• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 07
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When there are no words

When there are no words there is touch. I do not remember you ever hugging me. But when I was small you held me. I have seen the photographs. You are smiling in those photographs in which you are holding me.

When I fell on the road, you cleaned the wound on my knee and put a bread poultice on it to draw out the grit. It is white and smooth, the scar on my right knee. The wound healed cleanly, thanks to you. You set me on my feet, literally so. My feet have carried me round the world and I have taken it, largely, for granted – that the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other has brought me to this day and that soon I will stand and walk out into the sunshine, easily.

But in houses through this town there are people who can no longer do this. People who sit and wait for someone else to take them out into the sunshine, a someone who may never come. They too, these people unknown to me, were once five years old; they ran barefoot without a care, as I did. A tumble or the sudden stab of a thorn in a heel then brought quick tears, but a mother’s touch and the benediction of warm water meant the memory did not stay. We all ran out again soon enough into that sunshine which – in our memories – shone through all the summer days of our childhood.


When there are no words

Do you, a woman I do not know, but know is there, only streets away, think of those long-gone days as you sit now by an upstairs window? The lilac is blooming, look. It was just a stick someone left by the gate, and it grew into an arching tree, heavy with purple each springtime. That is the wonder, that spring still comes. And yet, is it not sent as a kind of torture? Out there all is perfumed. You know it, even if you can no longer say so to the person who will come and wash you. That person will be not be uncaring, but she will be in a hurry, with so many to care for. She will not have time to sit with you.

Is this what will become of me? Which will give way first, the feet or the mind? If I knew which door was yours, and I came now and ran up the stairs and knelt at your feet, would it help?