In the evening /

In the evening / baby when the sun goes down ... the darkness in this flat thickens and, getting up from the desk and walking out into the hallway on my way to sitting room and kitchen, presences gather ... charcoal and mystery ... and I don't know if I see what I'm seeing or if what I see is really there to be seen. Ghosts of former occupants (how many? how far away? where?) gather and I have to take off my reading glasses to see if they are actual. That grainy greyscale doesn't change and then I think maybe it has nothing to do with my near sight (bad) or my far sight (good) but is about second sight, which really means two sights. Da Shealladh. Both my vacuum cleaner and my iron are inherited, not from a previous resident of this flat but of the one downstairs where I used to live. He died, of cancer or of AIDS, I can't remember or never knew which but I do recall being told that he was a gay guy and I always think of that when I vacuum or iron. A certain fastidiousness which I don't usually entertain comes over me at such times and I begin to obsess over crinkles in the collar of a shirt or the impossibility of getting up all the dust. Then I laugh and forget. Later I remember, not him, whoever he was, but the manifold shades that surround us always with their gentle lack of insistence, their modesty about existence or the absence thereof, their quiet endurance of the very long time of the dead. I am not afraid, not even afraid of being afraid, I would like the dead to come closer, to commune more intimately, I don't want to think of them forgotten, limbo-ed, if that's a word, reduced to a disturbance in the charcoal half-light moments before I turn on the light in the hallway, look for the TV guide, wonder about dinner, check my mobile (new, recalcitrant), pick up the phone to call someone ... as if there isn't time for sadness any more, as if that hour when ghosts gather for the brief benediction we, the living, can give them has been elided in a rigmarole of hours that go by swimmingly but with an undertow, an undersong of loss that we might think belongs to the dead but is really, incontrovertibly, heartbreakingly, ours.

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