I found her sitting on a gravestone. She was talking to herself and cutting up handwritten letters with the biggest pair of scissors I had ever seen.
‘Hello’, I said.
‘Hello’, she smiled, nimbly snipping away.
‘Whom are you talking to?’
‘Everyone’ she smiled, waving her arms around the cemetery.
I smiled. ‘And why are you destroying those letters?’
‘I am not destroying them,’ she insisted, ‘I am just cutting all of the words out. I love words’
‘But why are you cutting all of the words out?’ I asked.
‘Because they are in the wrong order. And some of them,’ she theatrically sighed, ‘have been incorrectly spelt. What is your favourite word?’
‘I don’t know,’ I said, wishing I could think of something magnificent. ‘I quite like oxymoron’.
‘Oh that’s a great word’ she laughed, ‘Isobella Monkton’s favourite word is cantankerous’.
‘Who is Isobella Monkton?’ I asked.
‘Isobella is over there,’ smiled the girl, gesturing towards a broken-nosed marble statue covered in ivy. ‘She sadly died in 1842’.
Whilst the girl was clearly loopy, I found her manner quite delightful, and so, not wishing to offend, I half-waved in Isobella’s direction and continued our conversation. ‘What is your favourite word?’
The girl carefully placed her giant scissors by her side and paused for a moment. ‘Oh I have so many favourites. It’s really hard to say, and it all depends upon my mood. Currently my favourite word is melancholy’.
‘Melancholy,’ I sighed. ‘I’ve been melancholy all my life. In fact I was going to say melancholy but I thought you might be frightened by such a word and so I said oxymoron.
‘Why would I be frightened of the word melancholy?’ asked the girl, clearly perplexed.
‘Well,’ I tried to explain, ‘whenever you say words like that, people are a bit shocked. They don’t know what to do with themselves. The moment they hear such words they form an opinion of you – normally a misguided opinion of you. It’s like telling someone you once had the depressions, or your favourite pop group is The Smiths. The moment you say it, you can see their faces change. Fear consumes them and they either want to stop talking to you - pretend that you’re no longer there - or they want to run away’
‘I love The Smiths,’ cried the girl, laughing for the first time.
‘Me too,’ I gushed. ‘What’s your favourite Smith’s song?’
And then it happened. The most wonderful thing in the whole wide world happened. In a cemetery. The girl began to sing. ‘A dreaded sunny day, so I’ll meet you at the cemetery gates… Keats and Yeats are on your side…’ Oh it was wondrous. Truly wondrous. I wanted her to go on forever. I wanted her to never stop. But the girl said she had other things to do and she needed to be alone for a while because ‘cutting out words and putting them back in the right order takes a lot of concentration’. I said I understood. I would bother her no more. But I was devastated. Truly devastated. Would I ever see her again? Did she feel the ‘stuff in the air’? I didn’t even know her name? There was so much I should have said. So many things I wished I’d asked and now it was too late. I had missed my one and only chance.
I closed the cemetery gate, lit a cheap-cigarette and slowly made my way back home.