‘It’s more lane than street,’ I’d said when we first moved here.
You said ‘It’s rare to get a ‘Street’ in rural parts. It’s a Roman word, sure sign they were here’.
‘There’s nothing Roman round here,’ I’d said, and you’d gone quiet and started to look around. I could see your eyes following every dip and bump hinted at under the grazing grass. It was a December morning and the low winter sun cast subtle shadows. There was a nuance in the land, a sense of mystery around us.
You spoke distractedly, ‘You think? I’m not so sure.’
We walked down the ‘Street’ to the river, paused at the bridge and watched water cascading through the old mill wheel. I could see you were still thinking about the fields, but you asked me a question about my dogs. They were always ‘My dogs’, even though ‘We’ paid for them. ‘Your prizes, your dogs,’ you used to say.
That evening we sat by an open fire in the local. You drank ale and I drank gin. The place was empty, and you chatted away like a child excited by Christmas.
You never spoke to me like that in the summer.
I always felt alone in the summer, even when you were there. You just seemed to shut down for those months every year.
We would walk together but you were a ghost. There was no distracted look in your eye. No depth in your thoughts. You would tag along behind me, squinting and always strangely hunched away from the sun. My ‘dissident sunflower’ I would joke, but I missed your winter warmth that I could snuggle into.
This is my first summer without you and I’m walking these fields on my own, without your sullen shadow lurking just off my shoulder. The field seems flat and uniform. The long grass clipped, recently cut for hay. There’s no cloud in the sky, no mystery in the land.
You used to haunt me in the summer when you were alive, but you were always so much happier in the winter.
I need you to haunt me in the winter.