‘So, this is the freedom you were talking about. It stinks.’
I nodded. ‘But we can still be friends.’
‘Friends?’ she spluttered. ‘Friends?’
And that took me back to our first meeting: a time of lupins and foxgloves, herb hedges and midsummer loveliness. Imagination bringing together those who should always remain apart.
She shook her head wildly, just as she had done that day.
She, a woman on a bench, fighting her demons in solitary and stony silence.
And me, a man of whom all would say ‘Mickey has the mind of a boy’.
A deer suspended in tree’s branches.
A stone wall gushing water.
A corpse-eating heron.
A dreamer of dreams.
I first sat beside the woman two months ago. I was crunching Hob Nobs. They tasted of towels.
‘Hello, I’m Mickey,’ I’d said. She’d looked up at my voice and started a bit.
‘Raccoon face,’ she’d said, in explanation.
‘Oh yes, I was partying last night. It’s just a bit of eyeliner.’
‘But you’re a boy.’ She turned her back on me and both of us watched a dog and owner walk past.
‘I wonder what the dog’s thinking of,’ I’d said. ‘The smell of her owner’s shin? Copy cats? Odd noises in the dark?’ I wanted response. An icebreaker. An embracing of our differences.
But ‘Where its next meal is coming from,’ was all the woman had said.
‘Maybe. Maybe,’ I’d agreed.
‘What’s your name?’ I’d tried again.
‘But your hair is so short.’
‘Yes,’ she’d agreed, face crinkling. Was it crinkling in confusion? Revlusion? Sunlight?
But that was when I’d realised why we were there.
She had lost her strength. I, my sanity. So back then in a summer of dreams without darkness, both of us had lost our way.
Back in the moment, Polly Samson spluttered again.
‘Friends,’ she muttered.
‘Yes, friends. I helped you, remember?’
She did remember. I know she did. How could she not. Our togetherness had led to murder and to the dumbing down of this life of mine. And now, it’s volatile (our separation) but not as fiery as when my idignation at this worse of crimes erupts. Collation. Major distillation. Imagination.
‘What are you talking about?’ Polly Samson spat.
I’d been thinking out loud again. No wonder she was always angry.
‘Nothing… Nobody can tie us to the crime, Polly Samson,’ I said. ‘Nobody knows we were there.’
‘I know we were there. You know and I know.’
I nodded at her wisdom. Polly Samson was a good lady who had a bad life.
‘You know and I know,’ I echoed. ‘It’s like turmoil and water, you got yours and I got mine.’
She scowled at me, her face expanding and shrinking. No flimsy excuses. No silly bid ticket.
‘Nothing,’ I said.
‘I wish I’d never met you,’ said Polly Samson. ‘I wish I’d never seen your fuzzy raccoon face.’
I sighed. It was that time again.
‘Go away,’ Polly Samson said. ‘I need space’.
‘No excuses, Francis,’ I said.
‘What?’ Again, the face crinkle. Then, ‘Oh, shut up, and just go away, you crazy boy. You utterly crazy boy.’
So I got up from the bench and wiped down the biscuit crumbs from my lap.
‘Bye Bye, Polly Samson,’ I said.
Sad to go, but glad to move towards my next friend, I walked thirteen paces to the next bench, and sat.
‘Hello,’ I said, to the large and eruptively foul-smelling man. ‘I’m Mickey. What’s your name?’