The horror of what he had been doing stopped Tom in his tracks. He stared out into the blackness of the winter twilight, then back to the cellphone in his hand. He felt the trill of adrenalin stir him as he remember the fevered fumbling in pockets that he’d just completed.
Anyone with a Craghopper jacket knows that checking that many pockets is not a two-second task. Tom recalled doing each pocket at least twice and his pants pockets too. All the while he’d been doing that he’d been wandering from car to park, following his dog Honey and talking to his wife Vanessa.
‘All of that time’ he thought, shaking his head. ‘All that time looking in my pockets for the phone I’m actually holding in my hand and talking into’.
Only the frustration at having to hang-up and walk back to the car to retrieve it, he realised now, had shook him from his futile search and into this world of self-recrimination … and fear.
He continued his walk behind the carefree Honey, who had long since disappeared on a twilight hunt for squirrels and scurrying prey.
The call to Vanessa had been about Anna (see: Our ghost) of course. She’d been upset when I got home from work and had clearly been crying. When I asked her what the matter was, she said: “I’m losing my mind, I can’t do anything right.”
I didn’t know what to say. I just gave her a hug and told her it was all right. That that was the benefit of getting old, not having to remember endless pointless things. I even tried to make a joke of it.
But I felt anything but jolly inside. It was not a nice moment to share. Now I can no longer hope that Anna doesn’t know. Now I know that at least some of the time she does. Some of time at least she sees the muddled thoughts that haunt her for what they are.
It was a chilling thing to think that night as I ventured into the cold autumnal evening.
No one knows how the gothic author, Edgar Alan Poe, died. Nor even for sure what he did during the final five days of his life here on earth.
All we know for sure was that he was found wandering the streets of Baltimore, clad in a stranger’s clothing, terminally ill and entirely out of his mind. Immediately hospitalised, he died days later without ever revealing the causes of his condition.
In our endeavors to recall to memory something long forgotten, we often find ourselves upon the very verge of remembrance, without being able, in the end, to remember.
Yet anyone who has read Poe, or seen the many cinema and stage adaptations of his work, can guess that being privy to the wanderings of Poe’s consciousness would be a far from a comforting experience. Here was a genius mind tormented by the creative process, free to imagine and encounter the terrors of the unmapped consciousness.
I am reminded of that and more starkly of Poe’s famous poems and stories concerning premature burial as I wander inside the darkened park, pondering on my mother-in-law’s plight.
How awful to live in those brief moments of remembrance, of recognition that your mind is no longer your own. To awaken into consciousness and find yourself trapped into torturous pathways of mindless, muddled repetition. To find that logic make no sense; that life no longer has meaning.
Poe could have written a dark tale of that, I’m sure. Maybe he did.
I turn-up my collar against the fresh, cold, rain and redouble my pace as Honey and I emerge from the darkness of the parkland and into the lights by the hall.