Yorkshire England, United Kingdom
The first had come early. I might have known that something was happening after all the doings of last week. Even for festival time, the city was more a buzz than usual. Then all the shouting and singing. So loud that birds fluttered up in droves. Not until it grew dark did it settle down. You should have heard it.
I had to work, of course, but my home is just outside the garden, so I only go into town when I have to and I stay away when the crowds come.
They come from all over, and you should see them, fancy clothes, fancy hairdos, talking ten to the dozen in weird languages. It’s obvious they don’t belong here, but they keep coming, year after year.
These are savage times, so people know what to expect, and shouldn’t be surprised if they get what’s coming to them. I think they all deserved it. I really don’t get involved with these religious folk. What they do is their business, as long as they leave me alone. It’s happened before and you can bet your life it’ll happen again. I’ll give it six months, and then there’ll be others in the city, fooling these simple folk.
I was busy rooting up damaged flowers – I could only save about a dozen – so that I could replant the area. It looked pretty, but that’s all changed since they came charging in this morning. The first lot fairly tumbled through the gate as if they were in a foot race. I must say the chap that came in second looked irritated.
The chap that got there first – a big man – went in and came out looking quite pale. He had to sit down for a bit before setting off again almost twice as fast as he had come with the other fellow hot on his heels, as before.
But the women were the worst. I know that people who come here don’t exactly come laughing and singing, but I’ve never seen such miserable faces since the mourners who were paid to weep and wail for those who were killed when the scaffolding collapsed on the builders at the pool.
These women were different. It was obvious that they weren’t paid grievers, so why the commotion? One of them dropped her ointment. I only caught that out of the corner of my eye. I keep myself to myself, but I almost laughed out loud. Then I remembered where I was and looked busy, though I had to cough a couple of times to stop letting out a guffaw. Being a public servant is not easy.
The woman, who came by herself, was a bit different. You learn to read people in my job and gardening tells you a lot about growing things, but here at the cemetery you get to know people.
Some come here because someone’s watching to see whether they do. You can always tell that sort. They can’t wait to get out. You can see it in their faces. They look everywhere but where they should be looking.
The trouble with a cold heart is that you can’t hide it. It’s deep inside and they have that sort of face that shows how petty and shallow they are. Like I said, this woman was different.
I noticed her when she came in, because I was putting some of these damaged plants on the heap by the wall near the gate. She moved fast to say she wasn’t exactly a young woman. I could see that she’d been crying. Not like official mourners; they make a lot of noise and throw themselves about, but they have to carry damp cloths up their sleeves to wet their cheeks and pretend they’ve been crying.
There was nothing fake about her. She went in, and then she came out as if old Lucifer himself had kicked her out. And the noise! She sounded as if she was going to burst, then, fell onto her knees and heaved out these great sobs as if her heart was breaking.
I kept my distance. I can’t cope with women in distress. They’re not like men. We know how to keep our feelings inside so no one knows just what we’re thinking or feeling. This woman let it all out right there in front of the door. Funny thing, but I started to feel that I should go over and see if I could help. I didn’t though. I stayed put pretending to be busy, but kept my eye on her.
Then, before you could say “Jerusalem,” he was there. I don’t know where he came from. He spoke to her but I couldn’t hear what he said and I didn’t want to get any nearer in case I got involved in something. I kept looking away so she couldn’t catch my eye.
She seemed not to know him at first, but managed to blurt something out between her sobs and then he spoke to her again and she stopped her crying.
I’ve never seen anything like it. She just stopped, as if someone had snuffed out a lamp. She looked up – I had turned to watch by this time – and she looked right into his face. You should have seen the change that came over her. She knew him well. I could tell that from the way he looked.
She reached out, but he stepped back. That’s when I took a good look at him.
He looked like – well, different, if you know what I mean. Something about him was familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. There was something about him, something – I don’t know -I can’t really explain.
Then he was gone. I didn’t see him leave, but he was gone. The woman stood up and lifted her eyes and her hands up to the sky. She was muttering something. I couldn’t hear from where I was, but she looked so happy.
What I’d like to know is this, “Who or what could bring about such a change in such a short time, changing her from whining despair, to such obvious hope and joy?”
I never did find out who they were, or what really happened there. I think about it now and then, but keeping this place nice and up together takes a lot of time.
Obviously, it was some kind of special day for them, but to me it was just another Sunday.