The Lavender Path
The Lavender Path
Somewhere, nowhere, between the press of sheets and ventilator’s suck and hush, his hourglass drips. The moving mountains mark his time, his pulse, his pressure, as he slips and slides through crusts of consciousness. These walls can barely hold him now; what’s left could smudge and melt away through every crack, but for the weight of years ��" the slack tide of a fading past and whirligigs of flotsam memory in the eddy of his mind. Just pull enough, to keep him from the black.
Silently she reads the charts that tell he’s almost off life’s map. Each heartbeat pausing for a breath. A husk that holds a failing heart, a demi-life, an incommunicado trap suspends him, senseless, unaware, of summer shadows stretched across the floor, footsteps in the corridor, time, always passing.
He does not feel soft hands upon his face, the coolness of the cloth that cannot wipe the creases from his brow. Unreachable. The land now out of sight.
She bends to rearrange his pillows, and somehow, through the smallest chink of Morpheus armour, a fragile link is made between two worlds, a spark, a long-forgotten track. The laundry scent of lavender, finds him, leads him,
and back . . .
Provence. An adolescent boy, caught between the past and future echoes of a war. Listless, lonely, almost done with toys; he flies a scarlet kite, an insult to the unrelenting blue. His parents’ laughter, sparkling, tinkling in the light as twinkling glasses clink across the wilting lawns, towards a rippling square of white, beneath the shadow of the cedars.
He is there, dazzled by the clarity of a certain summer afternoon.
A voice. A mischief whisper. Words he cannot understand. The sound of smiles. A brown hand reaching for the string. A yellow dress. A face. Dark eyes, lingering as she turns. A sunflower village girl, running through the dust, a brighter sun, burned into the image of the day.
Stumbling, tumbling, feet that do not feel the ground. Bound with a string he cannot know. He follows. Through the palest purple rows, the stubby shadows of the stunted tress, his knees, whipped by wispy meadow grass, racing, chasing down the ringing hill.
The kite hangs limp, abandoned, tangled in the bush. A tunnel through tall rushes takes him to a stream, a pool, a bridge. A cool oasis fringed by reeds. He stops to feed his greedy eyes. She splashes, dances, dashes diamond droplets into haloes on the furious sun.
Stones spin and skip and skim the surface. Circles merge, converge. Names arranged in daisy chains as dandelions mark the hours. Beneath a shower of larksong they find a voice, a common tongue, of eyes and hands, of darting, flashing dragonflies. All the while the great eye never blinks, just burns, and dries and shrinks the world to dripping shadows, slinking as their backs are turned.
Lost and snow-blind, shuffling homeward through the embers of the day, he shudders at the sudden stab of hand-in-hand, the small blue blooms that brush his legs with dew; drowning in the sea of scent. The scald of lips upon his cheek, her silhouette against the sunset sky. A sigh of “à demain.” This thought. This moment caught forever in the amber of an afternoon.
Darkness gathers. Mountains slide and pitch. Cheeks white and wet with tears. A snatch to catch a fleeing breath. He rides an avalanche of years towards the precipice of night. Failing, falling. He turns to catch a sound, a voice that calls his name, a face, a yellow dress, a smile, a sight that once more stills his heart. She comes through fields of lavender, through purple waves of lavender, and hand in hand through lavender, she leads him, laughing, to the light.