GHOST LETTER 43

Chris R-1-105 Image by Christine Renney

Can a ghost be used like this? Trapped in a maze, looked down upon from above, one of many, oblivious of the others, a specimen in a jar, a rat – no a mouse, turning the wheel? Constantly failing at reaching the cheese?

I am walking again. Not in order to reach somewhere – my objective is not to arrive. But I am not ready to abandon this place, not quite yet. I am walking in the way that I did when it began and I realise that this is how I have managed to remain out here, to stay gone.
I keep to the outer edges of the City and I have been here before, walking on the periphery, relentlessly pushing myself forward. But this time it feels different and it is. I am not slowly edging closer to the centre and readying to make my way down into the labyrinth.
I have a few belongings stuffed into an old rucksack, an anorak and a blanket, a scarf and gloves. I have money; some coins collected in one of those little plastic bags. And despite the fact that whilst in the City I couldn’t stop counting them, I am not sure how much or how many I have.
I feel as if I have completed the circle and I don’t know now where I can or should go next.

GHOST LETTER 28

chris-r-0556 Image by Christine Renney

I am walking away from the road at last. The footpath is leading me across a field and through waist high corn or is it wheat? Anyhow, it is a sea of something and in this dull light it isn’t golden but brown.
I resist the urge to stop and turn. I don’t want to know how far I have managed to stray from the road, and whether or not I can still make out the signpost at the edge of the path. Instead, I focus on the field, on the corn or the wheat or the barley or whatever it is. I am aggravated by the fact that I don’t know. It is a little thing and yet it feels important, something that not only I but everyone should know.
Reaching out I trail my hand through the crop as I walk. Just a few months ago I could have unearthed the answer, quickly and easily, the means to do so at no more than an arms length. Tapping a few keys I would have gathered up the information, conjured the facts and figures, photographs and statistics onto a screen.
Stopping I realise that I am delving into my empty pockets. First my jeans and now my coat. I am searching for my phone. It is futile, I know, a pointless act because I remember quite clearly destroying it, the pulling apart and rendering it useless. Yet I can’t stop myself from looking and, using the palms of my hands, I start to pat myself down.
In my confusion, I turn and in order to stop this, to still myself, I start to move again and I am walking back. Toward the road.

THE MURAL

Edward visited the supermarket at least two or three times a day and sometimes as often as five times. It was a habit he had acquired quite unintentionally and it had been gradual. But since losing his job he had started walking to the store on the other side of town. And frequently he found himself compelled to buy only what he needed or whatever it was he wanted at that particular moment in time. If this was an apple and a banana, he would just buy those, one of each and carry them home. And later, when he needed a drink and found himself wanting for a Coke or Fanta, then he would simply go back.
Edward had time on his hands and his days now lacked structure and form and walking to the supermarket was something at least.
In order to reach the store he was forced to make his way alongside a lengthy stretch of the busy dual-carriageway that divided the town. Edward followed the curb, barely raising his head until he had reached the underpass.
In the basin beneath the road the walls were covered in graffiti. The work of many hands, a mix of tags and styles. Some of it had been scrawled quickly and was crude and naïve. But most of it was intricate and carefully planned and was obviously the work of artists who had nurtured and honed their skills elsewhere. And now it was all connected, like a mural and for Edward the message was not I WOZ ‘ERE but WE ARE HERE. But it was fading and down there in the half light, unless you stopped and really looked, much of it was already lost.
Edward lingered scanning the walls, searching for something he might have missed or even something new. Evidence that one of the artists had returned and was still working on it, keeping it alive. But, always disappointed, he made his way up and back into the light.

The housing estate on the other side of the underpass was big. At first, to Edward, it had seemed impenetrable but somehow he had managed to find his way and after all the months of to-ing and fro-ing he, and it, were intimate. He knew every inch of it, every path and all the shortcuts.
Crossing the courtyards and the communal area (the places where people were supposed to gather) Edward was always surprised, even shocked, by how quiet it was. The estate had an air of abandonment, as if everyone had simply left, deserted their homes. On a whim perhaps, or in fear, like something that might happen in one of those old black and white science fiction films or an episode or the Twilight Zone.
Edward imagined that behind the doors and the windows of the houses and the flats the tables were set. The food laid out but uneaten and untouched. That televisions and radios were still playing but no-one was watching and no-one was listening. And if a telephone were to ring in one of the public call boxes only he would or could answer it. But then suddenly he would stumble upon a group of youngsters, hanging around on a corner, or a dog walker crossing his path, and Edward’s daydreams would be interrupted.
Edward visited the supermarket at least five or six times a day and sometimes as often as eight times. He stalked the aisles and scoured the shelves. He didn’t carry a list and was determined not to have any pre-conceived ideas about what he might buy. But this proved difficult, impossible in fact. If, for instance, Edward needed to wash his clothes and discovered he didn’t have washing powder then of course this item was lodged in his head. And so to suggest that no pre-planning was involved would be misleading.
How could he not notice when the soap was nearly done or if the coffee jar was almost empty, likewise, the sugar bowl and the salt and the pepper and the milk. But Edward searched for the smallest available items, whether it be can or carton, box or bottle. He ignored the special offers, the ‘buy one get one FREE’ and the ‘buy one get one HALF-PRICE’ deals. He sought out the single sachets and the tiniest tins and, if he could, Edward would have reduced it even more. A spoonful of coffee and a splash of milk and a cup of water.

And not just the shopping but everything, all of it, just one tiny little step and then another but only as and when he needed to take it, as and when he wanted it.

Sign of the Times- Illustration by Christine Renney

 

GHOST LETTER 21

Sign of the Times-0397

Image by Christine Renney

I am walking alongside the busy road, on the grass verge. The dirt has hardened and is uneven and I stumble and trip but somehow I manage to stay upright and keep going.
I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up but for now it is enough, this compulsion, this sudden urgency to walk on the verge, a surface rutted and lumpen, rocking me this way and that. But somehow, lunging forward, I am making my way and for now, yes, it is enough.
Cars flash past on my right but they don’t slow down and I am grateful. Thankful that I don’t have to fend off their questions and the offers of help. But I do think it is odd I haven’t walked very far from my car and the drivers must of course connect me with it and yet the cars still speed on past.
Perhaps I have become invisible and they don’t see me but I doubt it. Head down in my suit and tie I am of course all too visible. A man running from somewhere, escaping from something. And even if one of the drivers were to pull over, lean from his window and ask the right questions, I wouldn’t have the answers.
I am making for the city but I don’t know what I’ll do when I reach it, and suddenly, I don’t want to follow this road. I feel, desperately, that I need to distance myself from it and the abandoned car. I now feel that my every footstep is being monitored.
I want – no, need – to make my way by a less direct route. To leave behind me a crazy but invisible pattern, a much, much more complicated trail.
And veering to my left I stumble from the verge and move out onto the field, away from the lights and away from the road.

The ground under my feet now is soft and springy and after walking on the verge it feels good. But I begin to sink in the ploughed earth and with every step I take I sink a little more. My shoes are muddy and heavy and I can hardly lift my feet.
I stumble down onto my knees, again and again. I haven’t moved very far from the road and I can hear it behind me, that roar and then it takes a breath.
I gaze out across the field searching for its edge, for the path that runs alongside it, but I can’t find it. All I can see in the failing light is the furrowed earth and the night sky above. And I haven’t any choice but to turn and make my way back.

GHOST LETTER 20

Sign of the Times-1100 Image by Christine Renney

I ease my foot off the accelerator and begin to slow down. The driver behind sounds his horn and I watch in the mirror as, gesticulating wildly, he pulls back. But locking his headlights onto high beam he edges closer and closer still until I can’t see. Squinting I lean close to the screen and I focus on a spot of light, the size and shape of a rugby ball that somehow, despite the glare, is managing to find its way and I follow.
I suspect that the road ahead is clear and he could easily pass, let me be, leave me to draw to a stop and abandon the car which, I suddenly realise, is what I intend to do but I don’t want him watching.
Slowly, ever so, ever so slowly, I come to a halt and still blinded I turn and peer through the rear screen. I suppose he can see me, my silhouette at least. I must be clearly defined in the bright and harsh blaze, like a convict exposed whilst attempting to escape, caught in that half crouch, uncertain as to whether he should still try for the wall or make his way back toward the cell block.
I shuffle around again and now all he can see is the back of the seat and the top of my head. I sit still, determined not to move, at least not before he does.

GHOST LETTER 19

Sign of the Times-1110748 Image by Christine Renney

I follow the other travellers across the car park and toward the rest area. They reach the doors and they push their way through. But I stop and hover in front of the entrance, where people step around me, hardly noticing I am there they are so intent on getting inside.
I move close to the plate glass and peer in at them under the bright lights and although what they can do in there is limited, so very, very limited, they falter. It is fleeting but they are disoriented and unsure, if only for a few seconds and then they are able to re-focus and move again. It is a glitch and I realise that this is how I feel, that I am unsure, but for me it isn’t a glitch.
I step away from the entrance and begin to pace in front of the windows. Intermittently I raise my head and gaze into the cafeteria but I am unable to concentrate and I don’t really see them, they are just a blur.

GHOST LETTER 15

Sign of the Times-200
I am about to settle in yet another doorway, to turn and sit and watch the passers-by. But I hesitate. Others have lingered here. There are empty beer cans at my feet and fast-food wrappers and there is writing on the doors. Somebody has set to work with a black marker, covering them from top to bottom. But I can’t read this text, not from where I am standing. I edge closer and find that it is the work of not one but of many hands. A collection of missives and declarations and these have been added to and added to until lost. Engulfed by this dense and unfathomable block of words, of letters, I move closer still. I want to know what it is and what it was.