‘Tarmac’

She was a long way away now. Distant, blurred, like hedgerows that flicker into nothing but a green line from the motorway; hazy blue mountains on the horizon. The way they fade into mist. Become the sky.

He remembered her from time to time. Mostly when he was driving those roads again: back and forth, up and up, snaking single mindedly through nights and days, and he wondered if her thoughts might be on those roads too, slicked across the hot tarmac, waiting for him to come. And if they were, those ghostly thoughts, how would he greet them? Would they even speak? How do you talk to those who are gone?

Soon, a decade had passed. Others were probably thinking of her too. Of course, she couldn’t be thinking of them all. Maybe she had forgotten their time entirely. Or were theirs the photos she had framed on every wall of her tiny apartment? She had probably sold it and moved to the countryside, to a cottage buried in meadows where nobody knew her. In that time, she became someone else, beyond the woman he knew. And in between then and now, she might have become anything.

All the guessing made him feel lost, unsure of her. If he saw it for himself, he was certain he’d know the truth. Their spirits would talk, somewhere in the clouds, the trees, the roads. He chose the place. Bought a ticket.

The plane’s coming in to land now, and the cabin crew have taken their seats. He’s so close. Just like he expected, there are the pale outlines of mountains to the right, and blue-green patchwork fields to the left. He smiles. At this height, the sun is always bright, and it picks out all the silvery ribbons of tarmac that weave the world together. It’s everywhere they might have travelled: him and her, back then, if they’d had time.

He can’t see her yet, but he’s trying. He remembers half a conversation, a folded map on a coffee table, a teasing smile in bed one snowy morning, and it tells him she’s somewhere down there, and she’s happy to see him.

 

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