A single bird twittering in the darkness


I was thinking, walking back from the shops, looking at all the Christmas trees in windows and coloured lights flashing on and off in various stars and pealing bells, that I suppose when I get back home I ought to break out the single strand of tinsel I have kept in a plastic bag under the sink for five years now. Probably drape it round the edges of my Buddha painting, like usual. Seeing a couple kissing in the lit kitchen of an upstairs flat invoked the ghost of Christmas past, when I too was in a relationship, or, dare I say it, even in love. The only time I had a real Christmas tree in the lounge, when she insisted we go out and buy a Norwegian blue spruce, because they keep their needles better. It was so tall I had to saw off a bit from the bottom so the top wasn't bent over under the ceiling. Propped it up in a bucket and filled around it with stones from the garden to keep it upright, poured water in to keep the needles fresh. It smelt gorgeously aromatic.

Christmas is a time for couples with four kids and dad can dress up as Santa. I was thinking walking down the road, I'd definitely do that, I'd fill them with the tradition of Christmas so steadfastly until they had to ask, embarrassed, late on in adolescence, whether Santa really existed, and even then I'd stick to my story. Well, in a perfect world, in a world that doesn't exist, that's what I'd do. And as I was walking down the road I was thinking of that blue spruce, it was like a conifer wood lying on the floor under it, waiting for her to come home, and we'd make love on the carpet on pine needles and not open our presents stacked up under the branches, hers for me professionally wrapped in expensive paper with bows and double-sided sellotape under the perfect flaps, mine for her in paper ten-sheets-for-a-quid down the market stuck with masking tape looking like you'd wrapped a pile of loose dirt even though it was in a perfectly orthogonal box.

Seems so long ago.

My mind had drifted walking down the road until, almost home, I heard a single bird twittering in the darkness when it should have been tucked up in bed, and that's not the first time I've heard a bird singing in the dark at the same point. And any other thoughts left me, and I thought that bird's song sums up a simple kind of happiness that needs nothing, solitary in the darkness.