There is a photograph from one of their holidays, but the country is unclear. Given their travels, enjoyed in later life, it could be anywhere. It rotates through on the digital photo frame, the quality of the slides so extreme – falling on an out-of-focus barbecue or a gratuitous record of a wound, then to old kodachromes of house parties and frolicking Carnaby St in the seventies – as to lose the viewer’s interest within seconds, however the peaks match the troughs, and one’s attention is drawn back to it once again after not long.
    I pause. What was that? There was something moving beyond the window. My desk it situated before the large windows in the kitchen. At night, the view to the garden is obscured by all sorts of reflections from within. Everything is muddled on the glass, behind and front, a jagged crash of colours colliding and blending into each other. And yet I am sure I saw something move. It is not the neighbourhood cat – how familiar I am to her carriage – no, I stare, then I make it out.
    There is the fuselage of a seaplane emerging from the right side of the frame, its open doors and a ramp extended to the jetty. Passengers step down, caught in the various poses of walking. I am struck, as someone in the tenth month of lockdown, by the apparent look of apathy of those touching down in their destination. Not a single face of joy! The landscape permitted to be captured around the edge of the shot is beautiful, and yet each countenance is terribly gloomy!
    A feather. As it passed invisibly through the shadow of the table, I caught it coming out near the floor, faintly lit, floating fluffy pendulums down towards the cold paving slabs. It was one of those feathers that birds keep closer to their breast, not the sort to lay on the edges, decorated, proud, broad, weathered. No, it was the softer kind, like milkteeth. The sight of a feather falling from the night sky could be an omen of something or other, a form of destruction accented in the most delicate way. Whatever happened up there happened silently.
    There is a young couple in the middle of the photograph. Only moneyed twenty-somethings can afford such extravagant destinations, and to step into them with expressive indifference; perhaps the last leg of a tour around South Asia, caught in a bad moment on their honeymoon, too bright for wedding bands to be captured. She has on denim shorts and a striped, yellow bikini, the bottom of which breaks the rim of her hips with a yellow tie.
    And again! I am not sat at my desk a half hour more before another feather can be seen. How many had drifted down as my eyes were glued to paragraphs & words? When I went out to inspect them, they had clogged with thin puddles and mud, tacked down, shivering in the breeze. I look around, and there, in the darkness, are many puddles and many feathers, soft feathers, that have rolled into them and become trapped. As a child I was obsessed with tarpits, with the illustrations I had seen in books of sabretooth tigers and wooly mammoths trapped and dying in tarpits, clawing and crying to get out.

    Her beautiful face is beautifully miserable, as is her partner’s, who walks down with her, both their jaws casting shadows over toned torsos and neither’s turned to the vista. Who could walk above such waters and not look down to study the fish or even gauge the depth? Upon a jetty, one must always look between the slats or over the edge, into the water, confront the below. How can someone so kind to the eye appear so unhappy when arriving in such an exotic location? They do not hold hands. Who can say what happened before or after the shutter click, but each time I see the photograph I pause and, for a reason I cannot quite determine, feel a little bit better about being alone.
    Maybe there is a dead bird upon the roof. It seemed the only logical explanation for the downpour of feathers that night. The bird possibly fell unnoticed while I listened to music, but its carcass overhead, disabled and falling, everything limp but the honeycomb bones, would surely have been felt through the chair, ricocheting about the structure until it came down and up to tremble against my buttocks and spine. There it lay and there it decayed. A fatal red wound near-closed under the weight of its own muscle, and the disturbed feathers that were plucked to expose hang precariously from the tenderest fibres, shivering the wind to join those trapped in the puddles below.
    No one can say what happened on the rest of their trip. Hopefully, some resolution was reached that permitted both to enjoy each other’s company. After checking-in, they washed their faces in freshly opened soap, she took a shower, he sat on the edge of the bed and apologised, or maybe she apologised, someone apologised, then they both apologised, because it was polite and both had been a little in the wrong. He sat by the pool and watched her coming back from a swim. It ended up being the best holiday they had together, and their penultimate as a couple.
    The window-cleaner came on Wednesday. I was working away and, being forgetful that he was there, jumped every time I spotted him out the corner of my eye, this stranger who told me he’s seen me walking the streets. There was nothing secretive about the garden now, although a strong wind had come in from the east, the sun shone brightly; everything in colour and movement, the cones’ moment to shine. He climbed up on the roof. I heard him and felt him, steps tremoring down the structure and then up my seat into the bottom of my spine. He came down and he never mentioned anything about a dead bird. Would he say such a thing? There must be a reason for the feathers.