GHOST LETTER 54

Chris R-1-4 Image by Christine Renney

It was just beginning to get light when I set out from the City and now it is almost dark. I have walked right through the daylight hours, from dawn to dusk.
The road on my right as I walked was blurred and noisy, like an out of tune radio or an old analogue TV but with no aerial connected, pointlessly searching for a station. But I didn’t look. Scanning the ground in front of my feet I hardly raised my eyes and was barely aware of what was up ahead, simply accepting that it was more of the same. Occasionally though I did stop and, turning from the road, I stared out over the fields, only for a few seconds but it was enough and somehow, almost subconsciously, it feels I have made my way to here.
I am standing on a high bank. I look down at the road and it is big and wide, a motorway. I recognise the names on the signs and I remember visiting some of these cities and I realise then that I must have driven on this road and on others like it.
Suddenly I discover that I want to go back, to re-visit one of these cities and, starting to move again, I choose one at random. There is a spot up ahead where the bank isn’t quite so steep and I will be able to make my way down.
But I realise just as suddenly I won’t be able to follow this road, that I can’t walk alongside it. No, I have to stay up here and I must find another way.

GHOST LETTER 53

Chris R-1-92 Image by Christine Renney

I have managed to abandon the City yet again but there it is; the point that rankles, a sharp needle stuck in my side as I walk, the fact that I have done this before, that I am doing it again.
I rarely think about my former existence, but I remember now how my past life had also been filled with repetition. But the rituals then had been more intimate and my connection with the places I frequented much more deeply ingrained and that these places had been rife with memories.
I wonder, is this what I am running from, am I trying to forget, to not feel this deeper connection. Drawing to a halt, I turn away from the busy road and, gazing out across the open fields, I realise that, if so, then I have failed.

GHOST LETTER 51

Chris R-1-178 Image by Christine Renney

There is a window in the early hours when the bus station is deserted. The rush hour crowd is long gone and it is a chance for the others, for those who don’t leave, to step in from out of the rain and take shelter. It is our turn to wait.
I walk across the forecourt and the turning area directly in front of the station. The lights have dropped to an energy saving low level but I spot the young man instantly. He is standing beside a plate glass screen and beneath one of the ‘Stop’ signs. He shouldn’t be here in his smart suit and shiny black shoes. The first buses won’t arrive for at least four or five hours and he is either incredibly late or extremely early.
The man is jittery and anxious and he stares intently at the timetable attached to the pole. He should move into the waiting area and join the others slumped on the benches and huddled in the corners with their blankets and their dogs and their cans of Special Brew but of course he doesn’t.
I understand it, I feel his fear, it rises in me unbidden, something out of the past that has been buried down deep. It is only a memory but I can taste it again and I want to spit it out and tell the man to fuck off.
He raises his head and just fleetingly our eyes meet and he flinches. I push past him and join the others, letting him be.

GHOST LETTER 50

Chris R-1-175 Image by Mark Renney

The bus station has become the focus of my latest route. This place, where people congregate and prepare to leave and where they arrive, is now the centre of the trail I have forged here in the City.
I have tried not to stray too far from the station but this has proved difficult. I need thrust and momentum and my route must allow for this. It has to be big enough and wide enough and grand enough so that I can keep moving and push myself forward. But wherever I am in the City I am aware of the quickest and most direct way back to the bus terminal. I am always ready in case of an emergency but what that emergency might be I have no idea. But it feels good to have somewhere to head toward and I have tried and tested all of these tributaries, all of the shortcuts.

It is cold and wet tonight. I may perhaps linger a little and wait out the storm, but as I make my way through the terminal I realise that, yet again, I am pushing against the tide of travellers. They don’t see me and, cocooned in their heavy winter coats, heads down and hunched over their phones, they are hardly aware of each other.
Once clear I glance back but only fleetingly and there they are huddled beneath the inadequate plexiglass and I don’t stop. No, I keep going.

GHOST LETTER 49

Chris R-1-134 Image by Christine Renney

I have stumbled away from the periphery, from the path I have forged by sheer persistence, by relentlessly walking. I look down at my feet and scan the ground in front of me. I am moving into the open and I have ventured out here before, onto these tracts of wasteland where something once stood. Houses, perhaps, or factories now demolished and all of the traces removed. Cement and brick dust have leached into the earth and the short and scruffy grass has a reddish tint.
I look up and in the bright sunlight I can barely see. I stumble again and, struggling to regain my composure, to get my bearings, I realise I am not invisible, at least not yet.

GHOST LETTER 48

Chris R-1-161 Image by Christine Renney

I have tried for so long to go unnoticed, to be unseen but I realise now that I haven’t wandered so very far from where people congregate.
I maintain a distance, yes, looking in from the outer edges as it were. But I haven’t turned my back and run away, although I could so easily do this and yet I remain here on the periphery. And there it is again, that word: PERIPHERY. It plays in my head, dominating my thoughts, a mantra – periphery, periphery – as I walk. But of course, a periphery, even one I have conjured myself must have a place, a somewhere that I can circle.

GHOST LETTER 47

Chris R-1-147 Image by Christine Renney

I have abandoned the route and my meandering has now moved onto a new level. I am exploring a vast area that was once a thriving centre of industry but is now deserted.
I walk between the buildings and the sky above is reduced to narrow strips of grey. I am unsettled by this place and find it difficult to navigate. Whenever I reach a door, one that isn’t locked or boarded, I step inside. Or if there is a hole, and there are a lot of them, where the bricks have crumbled and fallen away, places where I can climb in or crawl through and this I now do, down on my hands and knees, pulling and kicking at the earth until I am standing on the factory floor.
At the outer edges people are holding on and still finding ways to be useful but here almost everything of value has been taken and these buildings, the factories and the warehouses, have been stripped bare and are merely husks.
I look down at the tiles beneath my feet; they are grimy but in the dusty half-light they glint and they gleam

GHOST LETTER 46

Chris R-1-127 Image by Christine Renney

I have begun to recognise the others that I pass on my route. Their faces have become familiar; men and women, mostly making their way either to or from work. They are visitors. They stay for their shift and then leave, going back to their homes and families, to their lives beyond this place. But, just fleetingly before they disappear into their places of employment they and I collide.
I watch them as they trek toward the smaller units of the industrial estates, built in the Sixties and left to wither. I watch as they shuffle toward the larger factories and warehouses, those that have survived. They seem small and inadequate and I wonder how can they maintain these scarred and decrepit structures. How can so few of them possibly serve these ageing monoliths.

GHOST LETTER 45

Chris R-1-125 Image by Christine Renney

I have been walking this route for weeks now, making my way around again and again. I am not ready to stop, not quite yet, but I have managed to slow down and I am able to loiter and linger and meander, wandering from the road and exploring my surroundings, venturing a little further each time, moving either away from the City or closer to it, but always coming back to here, to this path I am still forging.

I start across the waste ground to my right. The grass beneath my feet is short and scruffy and it is strewn with rubble. I kick my way through it and I feel as if I am breaking the rules, especially this early in the morning when there is no-one else around. I feel as though I am trespassing.