Back here on the path, it’s all spit and brick dust, with once-white plimsolls kicking up scurf into sticky air. It’s forty years since furnaces bellowed across a town of solid men and women with brass in their pockets and swarf beneath their skin; thirty since the walls crumbled into dead eyes and thick veins; twenty since the Sun gave up calling and left no contact details, and ten since the dead shuffled out of the nettles and bindweed, coughing out stories with no beginning or end. There’s a point at which the path ends, though it’s different every time, and there’s a point at which even the most regular visitor – and you have to come back, whatever your mother or your sensible self may advise – will forget all they ever knew about money, machines, and motorways which once ran from here to the Moon. But then a ghost will take you by surprise. It will take your hand and take a cigarette from your proffered pack which you don’t remember buying. It will tell you of long, hard days, sweating through insubstantial time. It will recall lost names for the first time in decades, rolling them from its dusty mouth like companions in war. We’re all on the edge of metaphor here, if we could only pull our laces tight and walk on, but the ghost points back the way we came – the way everyone came – and there doesn’t appear to be a path.
23 August 2022 Thanks to Lucy Alexa