The train sped through the countryside, cutting the rural landscape like a hot knife slicing through butter. It rocked her to and fro as rain smattered against the window where she sat. She felt a fleeting and soothing moment of peace pass her by. It was as if though the train tried to help her, tried to grant her the speed she herself lacked. It mattered little. She could not run from this. No one paid her much attention where she sat and cried in silence.
For him it wasn’t the speed of trains that brought refuge where he walked through the streets of the city which he didn’t have to heart to leave. The collar of his grey coat was snug about his neck, his hands were hidden in its pockets and a hat shielded most of his face against the pouring rain. The rain, the rain brought him a fragment of peace to which he desperately clung. His harrowed eyes darted up and down the length of the familiar streets. The stones were alive with memories.
The refuge he had found in the memories were not a safe haven for her. They were the reason she had left. She couldn’t bear them. Her shoulders slumped and she sank, the crushing weight of the world was too much. Her heart was too numb for her to fully comprehend the sorrow and grief that tore her apart from within like two feral beasts interlocked in a fight-to-kill tantrum. A fever rode her body. She was burning up and a part of her wished that the memories would burn together with her. She just sighed. The window felt so cold and comforting against her forehead.
He wasn’t sure where he was going, he just followed his feet as they walked him through the echoes of the best year of his life. He found himself staring up into the rain from underneath the brim of his hat. He asked the gods, the devil, the universe or whatever it was that touched the fate of men and women why it ended the way it had. Tears had never been his way, but his heart made demands it had never done before. Unlike her his tears weren’t silent. They were muffled by the roar of the weeping skies above.
The train slowed down, but it wasn’t her stop. She was barely aware of the cabin around her, and yet a part of her wished that she would never have to leave. Right now, she wasn’t even sure she had the strength to leave. She could barely move her arms, shift her feet or adjust herself in the seat. Blinking away her tears was all she could do. The future seemed so far away, like he had always claimed it was.
“We only have the moment, my love,” he had said. “The rest isn’t real.”
In this particular moment he found himself standing before a shop, gazing beyond the window. He didn’t really see the teddy bears, or the offers of strollers at a good price. He knew that the moment was infinite. In this moment, he thought as he peered into the darkness of the store. I am but a tortured soul. What cruel being devised this ruthless twist of fate? Decreed this torment? He slammed a fist into the window, which in turn responded with an alarming bang but otherwise his fist left no mark.
She had never been as deep-minded as he was. Where he was ponderous she had always been kind. Kindness was who she was. She wanted to forget. She hated that she couldn’t. No matter how hard she tried to shut her eyes, squeezing her eyelids together, the memories refused to leave her alone. The fact that she had a pounding headache seemed appropriate somehow. She could only cry so much before it began to take its toll on her.
For him the headache always came after he’d stopped crying. He couldn’t seem to stop. He was kneeling, his left hand placed on cold stone and his right clutching the fabric of his coat in a desperate fist over his heart.
“Hi,” he tried but his voice broke and the words failed him. He inhaled sharply and convulsed as only sadness makes a man do. “Hello baby girl,” he managed after what seemed too long. “Mommy couldn’t make it, but she loves you.”
His words seemed to float, hover around him the moment they left his tongue. It was as if though they possessed a will of their own and wanted to linger. Their echoes resonating in the stillness. “She loves you too much, and that’s why she can’t come. I brought you a flower.”
From the inner pocket of his coat he pulled out a tulip. “You always liked these,” he said as he placed it on top of the stone his left hand had been touching. “Daddy loves you,” he choked turned and hurried away.
A stone stood raised in a modest grove of trees. On the stone there was a plaque, words left behind by husband and wife.
Here sleeps Mathilda, beloved daughter.
August 9, 1997 November 12, 1998