About a year after we’d moved out,
a man ended his life in my parents’ first house.
I learned this like kids do, in dribs and drabs,
that slow understanding that comes across months
as a gradual lifting of mist – ignorance in ignorance
of its own slow death, fabled frog in boiling water.
He exists to me as patchwork, an accruement of abstracts
gleamed from friends-of-friends and ex-neighbours –
married but childless, wire-rimmed glasses, devoutly religious.
I won’t pretend I knew him, but I can’t help staring
into space at night, distracted by the image of him
at the end: how it happened, why he did it, where.
I think of pills spilt on the pop-stained den carpet;
blood in a faded rime round the long-drained tub;
the reek of rot in the conservatory’s still heat. Most of all
I see him hanging over the foot of my bed –
in my head, it’s as it was when I was four or five,
all blue plywood cabinets and duckling wallpaper,
not the unknown geometries of strangers’ furniture
in an alien landscape shaped like my lost room.
I can’t make sense of it: in stories, these sorts of tragedies
happen in the past, to prefigure some doom-laden present;
but here, cause and effect feel rendered irrelevant,
and ghosts haunt a home we’ve already left.
Alex Aldred lives and works in Edinburgh, where he is currently undertaking a PhD in creative writing. His work has previously been published by Daily Science Fiction, the Cordite Review, the Molotov Cocktail, and more. You can find him on twitter @itsmealexaldred, or visit his website at www.alexaldred.co.uk. At night, his stories climb out of his laptop and play tricks on him.