Still and unstirred, like a silent oak, the rings of time carved into the bark of her face, she watched nothing. A miniature seed of spittle swayed imperceptibly in the corner of her mouth, the ghost of a smile lingering from some joke not even she could remember; and, if you listened carefully, you could hear the sibilant scrape of her breath. Her eyes held a conviction of wonder, a cloudy cataract of joy at who knows what, when or where.
Her hands rested, statuesque, on her knees, the thumb of each hand tapping the seconds out with metronomic precision, a rhythm hypnotic in its persistency. I walked over, edging closer, terrified I would wake her from what seemed to be such a perfect state – alive and yet enraptured, totally detached from this ugly world. I touched her cheek, but she didn’t register. I held her hand, gently – and I was disturbed by the brief hiatus in her digital beats, as if I had stopped her music.
I stepped back; regarded her again. And then I saw it. A briny diamond creeping down her left cheek, like a distant cry from a child buried deep within this ageing casket. Sadness distilled, too potent to contemplate. I knelt down, dropped my head on her lap and my own tears dripped on to her fingers, which did not stop tapping.