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 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.

GHOST LETTER 42

Chris R-2-6 Image by Christine Renney

I awake in the grounds of the Cathedral. Hands in the short and wiry grass, I push myself up and gaze down at the City. I try to pick out the place from which I set out, the one to which I keep on making my way back. But it is so vast, a dense and cubist scrawl. For months now I have been walking further and further from this particular part of the City in order to find an off-licence with an unfamiliar face across the counter. Someone who won’t recognise me as I purchase the bottles and the cans I need. And this time I didn’t turn myself around. I kept on walking for longer than was necessary and eventually I settled down.

Glancing up at the Cathedral I shudder to think that I have slept here in the grass; in this carefully tended, this perfectly and painstakingly manicured graveyard and, that as I did, someone tidied around me, removing the strewn cans, even prizing the almost empty bottle from my hand. Taking it and the last few drops I hadn’t quite managed to drain.

GHOST LETTER 37

Chris R-2-3 Image by Christine Renney

Everything is so much smaller now and each day familiar, echoing the last. On the road the repetition was harsh and ceaseless. I wasn’t able to retire in the evenings and sleep in a bed and, come morning, begin afresh. I still can’t but somehow I have managed to establish a routine of sorts.
When the shops are open I walk the streets and I select a spot and I settle down. A particular doorway at a particular time. The abandoned spaces in front of the boarded windows and the ’TO LET’ signs. But not too far out – it has to be in a part of the city where people come, where they congregate. Pubs, clubs and restaurants or better still office blocks, places of employment and of course shops.
There are others here, vying for space, for a little change, but they aren’t resentful or in any way proprietorial. We are like fishermen on a bank and the busy thoroughfare is our river. They don’t ignore or avoid me but they do leave me alone and occasionally I will nod at one of these men because, for this, I am grateful.

GHOST LETTER 22

Number 2-0795-3

I have become so adept at it, the getting close and yet retaining a space, a divide. It is flat here, a desperate patch without a roof and no walls apart from the one I have built and that is sturdy enough and tall. But there is the slightest of cracks and I can see through and if I press my ear against it and concentrate I can hear.

They tend to the old woman, bringing her food but mostly drink. Cans of “Super Strength” lager. One of them opens a can and places it in her hand. If she would allow it, he would help her to drink from it, steadying and guiding her hand in order to limit the spillage. But she won’t be helped and motions for him to back away, which he now does and, at a safe distance, he sits and watches her. He watches the can. She is gripping it but her hold is weak and it is cold and the can is slick. Bundled in her dirty woollens and, unsupported on the hard ground, her movements are jerky. The can slips between her fingers and the lager, sloshing, froths at the rim. But somehow, tilting and tipping, she manages to hold on.

I think about those old arcade games, the ones with the claw attached to a tiny winch and I remember standing and staring through the glass, frantically turning the little wheel and trying desperately to grab one of the fluffy toys.

Image by Christine Renney