Bouquets of flowers, each carrying a card, arranged on the dining room table. In the living room the conversation is halting, a little awkward. They stare at mute pictures scattered across a coffee table.
A photograph is picked up, and stories begin to unfold. They point, talk. I listen to scattered phrases, unfinished sentences implicitly understood. Pictures, memories, silent reminders of absence. The talk continues, each adding their own story, overlaying, embroidering, quilting these often awkward photographs with their own thoughts. Gaps are filled with smiles, slight gestures, they all mean something, have a value.
Two small square pictures, taken in quick succession, the same soft light illuminating the scene; backyard, water butt, dog kennel.
‘But you don’t remember?’
‘The dog never slept in that, took one look and was straight back indoors.’
I think about a sunlit backyard, rosebay willow herb growing out of the brickwork. It must have been summer because he’s standing leaning against the wall, sleeves rolled up, staring at the camera. He strokes Mickey’s head. I see tattoos, a sailing ship on one arm, dancing girl on the other. Even then, to me, they had the look of something fading, merging, being absorbed into weathered skin. Mickey, ‘Heinz 57 varieties, our pedigree mongrel,’ is how he talked about the dog. The outside toilet, coalbunker, just out of sight, next to the back door leading into the lane. Washing hung out, and waiting for kids to be chased by angry mothers.
‘Those little sods’ll feel the back of my hand. Look at my sheets, I’ve spent all morning washing them.’
‘Little devils, eh.’
‘Little devils with sore backsides when I catch them.’
Another photograph taken moments later. She stands against the same wall, caught in the same slanting light, but not by him; separate, just like their lives. The photographs are gone, lost, no doubt left behind in one too many moves. I still have a few things, his Rosary, their death certificates, and those pictures I can still see.
Someone looks out the window,’They’ve arrived’, and we file out to the waiting limousines. The flowers follow.