Aunt Lydia blows her whistle again, but they don’t stop at once. The two Guardians move in, pulling them off, from what’s left. Some lie on the grass where they’ve been hit or kicked by accident. Some have fainted. They straggle away, in twos and threes or by themselves. They seem dazed.
“You will find your partners and re-form your line,” Aunt Lydia says into the mike. Few pay attention to her. A woman comes towards us, walking as if she’s feeling her way with her feet, in the dark: Janine. There’s a smear of blood across her cheek, and more of it on the white of her headdress. She’s smiling, a bright diminutive smile. Her eyes have come loose.
“Hi there,” she says. “How are you doing?” She’s holding something, tightly, in her right hand. It’s a clump of blond hair. She gives a small giggle.
“Janine,” I say. But she’s let go, totally now, she’s in free fall, she’s in withdrawal.
“You have a nice day,” she says, and walks on past us, towards the gate.
I look after her. Easy out, is what I think. I don’t even feel sorry for her, although I should. I feel angry. I’m not proud of myself for this, or for any of it. But then, that’s the point.
My hands smell of warm tar. I want to go back to the house and up to the bathroom and scrub and scrub, with the harsh soap and the pumice, to get every trace of this smell off my skin. The smell makes me feel sick.
But also I’m hungry. This is monstrous, but nevertheless it’s true. Death makes me hungry. Maybe it’s because I’ve been emptied; or maybe it’s the body’s way of seeing to it that I remain alive, continue to repeat its bedrock prayer: I am, I am. I am, still.
I want to go to bed, make love, right now.
I think of the word relish.
I could eat a horse.