MIST

Today a mist has floated down to sit in the streets and parks of Salies, and the hush that always accompanies mist cloaks the town. I love the humidity, the air that turns liquid on touching the cheeks, the cool wetness of it, but specially the hush. Everything is quieter when shrouded in mist. The day unfolds… very quietly: breakfast, a short walk with the dog, must unmake the bed so the landlady can give me clean sheets, a fresh towel; my shoulder blade still hurts, will call the osteopath and see if that is to be expected, lunch somewhere, a woodpecker tat-tat-tats, the dog sleeps, hush.

            Salies has cleaned up from its fêtes; the street sweepers –who are now street-blowers and much noisier than the swish, swish of brooms or the grating of rakes- have cleaned the walk-ways of leaves, the first sign that autumn approaches: the leaves have begun to fall. No sooner have the sweeps left than the trees shed their daily ration and once more decorate the ground with a fresh batch of brown and dry. My filched corn looks even greener as the day greys and browns. And then there is the dust.

            Dust is the opposite of mist. I sweep my little studio almost every day: it is always filled with dust, a small heap collects under the broom and I gather it up with the red dust-pan that has its own brush. In Madrid I can understand the constancy of dust: it is very dry, the wind blows, sometimes even bringing the white sandy dust from Africa across the Mediterranean and all the way to the city. But this area of France is humid, green, damp, even wet most of the time: why the dust? Where does it come from? Do Salomé and I traipse it in on our feet when we enter? That much dust? We come from dust, we return to dust, or so says the Bible somewhere. But that would be stardust. Would it? No, not really, we like to romanticize and say we are made of stardust, but it isn’t true: it is this dust, the insidious kind that collects under my bed and on my shoes and is swept up by my dustpan and brush every morning: it is this dust of which I am made. The plain, every day, inevitable dust of existence, coming in, being swept out, coming in again, being swept out again… Dust and mist, mist and dust, together: no meaning. Of the two, only dust is eternal.

            On the window sill are droppings, they look like bat droppings. I leave the window open at night. Do I have night visitors: flying mice, bald mice, chauve-souris, murciélagos. I wonder if they wonder at me, at us Salomé and myself, sleeping, dreaming perhaps, while the tiny bats circle around the room cleaning out the mosquitoes and moths and flies that have gathered about the light bulb before I put it out on the verge of sleep. Mist and dust and bats in the night, a woodpecker, clean sheets today, and now a ray of sunshine that breaks through lighting the walls, the floor, the ceiling, the bed, me, the dust… the mist has gone. Dommage.

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