'Far Leys', by Ultan Banan. Upcoming fiction.

Dear Jane,

The leaves turned today. Yesterday they were a deep, vibrant red. Today they are yellow. Autumn is a forlorn time and yet it holds within it a deep peace. Solitude is less oppressive in autumn than it is at other times of the year, don’t you think? It feels more like a friend than a tormentor. We become close, my solitude and I, in this time. We make fine company together. He makes no demands on me, nor I on him. We have an understanding. Do you have one such confidante in your life? One who does not judge you but embraces you regardless, one who will never let go?

But Jane, how could you not? You know so many people. You are a butterfly, a beautiful butterfly. I’m sure you have lovers with whom you dissolve, like the spent fruit fallen from the autumn tree. Tell me Jane, tell me how that feels. Is it like being alone? Is it just like disappearing inside oneself? I dreamed last night that I lost myself in the sky; it was frightening at first, but when I realised there was no one there to see me, I felt free. That’s how my companion makes me feel too. Free. And yet I’m a prisoner here at this window, watching the trees turn under a cold sky. Free me Jane, if only for a moment, one desperate blinding moment. Say the words and free me so I can breathe.

I went outside this morning and walked for an hour. It was cold and I thought of Paris in winter. I dreamt of the streets strewn with yellowed leaves and the warmth of side-street cafes, umbrellas and fresh bakery smells. One old woman stopped as I was passing the graveyard and said: ‘Are you out without a dog? How dreadful!’ I smiled. Remind me Jane, to get myself a dog. Perhaps the company of my solitude is becoming too much to bear.

I have sat in the music room for four days now and produced nothing. The notes do not come. I sit in silence and listen to cars pass outside, and when they have gone I hear only the gentle agitation of the trees. There is music there too, but it does not inspire me. I sit quietly, just myself and my silent companion. Only a day ago he turned vicious and snarled at me. I changed seats but he followed, tormenting me from behind the curtain. I went to lie down for a bit and he crawled under the bed. He growled as I pulled the covers around me. I closed my eyes and had no choice but to listen.

Truthfully, Jane, this is not the first time my companion has turned against me. For all I tell you of his warm embrace, he does so like to torment me. I am scared of him, it’s true. But I forgive him his wrath. Who should comfort me if he should leave? I am not like you Jane, with so many admirers and devotees. How I would love to live in your shoes for only one day. But one day only. I couldn’t bear the love and attention. Don’t you sicken, Jane, on the sweetness of your lovers’ lips? But if I close my eyes I can lie with you for a minute or two, the bed full and warm with the body’s memory. My companion does not follow me into these daydreams. He shies from the sunlight that spills through your window.
But I always return to him. He awaits me, and I do not like to keep him waiting for long. Otherwise he laments my absence, and I cannot bear his sadness and mine both.

Have you ever borne the sadness of another, Jane? Or is the weight of your own enough to see you through a long winter’s night? Before this winter is over, Jane, let us spend a night together and find out if our sorrows are compatible, if our heartaches are enough for each other. And what if they were? What if our anguish was joined in holy matrimony, leaving us to enjoy your bed alone and without interruption? Could you bear to part with your loss and suffering and darkness? I am not strong, Jane; I am not good at saying goodbye. But perhaps with you by my side, I could learn. What do you think – can you teach me how to leave it all behind?

I await your response. Prisons are comforting, after a time. Companions suffocate even as they console. I’m not sure I can abide my companion for much longer. I tell you this in a whisper, lest he hear: Lend me your ear and your shoulder, Jane. Let us introduce our sorrows to each other.
I will try to sleep for a little. Nights are long and last a lifetime, but sometimes I slumber in the afternoon. If my companion rests, I may close my eyes for a little while. Pills help.

The trees are yellow. Soon they will be bare. Think on what I said. Aren’t you curious to know?

I pull the curtain now Jane. Think of me as I think of you.

xx

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 ‘Far Leys’, by Ultan Banan. Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash. Please note: flash fiction, nonfiction and all other content is the sole work of Black Tarn. Ask before republishing.

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