THE SILHOUETTE

Image-empty-state.png

Sarah was learning to use her eyes properly. She looked for evidence in nature now, for signs of habitation or neglect, for wisps of fur caught on thorns, for spraints on the riverbank. Every object, every scent could tell you something. Whether you needed to know it was quite another matter, of course.

One fine day she followed a path in the forest. She came upon a clearing, which was bright in the sun. She noticed that the grass grew differently in one spot: green shoots formed a pattern. That patch of soil must be more fertile, perhaps. The green shoots formed a shape. It was oval, and about six foot long. Next time she went there, Sarah took a bag of birdseed and some breadcrumbs and carefully traced round the shoots with the food. She called the birds: “come, then!” They flocked down: tits, blackbirds, robins, thrushes, and as they fed she could see that they made a pattern. There was a head, arms, legs, which she could only glimpse in silhouette as the birds pecked up their food.

Sarah went there every week after that, marking out the shape in the clearing. The birds seemed to expect her call. Winter came on. On a frosty afternoon, she knelt by the silhouette and (she was not sure why exactly) lay down on top of it: her head on its head, her arm resting on its arms. With a shock, she realised that the soil was warm. She did the same next week and the week after that. The soil was warmer each time. Then she said aloud: “is anybody there?”

There was a slight commotion underneath her, a rustling sound. Someone was breathing loud, and it was not her. A pair of hands that she recognised pushed the earth away, and a person sat up, wiping the dirt from his eyes, and looked at her. It was a man whom she had once loved, and this was not his grave but his hiding place.

They looked at each other and smiled. He was older now - some years had passed - but there was no mistaking his laugh. They had parted in bitterness, since both of them had wished the other to be different. She had thought he might be dead (indeed in her rage she had often hoped that he was), but here he was, fresh as paint, warm as toast. Everything seemed much simpler now. Love was enough, for the first time.

She lay down beside him, mouth on his mouth, hand in his hand. Their eyes were closed. They murmured to each other, and as the wind rose, it covered them with leaves. It began to snow. Soon nothing would be seen of them, and no-one would remember them except the birds.