• Vol. 04
  • Chapter 10

What You’ll Learn Before It’s Over

You'll stand in the queue that roams untidy as dropped thread. As you weight each foot turn by turn, you'll remember that horses sleep standing up and you'll hoof-tip your resting leg. Out there between the yew trees the fine rain will needle-prick your bare arms. You'll fight the urge to turn your made-up face to the sky, to open your arms wide, spin on the spot, and let out a cry, because it would be unseemly in the circumstances, and your mascara would run.

You'll shuffle into the porch, as the others will shuffle. They will feel what they feel and that you cannot know. You will be filled with the scent of old stone and ancient wood and you won't know why but these things will be memories deeper than your years, and felt in a place within your chest. There's something about this threshold that will excite you, but it's too remote to make sense of, so you'll notice it as nothing more than a moth landing on the front of your dress and you'll send it away with a flick of your hand.

You'll see unsmiling men in dark suits and ties and serious women standing in a huddle by the font, wearing those fiddly hats with the black mesh over their faces. They'll turn to watch you enter into the silent space. You'll worry about your non-black dress and bare arms and red lips, but it's too late. You'll turn your face to the high arch of the ceiling. You'll notice gargoyles pulling dreadful faces at you from their perches on the tops of the marble pillars that define the structure and you'll look away.

You'll become aware of the old lilly smell of incense and how it gets stronger as you follow the line and insert yourself into a pew as directed. It will take seventeen minutes to get everyone settled: thirty-two pews, sixteen seats per pew. Five-hundred and twelve mourners for a former civic dignitary, long retired, great aged, now dead, unremarkably.


What You’ll Learn Before It’s Over

You'll notice small children who might sit on a lap and then several adults who, because of their girth, would fill two places by themselves, so you won't be sure of the numbers.

You'll hear the music start to play, you'll recognise the orderly lines of the opening of Bach's Goldberg Variations and it will take you back to your wedding night, making love in a huge bed that was bathed in moonlight.

You'll cry for your dead husband. You'll cry for all of the dead and the ones they leave behind. Loss, you'll realise, cannot be ordered into straight lines, put in neat rows and packaged away in boxes.

Grief, you'll understand, is the insistent needle-prick of rain on bare arms. It's red lipstick worn at the wrong time. It roams untidy as dropped thread.