Tonight, before I sleep, I will write my will. It may interest you to know that you are one of the beneficiaries. Nothing fancy, I promise. Just an old cardboard box, filled with some items that I thought were worth saving, and which you might like to have after I am gone. I hope they remind you of me, when the time comes for that anyway. That is all I can really ask of you by that point, to be remembered.
In your garden, the primroses that you planted months ago have finally begun to blossom, unfolding their petals to greet the sun’s waxing warmth. The buzzing and humming of insects will soon follow, as all the other flowers rouse themselves to follow this early herald’s example. He is already waiting for you by the gate, his toothy smile a perfect match for yours, as you straighten from tending the flowers. He holds a bunch of daffodils, which you take from him, only to drop when he in turn takes your face in his hands and kisses you. The two of you walk out the gate, hand in hand. It swings shut behind you and a single butterfly alights on the post. I wait until you are out of sight, and then leap over the gate to pick up the only daffodil that has not been trampled by your passing feet. The butterfly takes flight.
Bodies are strewn across the beach, baking and slowly turning into stranded lobsters served up on gritty sand. You stroll back to your mat, carrying two coconuts from the vendor further inland and dripping perspiration because of the glaring sun. He spots you coming and runs to grab you by the waist, spilling juice onto your hands. He licks your fingers, one by one, and you swat him playfully. He chases you into the ocean, the coconuts forgotten beside your mat as a breeze ruffles your hair. I step out from behind the vendor’s stall and follow the path you took, matching your footsteps in the sand until I reach the coconuts. There is still some juice in one of them. I pick it up and drain it dry, watching the two of you disappear into the crowd of splashing bathers.
Every so often, a chilly wind whistles through the trees, shaking red, orange and yellow leaves from the branches. They rustle underfoot as you walk along the track, the lowest of the bare boughs just managing to scrape your head. He gathers up a handful of twigs and leaves, sneaks up behind and dumps it onto you, laughing all the while. You turn and glare at him, crossly brushing the dead matter from your hair. He tries to help but you evade his touch, turn and stalk down the path. He follows a short distance behind, kicking up crackling piles as he passes me, step by step. I reach out from behind a tree and snatch up one of the leaves before it falls to the ground. The wind strips another branch of its leaves, which fall all about my outstretched arm.
The two of you stand in the middle of a field, blanketed by the snow. You have each left a trail of shoeprints behind you, dark against the white expanse. All about you, the snow continues to fall steadily at an angle, weighing down the skeletal frames of the trees that line the perimeter of the field. Near one of them, a branch lies on the ground where it fell after snagging in the hood of your parka and snapping off. He tries to kiss you but you stop him, and taking his hand in yours, you lead him away. The snow crunches beneath you, as you slowly allow the distance between your bodies to grow, until you drop his hand, still walking on. He pretends that it did not happen. I pocket a twig from the fallen branch and follow the path you took past the witch-hazel shrubs, twinning our shoeprints. I turn around when I reach the place where you were standing and start walking backwards, until all the shoeprint trails are paired, marching across the powdery snow, two by two.
On my bedside table, there are four things that I look at every night before I go to bed: a dried flower, an empty husk, a shredded leaf, a bare twig. The old cardboard box is already waiting, labelled with your address.
This is a reprint of work originally published in Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure.