2nd September

The Presence

for Keir

Suddenly I had the strongest sensation that someone was walking beside me, with me. I was alone, but I had to check. Truly, I was alone. When I looked ahead again, the same feeling overwhelmed me and I had to check a second time. I thought I had somehow got out of myself, but as soon as I had that notion I knew I was mistaken. If anyone was there it was not myself or any part of myself. It was another.

I had come through the park, on my way to the shops. It was nearly four o’clock, the schools had finished, and what was left of the afternoon was warm and dry. Mothers and grandmothers and children were everywhere. There was a fenced-off area with a chute, swings and a roundabout, and it was full of children, with women watching over them. I was conscious of myself, an unaccompanied adult male, going through the park at that time of day. I went down under the bridge and onto the walk by the river and immediately left the crowds behind, and it was here that I felt the presence at my side.

It was not a ‘presence’ of course. It was an absence.

Before I left the river I saw a boy alone, fishing. He must have gone straight from school to be there and he must have had his rod in his schoolbag and screwed it together and there he was, fishing from the bank. I don’t know what you can catch in this river: not much, I should think, and nothing you wouldn’t want to throw straight back. There he was, the boy, and perhaps he was too young to be on his own by the river, where anything might happen: some stranger might approach him, or his foot might slip, or other, bigger boys might corner him. But he didn’t look like he was too young. He looked like a boy in his own place, and as if he would grow up to be a man who, as long as he lived, would occupy whatever space he occupied with ease.

As I went on to the shops I wished him luck.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
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