I don’t know when, or how, only that in some strange city one April I woke to snow and understood that my old life had unceremoniously taken leave. On a street, abandoned to the whiteout to come, I saw, if that is how things were, and it unquestionably was, I would similarly and ruthlessly have to take leave of it. And so, right in the middle of the flagstones, the concrete, in the snow, I started with my socks. Or rather, the tattered woollen things I’d worn above them all winter long. Then my socks. I thought about my shoes, too, but, what with the snow, I thought, they might as well just wait.
I could say, and would like to, that I can remember most of the days in the year that came. I don’t. I do know that some of them were longer, some less, some drunker, some not. I do know that disorientation, like death, is indifferent to narrative.
I said I’d started with my socks. That’s mostly true, if irrelevant. The point was whether it was then that I began to understand degree. It wasn’t. But the tableaux: a sockless man in snow. A fading into monochrome. The monogamy of confusion. Today I often think, were the image a card, the reader would likely say: The hanged man. Collapse of convictions. Flight.
In any event, it had been a feast day. Or around the equinox, I’m not really sure. I’ve never been good with dates. Through the spit and drift, though, at times a bell, an echo. By the trash the usual bits of glass, cigarettes, various kinds of paper. Strange color a strange orange back against the grey and somewhere up the street (or was it down?) a figure stumbling, but as to whether toward me or away it was impossible to tell. Around the corner a cemetery, stones black rough and fissured, some split into twos and threes, chipped mortar, brick, a wrapping of white. Arabesques in ivy.
The notes went next, then a book, a thin ring of keys, the odd ephemera together with the lint and dust of days which lined my pockets. What else was left? What couldn’t be done with all the time, I guess.
At some point, later on (had I been standing in front of the cemetery all along?), I began to wonder how, or rather if, it was possible to unswallow apocalypse. That was when I remembered. No real story, simply a few details. A suburban station somewhere (at some point they almost always seem to play a role), just at the edge of the country. Late afternoon. Café empty, save one middle-aged man. On the table a crossword, a wrinkled plastic cup. Ticket counters closed. Newsstand abandoned. Clocks with different times. And the narrator? Driven by obscure desires and only the unquiet dead to accompany him, he dozed in ceasefire, maybe even armistice.
First lights slow in day’s long dark. How we indeed prize what we thought we once despised, a thought to the uncovered head, happy lyricism in its turn had not absconded, I watched the figure shuffle into the dim tunnelling down the hill to centre. Then, scared by such sudden flights, it remembered the hat in its hand.
Wide street too now nothing in the white being applied to white, silence layered on to silence, there, precisely there, faceless buildings cold, fingers cold, etc. The trick, it was effected.
Alexander Booth is a writer and translator who lives in Berlin. Recent work has appeared with Cordite Poetry Review, The Sultan’s Seal, and World Literature Today. More information can be found at Wordkunst.