WEST OF FRANCE 1989
It smells of animal here. Dead animal. Something
that has been hung to ripen before cooking.
Hundreds of years of fermenting grapes have su
used the earth with odours of yeast and carbonic
gas, stale now, sour, a memory retained only in
the soil and the sandstone and the rafters. Like
all the forgotten lives that have passed through
this place, in sunlight and in darkness.
It is dark now and another life has passed.
Dust hangs in the pale light that angles through
the open door, raised by the act of pulling her
dead body from dark concealment to the wash of
cold, colourless moonlight that bathes a face once
beautiful and ani- mated by youth. A face made
ugly now by the blood that has dried in her golden
hair, on her porcelain cheek, a tiny river of it
following the contour from her temple to her ear.
By the eyes that stare in unnatural stillness into
the deep shadow that hangs overhead like a shroud.
Blue eyes, lit once by the light of life, turned
milky and opaque by death.
His tears fall like the rst raindrops of a summer
storm to splash heavy and hot on her cold skin.
His shadow falls over her as he kneels by her
side, and for a moment obliterates the sight of
what he has done – a consequence of love and
anger, those two most volatile of emotions. To
gaze upon her is almost unbearable. But regret is
useless, for, of all the things in life that
cannot be undone, death is the most immutable.
He reaches into his jacket pocket to pull out the
blue plastic bag he has brought to hide his shame.
Carefully, as if afraid he might damage it, he
lifts her head from the dust and pulls the bag
down over her face, hiding at last the accusation,
recrimination and the sense of betrayal he
imagines in the gaze he cannot bear to meet.
He ties it at the base of her neck with the short
length of plastic string that came with it, and
now tears fall on plastic to punctuate the
silence. A moment of madness, a lifetime of
lament, and he can never tell her now just how
much he loved her.
His hands are trembling as they close around her
neck, and he closes his eyes tight shut as his
thumbs sink into soft esh and he feels bone
breaking beneath them.