I saw Death this morning. At least, I think I saw him. Let me tell you about it.
Let me start with some sort of background information. Things are easily understood if you give them context, aren’t they? There we go.
These days of confinement are weird. I spend quite a lot of time working in front of my computer (yes, I am a teacher) and then, well, I do not do much. Cook, eat, read, go to bed early, some sport in the morning (squats are awful, by the way), some shopping. As everyone else, #IStayHome.
Not doing bad, mind you. By now, I am more or less OK physically and emotionally. I guess my job is saving me from some sort of madness; all the time I spend in front of the computer is therapeutic in some ways, since it allows me to forget I am confined and it connects me with my students and fellow teachers and that, quite surprisingly, is OK for me.
That’s for the ups, there are some downs too. Biggest one: blindness. I can feel my beautiful, green eyes (sorry about that) going to waste. My sight is going from bad to mole and, well, if this goes on for long, I will probably need a cane and a smart dog. You know I am exaggerating, don’t you?
So, as I started to feel my eyes going rotten, I did some research. Basically I googled what to do when your eyes are going rotten and, of course, soon I had plenty of reports, medical studies and academic researches in front of my beautiful, green going-to-waste eyes (sorry again). I did what I always do: skipped it all and went straight for a nice picture with some mountains and a river and a nice text saying: try to focus on distant objects to make your eyes better. You cannot resist a nice image with some text on it, can you?
So the idea is to make your eyes look and focus on things different from your screen, to let them rest. Good! I can do that.
So, a few days go I started a new routine: early start, cup of tea, squats, breakfast, window. Every morning I spend half an hour looking through my living room window. And, as you may imagine, there is not much too see. Confinement, remember? And that could seen like an important disadvantage. I mean you try to look far and focus your gaze on something distant and there is no one walking down the street. Once you have been looking at the same building for like 20 minutes, well, you get bored.
But no! Because if you are patient enough, most of the days someone ambles or limps or marches or trudges or just walks in front of my dear window. And then you savour that sight as if it were the first bite to a hand made scone. You know that, if you are not lucky, that guy walking his dog or that woman going to work, pullin, might the the last person you are to see in your half hour.
So you stare and gaze and focus hard. And you study each feature of that particular guy (he hasn’t shaved for the last three or four days, one of his shoelaces is loose, the mask he is wearing looks a bit dirty). You try to guess things about him like his age, his profession, his hobbies… just by his look and the way he walks.
And this, believe me, is a fantastic way of spending thirty minutes each morning. It gives you peace. It is pure entertainment. As my street is quite long,I can spend three or four minutes looking to the same person.I start just seeing a shape at the end of the street, by the park’s fence, I make my first guess right that moment. Man or woman, age.
Not easy, you know. Quite often you are wrong. And that is beautiful, since it gives interest to the whole game. That makes you get to your window again the next morning. It is like a mild rush of cosy adrenaline into your veins. Not a big thing, mind you, but a nice warm shot of something.
So,when that particular person gets closer, you now can see better. A man, in his fifties, wearing working boots and a pair of old, dirty jeans. A safety vest over his jumper and a baseball cap. He walks slowly, like tired. He probably lives alone. Not only his trousers are dirty but he looks as if he didn’t care much about personal hygiene. He limps a bit. HIs right ankle is injured. But he walks as if he was used to it. An old accident. Probably falling from a stepladder when working. The typical injury you don’t mind much about at the beginning which is with you forever, not much pain. Gives you personality.
And then you watch him go. By now, he has a job (electrician, according to the logo on the back of his vest), a name, age and marital status (Daniel, 54, divorced in 2007), he has hobbies and habits (collects empty bottles of beer, smokes, drinks, sedentary). By the time he disappears by the other side of the street you know him well.
And this happens every time. You get to know people in just a few minutes and you sort of empathise with them and even love them a bit for a little while.
But, this morning, things have gone quite differently.
It was a cold morning. Last day of March but just four degrees above zero in town. Winter time with a few weeks delay. I got my favourite blanket around my shoulders, my cuppa and sat in front of my window.
And from the first moment I can see the game has changed because of the cold. There is hardly a soul on the streets and, when you can see somebody, it is quite difficult to guess their age or their profession, since they walk covered by their coats, scarves and gloves. A nice way to exploit fun, you weather!
Anyway, I am a professional of confined voyeurism. I stay in my post, patiently waiting for someone who has forgotten to have a look at the weather forecast. There is still some tea in my cup so I have to wait and see.
And I see. Or not. The point is I barely see a tall shape by the fence of the park. It is more a silhouette, a blurred outline of someone too tall not to be a basketball player. Then, when I try to focus my expert eyes on that person, it fades.
Yep. Just like that. Like in a kids game in which you have your eyes covered but you cheat from time to time so you get a glimpse of reality and then you are back to black. But not black exactly; more like grey, or shadow (if shadow was a colour, mind you).
Then you have the strange feeling that you saw nothing. Or maybe just a tall man who walked the other way. Maybe your eyes are definitely rotten or you are tired. It is quite possible it was just a shape reflected in some shop window.
And then you see him again. Now it is a he. No doubts about it. Quite slim but too tall to be a woman. You cannot see his face and his clothes are weird. He is not wearing a coat but what looks like a cloak. Lord of the Rings style, you know.
But it is, again, a glimpse. Like a lost shot in a movie, As if the editor had mixed a shot or two of her son’s baptism into a Hollywood film. Weird, but if you pay attention, you can see it,
And I am a master of paying attention. So I try to focus all my senses on that man. Or on the place he should be by now.
And glimpse by glimpse, I start to solve the puzzle. Tall, very tall. He doesn’t walk more than he slides on the pavement, as if not touching ground. Wears a dark cloak, grey and black and brown at the same time. Very thin. Unbelievably thin. A miracle someone this meager is able to stand and walk. He is not wearing the cloak. He lives inside it. He looks straight ahead. His gaze fixed on some point ahead of him. Not a single movement in his body or neck or arms. He is kind of floating.
And then, when he is by the end of my street, just by the corner, I can see him unsheathe a large blade on a long wooden angle. Not the first time I see something like that. What is the word for this thing?
Ah, yes. A scythe.