>DOWN AT YOUR SIDE

>I buy the flowers from I don’t know where. They are bright and loud: great tassels of things, like hair and gloves shoved into wrapping. The cellophane hisses as I walk. I hold the bundle out in front of me like a firecracker. The world is wet here, as it always is. Grass bent too far over. The sky a limp sheet strung from the trees.

The strength of unspoken words is a thick thatch in the air, something you press against as you move, almost comforting in its restriction. The thick hem of my coat flaps at my calves. My shoes are silent: my steps shadowless.

Through the main gates, clean small gates that could have opened onto any winter garden. The main path swings violently down the hill, and the headstones fall towards it with a gravitational ungraciousness. I hate this clutter and the confusion—this haphazard arrangement—like cards from a scattered deck. Worse: they are individual monuments gasping for recognition, each one gaudier and grander than the last. For some people, it isn’t enough just to remember.

I prefer the order of mass tragedy: the war memorial at the next hill: the white, equal dignity of the graves, laid out like hopscotch. The fallen soldier slumps against his rifle at the hilltop; a bronze plaque below him tells all there is to tell. I walk past the names—rank and date—stepping prematurely from the path, allowing the grass to give way beneath my feet, denying an architect their appurtenant of permanence.

Then my thoughts score into me like a knife into wood: the fibre-splinter of elements unbinding. The family graves. The Plots. Like rows of vegetables, planted anew at the dawn of each season. But here is this horrible space. A season missed. Beside my vacant plot—the place my winter body will lay—is a fresh grave: incongruous to anyone, inconceivable to me.
My grandson was not as high as his headstone when he was lowered beneath it. A body not yet fit for description. A character not yet worthy of definition.

I put the flowers down gently on his grave, worrying as their brightness splashes against the greying ground. I am worried the colours will seep away, the amount of sadness they mean to convey. As I stand here, the wind taps at my head. Gravity tugs at my fingers. The cold air welcomes my warm breath.

I ache for this assurance of time inching by. I long to feel myself wearing away.

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