Outside my block there is a letterbox cemetery.

During the first six months, I often had to take the  short walk to the postbox and pop into the ‘local postcodes’ slot envelopes which had my address preceded by the name of the previous tenant on them. I crossed out the name and wrote “doesn’t live here anymore” over it in biro.

On moving in day there were small hooks stuck to the otherwise bare walls of the room. I struggled but succeeded in dethroning these hooks that once hung memories, or keys, or a small coat.

As one body dissolved into the past my new body took up the space and the space became different, new.

I wonder what mementos they had on their walls, or scattered across their table. Books and ripped bits of paper and crumbs? I wonder how they hung up their clothes or how often they cleaned the floor. If their ghost is still here with me, us both hunching our necks beneath the showerhead while we contemplate the days below and above us.

I know nothing about them, apart from that they’re disorganised enough to have not alerted the relevant authorities that: I won’t be living here anymore. By the look of their name and the regularity of contact from the immigration office I could tell that they had to move to this place, like me, from some other country, and also had to redefine home for a time. Although I don’t receive these sorts of letters, so maybe I’m not as foreign. (What does that mean?)

How many more mountains and seas did they have to cross? I wonder if the arrival of snow and the freezing over of the canals (resulting in us and the ducks perching on top of uncertain waters) were more alien to them.

I flick forward to some point when I’ll be preparing to go, dissolving myself, leaving my ghost here to greet the next tenant with a spooky sort of friendliness. All three of us will be there then, watching the room change, watching marks appear and disappear, feeling that deep sense that everything moves on, and the box will be the same box but not the same place. Maybe I’ll not alert the officials that my position is going to be different. Gravestones made of paper will glide from the postman’s satchel, the letterbox will overflow with names that mean nothing but were once here.

 

Written by Nicholas Burman. (learn more about him here)

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