My Dearest M -,
I hope you are well. My eyes are bothering me so this took a while to write. Pollen is heavy this year. I wrote all the specific things I’m thinking – left nothing out, like you asked.
William came over Saturday and I took our grandson for a walk. We went through the park, he walks so fast now, you wouldn’t believe. I had to stop, I pointed out a bench, secluded. Did I sit there with you once? It’s under an ash tree, yews around it.
Well, he wasn’t tired, so he prattles on. Tells me the world has decided we shall have a new colour. The new colour is called, I think I got it right —altuveron—yes, that’s it. Can you believe that? The official colour.
“Of what?” I asked him.
“Of the world,” he said.
“What’s the point of that?” I asked.
“To make things easier. It is done. It cannot be undone!” He said.
He told me everything was changing. Everything new would be made with it. Everything old would be painted. He said it’d save about 800 billion pounds. He did not know if it was per person. Or each year.
No more debates. No more wasted time, lawsuits, wars. It would bring in a new system of diplomacy, economics, and social change. (Did he use those words, or am I using them now?)
“Why?” I asked him.
“Because it’s the happiest colour. Everyone will be happy. You’ll see,” he said.
He reminds me of you, M. – his energy, optimism. A bold heart.
Why do we need this new colour? I’ve been just fine. Without alt-whatever the bloomin’ thing is called.
They’ve decided, voted. It isn’t clear how it happened. Liam at Coachmen (I go there now, Saturdays) he said it was either the U.S. Government started it, or the Kremlin, or the Chinese. Or Google. What’s the difference, we all agreed. But you remember Liam, you have to discount half the stuff he says for the drink.
One fellow thought it was the colour of a turtle in the Po river. I’ve never heard it. The river that is. Another thought it was the colour of the Milky Way seen through a jar of sand. I think it looks like roses soaked in milk.
Remember that time you bought me roses? Ha. I just remembered.
Our grandson says the name was picked because it was ‘the most agreeable sound to the largest amount of people.’ That is what he said.
Altuveron. Doesn’t sound agreeable to me.
He told me to paint the house. Or I’d be left behind, he says.
I can resist. I won’t be arrested. Not like the time I refused the council tax ‘til they fixed that lamp. Remember? The blinking one, you cursed at it. That time I got you roses. No, lilacs. I cut them off the Greyson’s bush, the one that hung over our yard. I never told you that.
You’d know how to handle this colour thing. You’d know what to do. You’d organize.
Then considering, I’m glad you’re not here. How things are changing. I can’t make sense of it. Perhaps I haven’t made sense of it in a while. What on earth, I ask. What on earth is going on?
Went to church yesterday. I told you I would. It was quiet. Just a few people there and the ones who were, well nothing much to write home about. Just a bunch of old throats. The walls swallowed the music, the sermon. Swallowed all of it, like a tomb. Where do the words go? The songs? All the times you sang there, when we kissed each other, William’s cries at his christening – remember? You’d think the Vicar’d dropped him or smacked him. You’d think after all those sounds – centuries of them, the walls would echo. Something would come back. A sound or a light. They just suck it in. Selfish really.
I love you every day. Some days it’s all I do. I have so much stupid love – I don’t know where it goes. It doesn’t echo. It doesn’t come back.
It’s hard, this is all.
I just wrote down what I’m thinking. Like I promised. You were right, it is easier in a letter.
My Dearest E-,
I hope you are well. I’ve so been busy here! Meeting new people, many dear, old souls. Getting fitted for new clothes, sorting everything out.
There are all sorts of social activities. You’d grump about it. But you’d enjoy it.
But enough about that, I have splendid news! Dearest, I found us a bench! In a beautiful, secluded spot, bright with light and warmth. It’s just divine.
I shall start with the particulars. You’ll be dying to know the particulars. You must have your details.
I went with the Agent, she’s been doing this a while. She was eager and tireless. We went all over. I saw one in the south end of St. Paul’s (too dark) and another one near Old Marble Gate (too crowded). Some wanted much, much more than we have. The Agent said it’s the young ones. They are coming in droves – all the wars. All want benches. Spots to reflect, wait for their kids. And old couples too, of course. No one we know, yet.
It’s a hard market, high prices. There are a few good spots to build. You wouldn’t think that is the case, benches being so simple. But it is; the Agent was telling me. We’re lucky I got here when I did.
Oh heavens – at one point, the Agent suggested we consider a mushroom-covered tree stump as an alternative. Can you believe that? It was soft and pliant, decay had taken over its cellular structure and it was more bacteria mass than wood. I kept thinking ‘how can we read books on a tree stump? How could I rest my head on your lap on a tree stump? How could we sit and watch passers-by and wait for William on a tree stump?’
Our bench is a good price. It’s a bit more than what we wanted to spend, but we will live forever here. Sitting, reading, talking…is it too much? The bench of our dreams? This small space to contain us.
Oh let me tell you what it looks like! I almost forgot!
It is firm but comfortable. Sturdy but has a natural, gentle give. I don’t know the last owners, it’s had many. Its beautiful frames lace spectacularly up one side like a gathering wave only to summit, break, and fall gracefully down the other in a froth of hard, wrought iron. I could have traced it forever with my finger. The sides and legs have been painted in a perfect, light-infused – altvoron, altavian? Oh heavens, I can’t remember. I’d never heard it. You notice at first, because it’s so different. Then it’s normal. It’s calm, happy. Oh I sound a fool but it really is lovely! Has a beautiful name, I wish I could remember. . .
The seat is American Chestnut. It might have been painted once, but now the grain is raw. Do you know how rare it is to get raw wood? Like the turn of the century furniture. Oh, this is funny – you’ll laugh – remember when I bought that stump side-table and you took one look and said “What in blazes is that? If I wanted a tree in my house, I’d have chopped one down!”
And then I saw what you saw so I sent it back, but they wouldn’t pick it up so I carried it all the way back to the shop because it was only on the High Street – I didn’t want to bother you. You got me lilacs, you felt guilty when you found out I carried a tree trunk down the hill.
There is a wandering ash that swoops down its bows to kiss our cheeks. It filters the light into shapes which play on the ground. The path is forgotten, covered with last season’s leaves and a few wind-carried seeds that took root and become a shock of bright foliage. Don’t worry, there is little pollen to bother you.
There are a million things to reflect, and yet, the unity perfection. Each part synchronized, harmonious, as if it knows it is a scene, to be enjoyed eternally by the owners of this bench. Behind it is a clumpy yew thicket which will absorb my squeals as you drift after me into its shade.
We’ll be happy. I put down a deposit. Other couples were circling like dark angels.
I can’t wait, my love. To sit with you, to rest my head in your lap. To plan our days.
I wish you were here. I know that is selfish. Of course, take your time. I miss you, this is all. Some days, it feels like your absence is all there is. I’m happy, this is a happy place.
But it is quiet here, without you. So very quiet.
Altuveron! That’s the colour. That’s it. I think you’d like it. It looks like roses, roses soaked in milky tea. You’d grump. Then you’d get used to it.
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