Those Steps Ahead

This is what you know . . .

The realisation you have chosen your own ghosts.


This is what you are sure . . .

A white house. A man. He’s wearing a pale shirt.

This probably . . .

You look up. A square white house. The paintwork is peeling. A young man with fair hair is waiting; he’s wearing jeans and a lilac shirt.

This might have . . .

The coach stops. You look up. A square white house. The paintwork is peeling. A man with fair hair is waiting on the porch. He’s young, wearing jeans and a pale lilac shirt.

His jacket is draped over his shoulder.

Displacement.

This is what you know.

You have begun to wonder whether you’ve chosen your own ghosts for fear of something else.

This is what you are sure happened.

Summer. The coach stops. You look up. A square white house. The paintwork is peeling. A man is standing on the porch. You know he’s young. He’s wearing a pale shirt. His jacket is draped over his shoulder.

This is what probably happened.

Summer. The coach stops. You look up. There’s a low wall. A drive leads to a square white house. The paintwork is peeling. There are columns on either side of the front door. A man with fair hair is waiting. You know by the way he’s standing that he’s young. He’s wearing jeans and a lilac shirt. His jacket is draped over his left shoulder.

This is what might have happened.

It’s summer. The coach has stopped. You look up from your book. There’s a low wall overhung with shrubbery. A gravel drive leads to a square white house. The paintwork is peeling. There are columns on either side of the black front door. A man with fair hair is waiting on the porch, his back towards you. You know by the way he’s standing that he’s young. He’s wearing jeans and a pale lilac shirt. His cream coloured jacket is draped over his left shoulder.

This is what you know happened.

Time is elastic, pliable. Now it’s unravelling. You’d rather think about a summer day, a white house.

Displacement.

This is what you know happened.

Lately you have begun to wonder whether you’ve chosen your own ghosts for fear of being haunted by something else. Just as you can always nd a distraction from that unopened letter by clearing cupboards or rearranging furniture, you conjure up familiar phantoms and ordinary revenants that cannot do you any harm.

This is what you are sure happened.

You’re on the way home. The coach has stopped. You glance out of the window. A square white house is some distance from the road. The paintwork is peeling. There are columns on either side of the front door. A man with fair hair is standing on the porch, his back towards you. You can’t see his face but you know he’s young. He’s wearing a pale shirt. His jacket is draped over his shoulder.

This is what probably happened.

It’s summer. You’re on the way home from a class outing. The coach has stopped at traf c lights. You look up from your book. You glance out of the window to your left. There’s a low stone wall overhung with shrubbery. A gravel drive leads to a square white house, some distance from the road. The paintwork is peeling around the window frames. There are columns on either side of the scuffed front door. A man with fair hair is waiting on the porch, his back towards you. You can’t see his face but you know by the way he’s standing that he’s young. He’s wearing jeans and a lilac shirt. His cream coloured jacket is draped over his left shoulder.

This is what might have happened.

It’s nearly the summer holidays. You’re on the way home from a class outing. The coach has stopped, caught in a tailback at traf c lights. You look up from your book. You’ve recently discovered Zola. You glance out of the nger smeared window to your left. There’s a low wall overhung with dusty shrubbery. A sparse gravel drive leads to a square white house, some distance from the road. Paintwork is peeling around the window frames. There are columns on either side of the black front door. The stucco is a wound of scrapes and gouges. A man with fair hair is waiting on the porch, his back towards you. You can’t see his face but you know by the way he’s standing that he’s young. He’s wearing jeans and a pale lilac shirt. His cream coloured jacket is draped over his left shoulder.

This is what you know happened.

Time is elastic, pliable. Now it’s unravelling like Dorothy’s cabin whirling away from Kansas. Here are the ones who were with you, who will always be those steps ahead. Fay Bellechierre. Lost in the tideless calm of the Adriatic. Annette Dixon. Stabbed through the heart at her sister’s wedding. Elaine Fountain. Choked to death after a beating from her boyfriend.

You’d rather think about a summer day, a square white house, a ghost who could still be alive?

Displacement.

Sasha Saben Callaghan lives and works in Edinburgh. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing at Edinburgh Napier University and is a founder member of Disability History Scotland.

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