunamis of blood, rains of liquid fire, undoing the systems and routines that abuse and bludgeon and beat him more and more every day, not knowing how long he'll survive.
So sad, not like the children; not running or laughing, but swapping conspiracies and secret cigarettes with another; oaths of suicide, before they reach twenty, when they know life will be over for them; stories of how they'll do it, what the world will think when they're found: that maybe they'll become martyrs to their generation, inspire similar self-murders.
If only, if only they had the courage of it! The disgust in their eyes, as they find me; wordless refutations, as though I'm a spectre of sickness, stinking and fly-blown, that they can't bear to be near.
Driving me back, away from children, away from ghosts; away from the point where we might play together. I can't...not like this. I can't let them see, be with them. Maybe, if that boy had been braver; if he'd not been so timid, allowed a little pain, a little blood, I could be there, another ghost in the molten sunlight.
But no...chill deepening, light bleeding away as the sun melts. Stars already in the sky, the spectre of a cruel moon.
Wandering back, almost weeping, to that place where I'm a phantom, and all mourn my lack of passing.
George Lea is an entity that seems to simultaneously exist and not exist at various points and states in time and reality, mostly where there are vast quantities of cake to be had. He has a lot of books. And a cat named Rufus. What she makes of all this is anyone's guess.