This morning a locksmith came to install new locks in our house, since it came with locks but no keys. In however many years the previous owner has been here, he'd never locked the place, and didn't know where the keys might be found. The locksmith, it turned out, was a fellow -- maybe 70? -- who'd lived close by all his life, and who'd known the house well in the past. It was occupied for decades by a Mr and Mrs Payne; Mr Payne's sister lived next door. Mr Payne developed Alzheimer's, and late in his life he wandered -- and here the locksmith gestured off toward the west -- "into the swamp." He wasn't found for four or five days, and of course he didn't survive.
Paul found this story just awful. I said, Well, maybe he didn't suffer so much, maybe he was just thirsty or cold. Maybe he didn't suffer existential dread. Paul said, Oh, I think they suffer existential dread. Clearly he was thinking of his mother, who has senile dementia, and doesn't seem to recognize anyone anymore.
But I am holding out for some alternative view, though I know it may be a romantic construct. Maybe the woods welcomed Mr Payne, and ushered him easily into a dark sleep. Maybe he liked going out into the liminal zone, land becoming water, and relinquishing himself to that. Roots and stones.
The Paynes, said the locksmith, worked hard all their lives, had no children, and scrimped and saved every penny. And for what? he said, laughing as he shuffled off.
And then in a few minutes I had to go running out to chase him, as I realized he'd put in the shining new locks but forgotten to give me the keys.