by Jennifer Harvey
So, what am I to make of this? You were never an observant man. You told me that early on. You said, ‘the poetry of the world’s not my thing. It’s just not who I am.’ I think you hoped I would contradict you. It seemed like an inadequacy after all.
When I nodded, and said, ‘ah, okay,’ – wondering if, perhaps, I was supposed to laugh – you gave a loose sort of shrug, as if it was something you told everyone, and tried to disguise your disappointment. I caught it though. I’m good at that sort of thing. Noticing. Observing.
Was, I should say. I think you saw the woman I would become. Knew, from the start, I had this blindness in me. And it’s true. These days, I do see far less than I used to. And yes, it is because I’ve stopped looking. And yes, I am okay accepting what it says about you, about me. About the way we tried to understand one another.
So, the notes. Handwritten and tucked away in last year’s photo album, as if you knew I’d go looking for you there – though only after months have passed. Many months. I had to take my time, is that it? The writing is so faint, the letter paper thin, the pencil scrawl, barely legible. I had to check it was your own hand. Though it’s your voice I hear as I read. Not the words on the page, but something you said towards the end.
‘No one tells you you’re going to notice every tiny, stupid, thing.’
I didn’t know what you meant by that. A complaint? Or an expression of delight? ‘Oh,’ was all I could offer in reply. Though what I meant to say, was there were things about you I didn’t understand. Is that what you want me to consider now? The many ways we misunderstood one another? Very well. Then I must assume you wrote this for a reason. Placed it here for me to find.
‘Something I noticed today: The privet hedge is in flower.’
Would it trouble you to know I read this and could only wonder why you thought it was a thing worth writing down? Oh, and please don’t ask me about it – how heady the smell, what colour the blossom, the month in which it flowers. I’m really not as observant as you imagined. There’s no poet in me either.
Worse, I don’t want to look at details. Not yet. Nature, meaning, the answers to things, I can wait for all of that. Though if you were here I would ask you. And perhaps this is the point you are trying to force. ‘Why this?’ I would ask. ‘Why notice this, why write it down?’ And what would your reply be?
‘It’s just a simple thing, but nice all the same.’
‘Tiny and stupid?’
If I’d been the one writing post-mortem notes, I’d have chosen ink. A fine fountain pen with a hard nib. Something indelible. A pencil scrawl, is so coy. The marks like whispers. They don’t declare themselves as loudly as ink.
Only that’s not true, is it?
Ink fades, as surely as certainty evaporates. Pencil marks only seem subdued. But their intention is to last. To lie in wait, hidden in photo albums. There will be more, I know that. In cupboards, in drawers, in books. Waiting for days such as these, when I feel happiness fading. Days when I’ll go searching for you.
I suppose I should mention I laughed. The thought of you there on the garden path, stopped in your tracks by the sight of tiny white blossom (yes, I did go and check in the end). There’s something silly about it. Something odd enough to make me smile. Which is the point, I guess, no? Happiness.
God, happiness. It really is as faint as a pencil mark, as delicate as the scent of flowers. But it leaves a trace, for all that. You knew this, of course. Long before I did. It’s why you wrote in pencil, in that unfamiliar voice. Poetic, observant, faint, but bold enough to stop me in my tracks.
‘Here, let me show you something. See? These tiny, stupid things? They’re all you need to carry on.’