Men. Men everywhere. Men in black cars, snaking up the hill, a crowd of peace on Sunday. I had decided that, in the temple of my own mind, I would give her a ceremony. She and I were in the first car, and we had reached the cemetery before the last had left the church. That's how many men came in the name of respect.
I had given her a Catholic service, it was all I knew. The guests were dark in the pews, none of them seemed to have faces. He and I had taken turns in reciting the prayers of the faithful, voices shaking, eyelids sagging heavily. The hall was shrouded by the walls of dark stone, made us feel like we were ancients, suffocating within the cold walls. The rain was muffled by the thickness of our casing, though Mary's image wept on the stained glass window behind the altar. Her tears were like gasoline, dousing the skin of the church in danger and making the people inside pray harder, in desperation for their own lives.
Violence, threatening the celebration of life.
For some reason I was driving the hearse. It was me and her only, at the front of the line. Things had come bubbling out of my mouth. Words one says to themselves, though strategically loud enough for another to hear, in the hope they may join the conversation.
Apologies, questions, sobs. I commentated my life to her. "Veer right, don't turn left around the corner. That's a dead end. All the way up the hill... and what a view it is from the cemetery... God... I'm so sorry, you know..."
Her lack of answer, I found irrationally distressing.
At the top of the hill I looked down at the serpentine procession of cars. All of the black, identical, uniform. All seemed to be sleepwalking upwards, only following the one in front. The steady growl of straining engines hummed in my ears. It got no louder or softer. As more cars reached the top of the hill, more seemed to appear at the bottom. A never-ending chain, as constant and deep as an age-old culture.
Some cars took that wrong turn, down the dead end road. I felt a hot anger towards this. Vet de att det är en återvändsgränd? (5) I visualised it as a choice, the backstreet over the ceremony, the shadowed laneway over the cemetery, soaked in sunlight.
A line of cars went down the left road, all following one another. Vem var det som slog bort? (6) Somebody got out of one of the cars, and begun directing the rest of the procession the correct way. I could see them shouting, irritated, desperate.
I heard a gunshot from down the laneway. Gas, smoke and pungent gas rising from above the apartments. A terrified scream. Swearing.
The consequences for their choices.
I opened my eyes, fully aware of everything that had happened in the dream. It was as if I intentionally planned everything that had happened. Like a tangent of the imagination.
Except the end. It was as if she had entered my mind, allowing me to see violence from the perspective one someone in a position of peace. On the top of a hill.
Var hon det våld vi hittade så mycket normalt? (7)
I shivered, never quite hating myself so much as in that moment.
Notes on the Swedish:
vet de att det är en återvändsgränd? ~ Do they know it's a dead end
Vem var det som slog bort? ~ Who was it that broke away?
Var hon det våld vi hittade så mycket normalt? ~ Was she the violence we found so very normal?
YOU ARE READING
Freja (In response to the Poetry of Seamus Heaney)Historical Fiction
An Irish Nationalist is enticed to question the relevance and need for violence in his country's signature, as he is haunted by his involvement in a horrendous political crime, committed silently in the thicket of the Troubles.