Face by Ollie Francis

There is a face at the end of the garden, carved into the bark of a sycamore tree. It has a smile, but the eyes tell me it is sad. I wonder what it has seen. We often sit out there. Barbecue in the summer, cover ourselves in blankets as the night closes in. I like to think we have mostly shown it happy memories. There was only one time I know we didn’t, but I had already seen its sadness by that stage. What caused it must go deeper than our own simple misunderstanding and brief cacophony.

The house has been owned before, of course. We aren’t stupid enough to think that we are the first. It’s not something we talk about much, but we know it is true. When we first bought the place, I considered looking into its past — finding out its secrets and past lovers, exploring its darkest moments. Instead, we chose not to pry. We chose to leave the unknown as it was and build our lives upon it.

Of course, we weren’t careless. We had all the checks. Surveys and structural integrity. No signs of dry rot. There was never any doubt that the place was safe for us.

But you still can’t help but wonder, there in your bed at night, the other lovers who may have lay there, stared at the same ceiling, watched as the same sun rose through that same window, its rays warming that same patch of wall and caressing the same contours.

And then there is the face. Such a beautiful face. I trace my fingers along the lines cut by the blade, consider the pain it took to make them. I am sorry for the tree, of course. But I also choose to be glad. Glad that someone once took the time to make their mark here; glad that someone cared for this place before we arrived. I know it wouldn’t truly be ours, wouldn’t be the home we both love so much, without them and their time and their knife.

 

Short bio: Ollie Francis: Writer, teacher and lover of pies. And don’t worry about feeling tired; it’s just nature’s way of telling you you’re still alive. olliefrancis.co.uk / @ollie_francis

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