It’s a funny kind of experience, sitting in on your own funeral. For all I’ve seen of life, 69 years of it, this is without a doubt the strangest situation I’ve ever found myself in. Here I am, sitting on top of my own coffin in a body that’s a ghostly imitation of my 20 year old self, smoking a cigarette . No-one in the chapel sees the fag or smell the smoke curling from it. It seems, as far as they’re concerned, that all that’s left of me is nailed tightly inside this polished pine box. I haven’t got the faintest bloody clue why I’m here, sat on it – that’s something you’d have to ask God, or whoever it is that decides these things in the afterlife. Needless to say, someone upstairs has cocked up – call it a clerical error.
To level with you, death was a relief. I was an alchie, a stinking old soak, the kind of person you’d step around, holding your breath when you crossed me, sparko, in the street. I’d been in the same boozer’s shelter for five-odd years, getting sicker and sicker, my organs packing in one by one. The staff there were kind, but they’d obviously clocked me as a terminal case from the off and more or less left me alone. I liked it that way . I avoided the other drunks who lived in the shelter, timed my trips to the offie so I could slip in and out unnoticed; I had nothing to say to anyone. It wasn’t much of a life. The shelter was more a waiting room for the afterworld than somewhere you got better. You could spot which fellas had a shot at making it out of there. Younger guys, the ones who got visitors – friends, family, counsellors. The ones who still had a slight hold on the world going on outside the shelter’s dirty grey swing doors. The ones who wanted to be out there again. Not that many of them made it out. An alchie’s life is full of false dawns and faint hope. The lies you tell yourself when you’re gutter-drunk and happy choke and die when you’re hurting and sober. I’d passed out the other side of all that, the brief moments of optimism. I’d messed up my life and I knew that I deserved everything that came to me. I was at the bottom, the point, of my downward spiral, the point that leads straight into the ground, six feet down. God knows I was ready to go there.
Maybe I wouldn’t have taken death so easy if my life with Val hadn’t started out so well. I was born again, the best part of me was born, when I met her. We got together in 1959, when I was twenty. I’d had a devil of a time up until then. My Da was a drinker, a raging, reeling see-you-next-Tuesday. He was always at the ready to lay his punch-drunk hands on me or my Ma. Never for any good reason; men like him don’t have good reasons, only their rage and the excuses that they make for it. Ma had done her best to protect me from him, but 25 years of being married to Da had broken her, turned her into a shell, a shadow. By the time I was ten I knew I’d have to look out for myself. There was probably a reason for the way my father was. The war, maybe. He’d been the only one of a tank crew to make it out alive of a Sherman that exploded in a cloud of blood and sparks on D-Day. But that history didn’t concern me. All that mattered was the here and now, dodging the blows as best I could. Me and Ma didn’t know what he’d come at us with next – a boot, his belt, his fists – nor when. We lived in fear and living in fear shakes you apart until you’re nothing but fragments, grains of sand. You know the story about the man who tries to build his house on sand? Well you can’t build a person on sand either. I knew, even at that tender age, that I’d need something stable and solid to build on and that I’d only get that away, far far away, from Da.
Back then, going to school was a godsend to me, if only for the magical reason that it got me out of the house. Most of my mates couldn’t stand the place, a severe Victorian schoolhouse, all high ceilings, heavy doors and dirty windows. Its grim church tower-style entrance still had those old ‘Girls’ and ‘Boys’ entrances, a reminder that there was to be no funny business once you got through them. The teachers there were as worn out and musty as the battered textbooks they handed out and the classrooms stank: of sweat, boredom and damp grey chalk dust. But bugger me if I didn’t bury my head in every English reader, cross every t, work out every remainder. You see, I knew the only way I was going to get out of my home and away from my Da was to earn my way out and get a place of my own. Not easy, granted, but possible if you had the money. So I studied hard, kept out of Da’s way as best I could and signed apprentice papers at an accountant’s when I was eighteen. Da signed the papers too, his hands shaking all over the shop. It was about the only decent thing he ever did for me. I worked hard at my apprenticeship, progressed more quickly than the other young lads there and started pulling in a decent wage, enough to save up and start renting a flat of my own. The day I left home, Ma was in floods of tears, she just wouldn’t stop crying. Da had one last swing at me, but I brushed him off, whacked him on the head with my suitcase and told him to eff himself. I never saw him again. I felt awful leaving Ma behind, but I knew she’d never leave my father, so I cut my losses, shoved the anguish deep, deep down inside and started out on my own, afresh.
I made the most of my new life and started hanging around with a couple of the young fellas from the office, Ed and Arthur. Ed was brash, short and thick-set, with oiled back hair and laughter lines already gathering around his small, piggy eyes. Arthur was older than us both, at twenty two, but was more timid than either me or Ed. He was a good looking chap, with high cheek bones and a strong jaw, but he was so quietly spoken that you had to strain to hear him. I sat somewhere inbetween the two of them. I’d grown to an average height, with my hair shaped into a movie star’s pompadour. I’d had a go at growing a ‘tache, but it didn’t sit well on my boyish face. The lads at the accountants took the piss, said I looked like a baby Errol Flynn, so the ‘tache went, shaved off into the sink. On Fridays, Ed, Arthur and I used to head to the Black Dog. It was the only the pub in town that had rock ‘n’ roll on the jukebox. The landlord had filled the huge chrome Wurlitzer with stacks of Eddie Cochrane, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry – all the good stuff. I’d spend a couple of hours after work brushing up, throw on my best black Teddy suit and meet Arthur and Ed at the Dog. I loved the place. The heady mix of beer, rock n roll, the way girls’ perfume and cigarette smoke entwined in the air; all that made me feel alive, alert to the possibilities of whatever came my way. It was in the Black Dog that I met Val, at 7:54pm on April 8, 1960. People talk about having a ‘Kennedy moment’, knowing where you were when John F copped it. Well, I had a Val McGuigan moment and I’ve never forgotten the time, let alone the date, when our paths crossed. She knocked me for six, I can tell you.
We’d kind of met before, at school – Val had been in the year below me, but we’d never talked. I didn’t clock that it was her at first, standing with her back to me at the bar with a couple of other girls. There was something about her, the wave in her hair, the way she raised on heel slightly, cocking her hips to one side, that was familiar. She turned round, facing the wooden stall where Arthur, Ed and I were sitting. I gave her a smile and caught her eye. And bugger me if Val didn’t have the most amazing eyes. I’d been staring at her arse, which was spectacular in its own right, for a good five minutes before she turned round, but Val’s eyes were knock-out. They were this incredible shade of silver-grey, warm and cold at the same time, with a look that was guarded whilst being ever so slightly suggestive. And those eyes were giving me a look. Now, there are looks and there are looks and this was definitely a look, if you know what I mean . An ‘I’m interested, but not so interested that I won’t find something better to do if you don’t make a move sharpish’ kind of look. I knew I was on the spot, so I steeled myself and got up from the stall’s red plush seat, smoothing my shirt, then my hair as I went. I walked up to the bar, its beer pumps and spirit bottles gleaming in the soft yellow light. I took in more of Val as I made my way over. Her mouth was full lipped, tulip shaped and raised at the corners. She had round cheeks, lightly powdered and her eyebrows were slightly raised. There was a glint in her eye; I couldn’t tell if it was a mocking look or an encouraging one and that threw me off, threw me off badly.
I’d known exactly what to say to her a couple of seconds ago, but now that Val had fixed me with those hot-ice eyes my mind was a complete, wind-swept tumbleweed spinning blank. I was literally toe to toe with Val by now, with this awkward half-smile on my face and it was far too late to go back. She was taller than me as well, which made matters even worse. Given my point of view, a couple of inches below her eyeline, it was easier, practically, to look at her breasts than to look her in the eye. Great. There I was, having strolled over like mister effin’ Cool and not only was I completely tongue-tied but I’d also quite visibly given Val’s rack the once over. My thoughts were a complete mess, a cacophony of conflicting voices inside my head. Fortunately one of the voices, a real spit and handlebar moustache drill sergeant of a voice, came swimming up out of this mental soup and screamed at me: “TALK TO ‘ER, YOU USELESS BERK!” It was just the kind of advice I needed – blunt and to the point, so I acted on it: “Hello… I think I know you from school?” I said to Val, trying to relax the rictus grin on my face. “I’m John. Fancy a dance in a bit?” The jukebox was against the wall, to my left, Mama Thornton blaring out Hound Dog, the old version and a few couples were moving in time to it, doing those reheated jitterbug steps people were using back then. Val’s expression was still hard to read as she took in what I’d just said, but then her lips curved up a little more a the corners and a warm, mischievous expression crept into her eyes.
“I remember you John. Yes – you were the bookworm in the top year, weren’t you? I’m Val, Val McGuigan.”
Val McGuigan – of course. I remembered how a couple of lads in my class had the hots for her back in school. I’d never got what they’d seen in her, at least not until now. Now I saw it in spades. God, she was a cracker. “Nice to bump into you again Val”, I replied, taking her hand as my flustered confidence crept back. “How’s about we go for that dance?”
Val was smiling now, positively beaming. “Of course, I’d love to. Margot!” She beckoned one of her friends over, “hold this for me, will you love?” Val handed over her G&T and I led her over to the small wooden dance floor, her black skirt swishing deliciously against my leg. Val was wearing a well cut white short sleeved blouse and, again, my eyes were drawn like magnets to her chest. I tore my gaze away, which was a task and a half, about as easy as trying to drag a hungry tiger away from a fresh kill. But I did it; I caged that tiger. Hound Dog drew to a close as we took out place on the dance floor and waited for the next tune to kick in. It was Lucille – the Little Richard number. Any song at that point would have been fine and dandy, but Lucille – well that presented me with a couple of major stumbling blocks.
First off, Lucille’s beat was fast, really fast, even for rock n roll. I knew a few jive steps, some throws, but what I’d never had to do was put them together with any speed. I preferred slow dances; they were my thing, my calling card. Up-tempo stuff like Lucille I had a problem with.
Second, we – Ed, Arthur and me – had this theory about Lucille. We had a fair bit of experience with girls between us, certainly more than most lads our age, but all three of us were, technically at least, virgins. We’d kissed, fondled and petted, but none of has had done the magical it. So, in the absence of experience, we came up with theories, metaphors for what we thought sex would be like. In our world, a factory fresh Jaguar XK140 was sex, Spurs winning 5-0 was sex; Lauren Bacall in the Big Sleep was sex. And Lucille was definitely sex. I know it’s only a song, but, if you’ve ever heard it, you’ll see the parallels. Lucille is raunchy, eye popping, tongue lolling, steam out the ears exaggerated cartoon-raunchy. Little Richard screams like his todger’s on fire, the drums thump-thump-thump like a bouncing mattress and the horns make this filthy, leering screech the whole way through. That song, for us, was the very essence of what we though doing the dirty would be like. So, there I was, holding Val’s hand, about to dance to a song that was too fast for me, a song that was inexorably linked with my filthiest thoughts. I felt a blush rising in my cheeks.
I think Val picked up on my hesitancy, a mixture of nerves and unbridled lust, because she tilted her head to one side and raised a questioning eyebrow. It was like trying to chat her up all over again and I could hear the drill sergeant’s parade ground voice wafting up out of the scared-sexy mess in my head. Luckily, Val cut in at this point: “Don’t worry, I’ll lead”. I was a bit nonplussed by that. It was kind of an unwritten rule that blokes led in a situation like this, a first dance, any dance for that matter. Val was insistent though: “Look, it’s a tough song and I can tell you’re a bit het up. It’ll be easier if I lead.” She smiled, reassuringly and I just melted for her. This woman is amazing, I thought. She had balls. So I let her lead. We took simple steps at first, my left hand on her waist, my right hand on her elbow. She’d step forward, I’d go back, She’d go left, I’d follow. I sensed a slight impatience in Val and, as Lucille pounded away in the background, I picked up the pace. Little clues, a tension in her fingers, a flick of her wrist, let me know what we were doing next and, gradually, Val and I began to work braver, flashier steps into our dance. I was enjoying myself, having a ball. Val looked red hot, unselfconsciously flicking her hair from side to side, with a flush in her cheeks and a silver sheen of perspiration on her neck. Spurred on by the tight, horny knot she’d tied in my stomach, I gave Val a wink and threw her out from me. She twirled as she flew out. Our fingers unentwined from each other, then locked again as I reached out and caught Val as she spun back to me, her skirts lifting, then falling, as if with breath. My confidence was sky high by this point and I started picking Val up, spinning her round me, throwing her in the air and catching her, as if that were the kind of thing I did all the time on Friday nights with girls I’d just met. We carried on like that until the song drew to a close. I stood smiling at Val, feeling tired, triumphant. I was Hercules. Val gave me an amused look.
“John”, she said, catching her breath, “you are full of surprises!”
“You’re not so bad yourself. Thanks for showing me the ropes.”
“That’s alright. You’re quite the mover once you get going.”
I smirked to myself. This was going well. But Val wasn’t finished:
“…Oh and John?”
“If I catch you looking at my chest again I will chin you.”
That wasn’t how the night ended, worried as I was at the time. I blushed, I blushed post-box red, but I managed to laugh my embarrassment off. Val and I chatted, had a few drinks, danced some more and, at closing time, we kissed. It was a chaste, closed-lipped kiss. Val didn’t get fast and loose with the drink like some girls I’d met, but reserved as it was, her kiss was one that promised more to come. That was what I loved about Val; there was something held-back and suggestive about her, like you were getting close to something great all the time, but it wasn’t something she would give up easily, not without some sweat and blood on my behalf. And it wasn’t the old dirty. Much as I was preoccupied by the thought, it wasn’t getting into Val’s knickers that drew me to her so much as her cool, confident exterior, under which, I was sure, was something warm, something wonderful, something that would change everything.
Everything did change for me. It changed lightning fast. Val and me went for drinks, went to dances, the pictures, restaurants, all the usual stuff courting couples did. We kept up with the new rock n roll tunes that came out; Val bought me 45s from this shop she knew in London, I bought her dresses, jewellery and perfume out of my wages – the soppy stuff that blokes in love buy. After a year, we got married. It was a registry office job; neither of us was religious, or so well off we could splash out on a big do. Val’s family were behind us all the way. Her Ma and Da were great to me and, in a small way, I found a new family through them. They came to see us get married, along with a few of our friends and the rest of Val’s family. My parents didn’t come. I hadn’t spoken to them for over two years, let alone told them about Val or us getting married. As far as I was concerned, I was making a new start and Ma and Da had no place in my new life. When Val and I said our vows and stepped out into a snow shower of confetti at the registry office doors, my priorities changed. I had something to live for apart from myself and plans to make, so I kept my head down at the accountants, got promoted and, eventually, my chats with Val turned more and more to having kids, to starting a family.
She fell pregnant in 1961. The baby, our son, was due in November that year. And it was when he was born early, in October that everything started to go backwards, to go wrong for me. A new manager started at the accountant’s in September, a real cold, mean old bastard. He worked us to the bone, demanded we do longer hours. ‘Efficiency’, he called it. It was a shock to Ed, Arthur and me. We were good at our jobs and put in decent graft, but we were also used to having a laugh, to slacking off every now and then. There was none of that with the new chief. The laughter went right out of the place and a resentful silence took over the office. All the small things, little things that us working there depended on: an advance here, the odd day off there, got harder and harder to wangle out of the man in charge. So hard, in fact, that when Val went into labour on October 2nd, six weeks early, my boss expected me to be in the office. As far as he was concerned, a man’s place was at work, whatever the circumstances, imminent birth or not. I pleaded with him, shovelling change into the hospital pay phone, begged him to let me stay with Val. But he’d have none of it, the vile old sod – he wanted me at my desk within the hour. So I told him, in no uncertain terms, to go screw himself. I don’t know where that came from. I loved my job, I’d put everything into it; in a way, my job had saved me, it had got me away from home, from all the rage and despair in my parents’ house. But the scared look in Val’s eyes, the punched-in-the-stomach wrenching I felt at knowing my child was arriving, early and unprepared into the world; all that gathered itself into a tight, hard ball of anger in my throat and I spat it straight down the phone receiver and into my boss’ ear.
I lost my job, of course. I gained a son, a beautiful grey eyed son, a perfect balance of my and Val’s best features, but I lost my job. In amongst the joy of being a father, the hurt of leaving the accountants, the humiliation of being jobless – those things gnawed away at my happiness. The feeling of having worked so hard, been through so my much, only to lose it all, grew into an all consuming resentment, like a cancer inside of me. Slowly, the hurt and anger I felt began to colour everything. I started flying into rages at Val over the tiniest things. I neglected our son, James, blamed him cruelly, unfairly, for my bad luck. I cut Ed and Arthur out of my life, violently jealous at their continuing careers. I raged at the world for misfortune, blind to anything good going for me. But there were still bills to be paid, so I got a job at the post office, working longer and longer hours. I started falling into my Da’s old habits, heading to the pub after work rather than going home. And all the time I felt this ceaseless, nagging guilt. I knew that Val wasn’t doing anything wrong, that James deserved far more from me than he was getting. I knew that I had no excuses for taking everything, my hurt pride, my frustration, out on Val, sometimes even on James. God, the times I screamed at him for crying, for misbehaving, for doing all the innocent, harmless things that little boys do. I never laid a hand on him, or on Val. I managed that much, not that I deserve any credit for it. In all other respects, after everything, after hating him for years, swearing that I’d never, ever be like him, I turned into my father more and more with each passing day. Somehow, his demons had laid their seed in me and as soon as I was hurting, as soon as I was weak, they came screaming out.
I turned into a drinker. The trips to the pub grew longer and I stashed booze away so I could carry on at home. I got into an alchie’s pathetic regime, working, drinking, staggering back to Val and the boy, upsetting everyone, and then starting again the next day. I got that drinker’s conscience – too weak to stop me hurting the people I was supposed to love, but strong enough to make me hate myself for harming them. And the more I hated myself, the more I drank and the more I drank, the more I raged at Val and at James. Eventually Val kicked me out. Bless her, because it was hard for a woman to be on her own back then, especially with a kid to bring up, but Val had the brass to give me my marching orders when she saw it was time. It was 1962 and we had another baby on the way. Val saw what I’d turned into, what it meant, for her, for James and the new baby. She told me, firmly, to go. The love she had for our kids drowned out my desperate pleading for her to change her mind, to take me back, so I packed up and I left.
I’ve been drifting ever since. Disconnected, floating, like litter on the breeze. I coasted on at the post office, got pissed, crashed out at my bedsit, saw the kids now and then. At least until they stopped wanting to see me. The boys didn’t need Val to tell them what I’d become, bloated, slurring, tetchy and sentimental as I was. By the time James was twelve, he started going out before I came round. After a while, his brother Archie followed suit. Val had nothing to say to me either, so eventually I stopped calling on them. I gave up, gradually, on everything, drew into myself . The post office let me go when I didn’t show for work for a week and eventually I got kicked out of my flat. I landed up on the streets, at the end of the seventies, a bastard of a time to be anywhere. I guess I could have tracked my boys down, tried to apologise or explain, but the pain of the gulf between the decent, determined young man I’d been and the selfish, surly drunken waste of space I’d turned into was too much to bear. My pride, what was left of it, held me back, dragged me back eventually into the useless, booze soaked, rage filled place my Da had inhabited. I gave up, I slept rough, then I moved into a hostel and in that hostel I died. There’s really no more to say for the last thirty years of my life than that.
It’s bizarre then, that, after three decades of being a sozzled, stinking wreck, I should reappear, post-mortem, as my young, sober self, dressed to the nines in the old black suit and tie I wore when I met Val. I’m a ghost, I guess. I don’t need to peek inside my coffin to know what’s inside. I’m just grateful that I’m lingering on after dropping off my perch in my hostel room. For one thing, it’s nice to have a clear head after all these years. To have clothes and skin that aren’t coated in the gutter’s grime. I take a drag on my phantom tab, then stub it out on the coffin lid and take a look at the crowd for my funeral. It’s not much of a turn-out, truth be told – a few old faces from my days as a postie, a couple of the more presentable pissheads from the hostel and my social worker. It’s exactly the kind of crowd I deserve, I know that. Neither of my boys is here and there’s no sign of Ed or Arthur. I could have guessed none of them would turn up, but, even to a ghost and an undeserving one at that, it still hurts, much as their absence is warranted.
I’m hanging my head, feeling sorry for my poor dead self, when Val walks in. It’s her; it couldn’t be anyone but her, with those gleaming silver eyes. The years have left a light touch on her, a few wrinkles here and there, a streak of white through her hair, but those tiny signs of age only accentuate what hot stuff she still is, even at over sixty. Val Val Val – what are you doing here? I watch her with interest as she makes her way to the row of pews at the back of the chapel, smoothing her skirt beneath her as she sits down. I haven’t seen her in, what, thirty years, probably more and this huge, crushing wave of emotion hits me: love, remorse, regret, a faint touch of lust, even. I’m as confused as my feelings are; I don’t know what to do with myself. Part of me wants to shout out, to wave my arms and get Val’s attention, part of me’s scared stiff that if I act then this strange spell, this fluke of mortality that’s left me behind after my body expired, might be broken and take me away with its breaking. Indecision has never been a great problem for me. For good or bad I’ve always been able to make my mind up, but in this weird half-living state I feel trapped, as if my every move has to be made with the utmost care, like a kid running the wand over the curling wires of one of those fairground buzzer games. Val’s sitting there and all I want to do is speak to her, say a few words, most of them ‘sorry’, but right now that feels like the most impossible task in the world. I feel sorry for myself, a sad, self pitying ghost, watching his last half-chance at redemption slip by. I’m so wrapped up in my gloom that I don’t even notice Val walk down the aisle and make her way up the steps to my coffin. When I do see her, we’re virtually face to face. She whispers: “John?” and I jump a foot in the air without, oddly, coming down again. I’m floating and Val’s talking to me. Which means that she can see me. I’m curious enough to venture a reply:
She replies, still whispering: “Hi Val! Hi Val? John, what in blue fuck are you doing here? Is this some kind of joke?”
I peer over her shoulder, trying to clock if anyone’s noticed what Val’s doing. No-one in the chapel seems to be paying the slightest bit of notice – it’s usual for people to get up and say a few last quiet words to the chap in the coffin at these things, so I guess to them Val’s just holding to form. I look back to her:
“No Val love. It’s not a joke. I’m dead, dead as a doornail, I’m sure of it. Check inside the box if you want.” I float back down to perch on the coffin lid and give it a friendly pat.
“That would explain why you look so well kept. I didn’t think there was any way you could have looked after yourself that well. Besides, I was just expecting to come here to see you off. I wasn’t expecting to have a friendly chat with your what, your ghost? Is it?”
“Um, yes. I guess that’s what I am. Buggered if I know really. Val?”
“Val, I’m sorry, for everything. I really let you down, you and the boys. I’m so, so sorry Val.”
Val frowns at this. “Save it John. The boys and me did just fine without you. I just wish they could have grown up with their proper dad. You should have made an effort, John, you could have done more, sorted yourself out. You should have cared enough about us to do that.”
“I know, I know. I just never quite had it in me, Val. I lost myself somehow, I don’t know if it was me, the drinking, what went on with my Da, but I just didn’t have the strength to pull myself back for you. I’m sorry.”
I’ve got a tear in my eye at this point, a dry, ghostly tear. Thirty years of lost time well up and smack me square in the heart, a punch of pure, undiluted regret. I don’t know what to say. Val’s stood there, watching me, half frowning, half intrigued and she’s about to say something when the music kicks in. Lucille. As requested by me in a hastily written will, ‘to be played at full volume, at my funeral, in the event of my death’. After all, it’s my favourite song. And it’s upbeat, not sombre and grim like most funeral muzak, one last blast of pure joy to play before I’m lowered into the ground. Val raises an eyebrow, then offers me her hand. “Dance, John?” she says, half seriously. Given the oddness of my situation, this seems like a relatively normal thing to do, so I get up and do my best to take her hand as she skips down to the chapel floor.
We don’t quite touch; my body’s fuzzy and indistinct, like the feeling you get from static on a telly screen. But there’s enough touch for Val to lead me, in jitterbug steps, across the cold tiled floor of the chapel, twirling this way and that, like it’s April 8 1960 all over again. It’s an amazing feeling, to dance one more time, with this incredible woman, whom I loved, who I still love, when I’ve no right to be here at all. I look in Val’s eyes and what they say is as vague as ever. There’s something in them; it’s not quite forgiveness, but it’s something close to acceptance and that, for me is enough. I look to the people sitting in the chapel stalls as they gawp at us. Although it’s not us that they’re looking at. Going from the fact that no-one noticed me apart from Val, it’s just her they can see. An ageing, apparently crazy woman, dancing jive by herself at an alchie’s funeral. Val turns on the gawpers. “What?” she says, challenging them with a glare. “I can celebrate John’s life in any way I see fit, thankyou.” The people in the chapel pews hang their heads, avoiding Val’s livid gaze. We dance out the last few steps and, as Lucille draws to a close for the last time, I feel a tug, a pull, not from above, or below, but from all around. I feel each ghostly particle of me separate from its neighbour, dissipating into the air like the seeds of a dandelion clock. And then…
And then I’m just not there anymore.