“Take me to the edge of my garden, then leave me there. Or you can stay if you like.”
We walked together so I could see the tranquil city below. Violet and blue hues of public landmarks lay among pale yellow lights of commercial chatter, all filtered through a screen of trees that spread down into the valley. Sound was numbed but vision acute on such a cold night. Impurities in the air seemed to grow leaden with ice quickly and drift to earth, forming a muted crunch of frost beneath our feet.
“Twenty minutes ago I lost everything, so now I suppose this land isn’t even mine. That’s why I don’t want you to feel responsible for me, because I’m not your problem. I could fall backwards from here or forwards and it wouldn’t make a difference: I stand on an edge that’s no longer sharp.”
His left hand took a cigarette to his lips as his right fumbled for a lighter. A thumb brushed the striker with such little strength it produced just a few sparks that quickly vanished into the night air. When he found his stride the flame showed a tired face, wearisome and cracked with streak of old tears. He puffed twice, inhaled, then gave the evening fresh vapour to consume.
“I couldn’t even dig a grave in this earth. It’s cold, and hard. Cheap pistachio ice-cream that’s refrozen: ice crystals over something green. There’s nowhere to go.”
His face quivered momentarily and it looked as if he would cry again, but instead he turned on his feet and threw his lighter against the house. It smashed against the wall and flared briefly, a gout of flame that was over before it began.
“There’s nothing for me any more. I’ll just lie here, with the snow, and nothing else.”
Stiff and empty, he levered himself onto the ground, where he tucked his body into itself, and did nothing.