GHOST LETTER 35

Chris R-0593-2 Image by Christine Renney

I have money now, just a few coins, and gripping them tightly, I delve deep into the lining of my coat as I walk. I work a coin between my thumb and forefinger. I take them out and move them from hand to hand. I thrust the coins deep into the pocket of my jeans only to take them out again and again. I can’t stop doing this, looking at them, checking.
I drop one of the coins and it rolls out into the road. I run after it, suddenly worried that someone will take it. I stamp down on it with my boot and, crouching down at the kerbside, I quickly snatch it back. I have wandered away from the centre and there is no-one around.
Rising I place the coin with the others in my pocket. I have an odd feeling inside. It is something like purpose and yet I haven’t any idea what it is I intend to do.
I reach a parade of shops and, stopping in front of the plate glass windows of the off-licence, I peer in at the bottles, at the wine and the spirits. I don’t have enough but then I see cans of lager in the cooler at the back of the shop.
Although I am still unsure that this is what I want or what I need, I am already pushing through the doors and I know how it works; I spend what I have and then I get more.

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GHOST LETTER 33

Chris R-0314-2 Image by Christine Renney

I try to convince myself it is sudden, this want, this need. It has been growing inside of me, unbidden, a well without water.
How can I talk again after so long? Each time it surfaces I suppress it and resist. I could so easily run, abandon the City, and make again for the road, find that other place, the one in between here and there, where I could stand off to one side and, unheard, shout at the sky and down into the earth.
I look up, not because I must, or because I might stumble or have gotten too close to the edge and could fall into the abyss, I look up to see what is happening right here and now. But it is too bright and, squinting into the harsh light, I am hardly able to see. Everyone is moving so quickly and everything is blurred. At last someone slows a little and I focus on him.
I watch him moving in closer and he bends and drops a handful of coins onto the pavement in front of where I am sitting.
‘Thank you,‘ I say, staring down at them but when I raise my head he is gone.

GHOST LETTER 32

Chris R-0355-2 Image by Christine Renney

I know this place. I have been here before. Is it possible I have been heading for this particular city all along? That the idea of the road as endless was merely a conceit and no matter how often I have stopped and turned myself around, that the walking in circles was, in effect, little more than an effort to prolong it. To put off the inevitable. And no matter how protracted and arduous the journey, my intention had always been to come here, to this city that has been forgotten. A place most people pass on their way to somewhere else, that they circumnavigate. And here I am – at the edges, stepping out a boundary, desperately trying to make it real and still prolonging it.
Looking up I see I am walking along a street of terraced houses. I look back toward the city but the only view I have from here is of the roofs of the derelict factories. There is a bicycle leaning against the wall to my left. In the garden beyond it I see an inflatable paddling pool filled with rusty rain water.
Somehow I have stumbled and strayed to here, to ‘somewhere’ and although the street is deserted and quiet everything now feels weighted with possibility and I begin to panic.
I can hear a crowd in the distance, but the jeering and cheering is safely contained elsewhere. And I am reassured by this, by the fact that for the duration of the game at least I am alone out here. Convinced all the houses are empty I push on and I am getting closer, making my way toward it.

GHOST LETTER 31

chris-r-1110752-2 Image by Christine Renney

The cars are predictable. They crawl through the narrow and crowded streets at a snail’s pace. Searching for parking spaces. As soon as one moves away from the kerb, another is readying to take its place. This battle is almost constant. It is an elaborate board game, play pausing just briefly in the early hours of the morning when a stalemate of sorts is achieved and all of the vehicles are locked in tight and there are no spaces on the grid, on the streets and for a brief spell, at least none of them will move.
I keep walking and I am reassured by the line of cars jammed along the pavements. Occasionally I come across a space and if it is big enough to take a car I feel anxious. I am even unnerved but of course it won’t be long before the players return and the game commences.
I observe the drivers as I walk. They are all so desperately focussed that they hardly notice me. They are usually alone but if there are passengers they are just as centred, just as determined and desperate to find a space.
I am passing alongside a pale blue estate car. In the wintry light it is the colour of cement. The windshield and windows are tinted and I can’t see in. I feel a little uneasy about this but I can see quite clearly that there is a place just up ahead. It will be tight but I am sure that this driver, like all the others, is skillful enough. That he will be able to manoeuvre his vehicle quite easily into position. But he doesn’t.
Perplexed, I step down from the kerb and out into the road. Standing in the middle of the parking space I look back and there are no cars coming. It isn’t too late, he can still back-up but he doesn’t.
At the crossroads he turns right toward the City Centre. I cross at the junction and I stop and I stand and I wait. I expect that here, where the road is wider and there are no cars parked on either side, that he will turn himself around and begin to make his way back. But he doesn’t and brake lights ablaze he carries on, albeit awkwardly, down the hill.
When I start to follow he speeds up a little. I am running now and at the end of the road he turns left, onto the ring road and he is gone, leaving me stranded here at the edge.

GHOST LETTER 30

chris-r-0460 Image by Christine Renney

Since abandoning the road I have become more and more pre-occupied with time. The idea that I might, that I will, that I do stop, is constantly lodged in my head as I walk.
I feel now that I was pushing against the road, that the traffic, all the cars and the trucks, were going in one direction and I in another. How did I manage to keep going for so long, without sitting or laying down, without stopping. I must, at least, have closed my eyes as I walked for longer than was safe.

GHOST LETTER 29

chris-r-1478-2 Image by Mark Renney

This street is steep, steeper than the others. I am climbing it and making my way toward somewhere or something. Suddenly it stops and I am at the top.
Wasteland stretches in front of me. It is rubble strewn and, looking down, I see that the earth at my feet is parched and cracked. I move away from the edge and the last of the houses look as though they have been sliced through with a giant cleaver.
Stepping out into the open I wonder what it was that once stood here. More of the same? Yet another street, terraced houses on either side and cars jammed tightly alongside the pavements?
But I now see that the foundations here are for something bigger and I am walking across a vast factory floor. The concrete is still stained with oil and, crouching, I inspect one of these dark pools. I touch it, my hand coming away, the fingers smeared with grit and grease.
Pushing myself up I am standing in the middle, but from up here I can see the other factories in the distance, those that are still standing in varying states of dis-repair with tracts of land, the spaces in-between the places like this.

GHOST LETTER 24

Chris R-0828

The litter strewn here has faded. I kick through it, the sweet wrappers and crushed cans. At the end of the street the trash has gathered in the entrance way to an abandoned shop. I step under the glass canopy and, crouching down, I start to sift through it.
I pick at the paper and cardboard, old crisp bags and cigarette packets and lots of little shiny sheaves that once contained chocolate bars. I recognise the names on the wrappers of course, although they haven’t been on my radar in a while. But now I remember all sorts of sweets, things I had forgotten; mints and chews and sugary pills.
Moving in a half crouch, I search through the rubbish at my feet for the packaging from these remembered confections and miraculously some of them are here.
I kick aside a newspaper and unearth a tiny cardboard tube. I pick it up. I had forgotten these particular sweets but now I remember. I peer into the cylinder but of course it is empty. I press it against my nose and inhale and I am almost sure I can smell them, that something remains, a residue. I poke my tongue to taste but I still can’t be certain.
If I can find the lid I can make use of this cylinder – stuff it with tobacco. And I begin to search for the little plastic stopper but it isn’t here.

Image by Christine Renney