I don’t rightly know how I got here.
Or at least. I couldn’t rightly tell you.
My brain is telling awful fibs these days.
But I am here all the same.
I enter cautiously. Tentatively. Do I really belong here? It’s a question my mind pushes to the peak of the pile most days. But today it seemed all the more justified. I hadn’t lost anyone here. Beneath none of these tombs or headless angels lay kin. Yet I feel them. I feel their slumber, their sleep intoxicating, drawing my eyelids twards one another. The floating numbness previously enveloping me, suffocating my mind and senses, tearing the tangible world from my hands and leaving it only as haze in my mind, this terrible feeling of otherworldlyness was gradually changed, as if the top layer had been brushed away…it left a comforting wind, pushing me slowly along the cracked paving stones between the graves, down a winding path here and there, as if invisible hands placed one foot in front of the other.
I had been striding without purpose, batted from one concrete sound to another, the traffic, the voices, the cars, all forced me into shallow breathing and tears rose in my eyes, my throat becoming tight and my skin prickling uncomfortably. I reached out for solid touch. Anything cold, sharp, repetitive to ground my drifting mind and staggering body. Railings snatched at my wandering fingers, rough brickwork, souless posts caught on the tips of my fingers, each blasting me with feeling and clear sound upon contact. It was as if I was held underwater, the world had become too loud, too much was happening, so my mind had grasped my hair and clumsily thrust me beneath the waves, but with each touch I was painfully and suddenly brought to the surface, only to be held under again when my hands ran out of material as I sped past. My eyes were darting but still, I coudn’t focus on a world that refused to stand still, and my legs did not listen, choosing instead to go until they could no more.
I heard it. I heard the graveyard. Does that sound funny? Wierd? Ridiculous? I don’t care. I heard it. I heard the deep well of silence beyond the people. I was drawn towards it. Along the otherwise menacing railings I traipsed, them seeming like friendly couriers, only there to keep out those who didn’t understand, rather than keep the souls of the dead in.
A small, half open gate beckoned me in, and with a haggard sigh of relief I was welcomed into deaths garden.
People say silence is deafening sometimes. If by that you mean the dampening of all reality and humanity I most wholeheartedly agree. My racing heart had slowed, and my senses began to collect from the chaotic fish market transposed in my head. The haze refusing to let go of the corners of my eyes started to melt, dripping into clarity and allowing colour back in. A cold breeze, serving as a reminder earlier that I must feel, that I must feel pain and that the world is dreadfully its own individual, now felt refreshing, lifting my hands to my hair. I twisted the strands in and out, enjoying the repetitive movement of a thing I knew, my fingers now had purpose and no longer hung limp as dead things at my sides.
My pace had slowed. The graves seemed to whisper to me, the flowers and trees too, they shushed eachother and chuckled, but what they said is a secret between me and them. I had felt so alone, so tired and scared, so dreadfully exhausted of the walls I kept finding, and the doors that would not open however hard I looked for a key or tried to turn a handle, that to find this place of delicious peace was a euphoria I would never take for granted for as long as I breathe. I stopped. Breathing deeply the scents of the ragworts and daisies, the branches of trees now held out their hands for my wandering fingers, whipering sweet nothings in my ear I grasped tight, my eyes welling as I knew I would never see the same spirits again.
My hand I placed on the warm, rough bark of an aging oak. He was a mighty sire in his day, of that I am sure, but now stood slightly hunched, the cracks in his skin serving as a reminder that all age the same. I ran my hand up the bark, feeling the crevasses beneath my shaking hands…I drew back ever so slightly…for I swear I could hear a heartbeat. Slow, steady, comforting, and without the rhythm we so callously place upon every living thing with hopes it will conform. Nature has its own rhythm, it does not need us or our instruments.
I looked up into the boughs of his leaves then, a weak sunlight and smell of dusty souls wafted into my mouth, the sweet melody of a robin iced the heady tang. I mouthed a silent thank you to the ancient giant, and drifted to the path at the edge of the graveyard.
I felt….protected. Protected from the flurry of the human world. I felt at home in this pocket of silence and spiders webs. It was as if the beings here had heard my desperate sob escaping from my overwhelmed mind, and taken me into their arms, to shelter for however long I saw fit. There was many a time I chose to stand still as a statue, emulating the characters atop the graves, and allowing the squirrels to shuffle up close, their beady glass eyed innocence making me chuckle quietly, and the lazy bumblebees, buzzing up close in black and yellow jumpers and waistcoats, bushed against my eyelashes and landed in my hair, now thick with twigs and petals, an effect of the joy I felt from pressing my face up against the cheek of a bush or tree, covering my skin in gold dust and my hair entangled with shrubbery.
The dry, terrifying, drum beat of my heart had subsided from my inner ear canal, replaced with birdsong and whispers. I heard the grass jostling for the attention of mushrooms, the waxcaps and buttercups shouldered eachother playfully. How I wish I were as small as a brownie or nymph, so that I could sit beneath a toadstool and nap most comfortably. A maple would have to do. I slowly lowered myself into a nook in a large root, and pulled my knees to my chest, my fingers preoccupying themselves with twists of the pendant round my neck, and the anxious need I have to shake or move slept on, bothering me not once as I watched large ants carrying shreds of material up and down the studious trunk.
I smiled suddenly. I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to go back out to a world that is umcomforting and lonesome. To a world that seeks to undermine every movement you make. A world that at every corner has another choice, another game wiley enough to leave you shortchanged and yet you made the better decision. Even as I sit here writing, a sure sign I did make it out, I feel the drumming in my ears return, and the beat of my heart grows ever faster, the movement in my ever anxious legs threatens to tear my skin from my body, and I long for the quiet and the calm again.
I closed my eyes and napped then. Sleep comes to me badly, now and then these days, but the scent of wildflowers and the speech of the undergrowth lulled me, as I used to feel when I was a young thing venturing out into reserves and gardens so many years ago. I dreamt of running I think. Or some such movement, and of leaves and thunder. I can’t quite remember. But sitting under the shade of a maple, bees circling my brow, ants crawling up my leg, and the dead surrounding me in their own slumber, I heard myself calling my name across the path, and at last, I was home.