A short tale of fancy and fear.
And so he waved back, and, as if brushing back the years, he remembered when they cycled through the lanes together, well, not exactly together, but in their group; he was there and she was there, though, in truth, it was not this particular woman, the woman who had waved to him as the train passed but the tracks and the wave lead him back there somehow, that time when he watched a girl’s hair in front of him as it caught the breeze and the sunlight above them as wisps of leaves leaned from trees overhead as if to touch her and he remembered how much it hurt. How much he resented nature in that moment, on that perfectly ordinary day in the countryside when everything, it seemed, reached out to touch her but him while he peddled to keep up with her scent, with her hair, with her hands that caressed the handlebars, with all that had always alluded him at such a young age. And he wondered, as he cycled, if she knew how he fantasised about her every move?
Falling back to reality, the train upon which he sat in the crowded carriage continued along its tracks, and the crowds continued their innocuous chatter of babies and breakfasts and lunch dates and reunions and mass projections and program malfunctions, and she, a stranger who’d stopped to watch a train pass and wave at him, momentarily, inexplicably, strapped herself, in his mind, to a memory of another, long since lost, before she continued onwards and away on her bicycle, fading in the fields, now but a tiny glimmer of blonde waves brushing above the bushes of blood red berries.
And he recalled that day, after that dance where she had smiled at him across the floor, across the crowded floor of feet shuffling, of socks showing and leather straps cutting into ankles, of teenagers attempting to be attractive, alluring, aloof and yet she had smiled at him or had he smiled at her, was that the truth and the reason she blanked him the following day as if nothing had ever really happened? Which it hadn’t, of course, except in the meandering mind of the boy who wished and waited and met with nothing more than disappointment which grew into embarrassment before it slipped into anger which lingered for a while, just below the fist, until that other extra ordinary day, three months later, beneath the stillness of the barn, when the world stopped rushing past him and he finally realised what it felt like to hold her in his arms, to catch her scent, like butter and pine, in his nostrils, to have her hair against his cheek and feel her blood on his body.
And as the train pulled into the station that had once been his station, he counted 20 years that had past since that day of death, discovery and detainment. A childhood imprisoned by ferocious feelings and a life imprisoned behind unbreakable bars.
All words and photographs by Damien B Donnelly