from: Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

I close my eyes, wait for pictures. I need to fill in the black square of time, go back and see what’s in it. It’s as if I vanish at that moment and reappear later, but different, not knowing why I have been changed. If I could even see the undersides of the boards above my head it might help. I close my eyes, wait for pictures.

At first there’s nothing; just a receding darkness, like a tunnel. But after a while something begins to form: a thicket of dark-green leaves with purple blossoms, dark purple, a sad, rich colour, and clusters of red berries, translucent as water. The vines are intergrown, so tangled over the other plants they’re like a hedge. A smell of loam and another, pungent scent rises from among the leaves, a smell of old things; dense and heavy, forgotten. There’s no wind but the leaves are in motion, there’s a ripple, as of unseen cats, or as if the leaves are moving by themselves.

Nightshade, I think. It’s a dark word. There is no nightshade in November. The nightshade is a common weed. You pull it out of the garden and throw it away. The nightshade plant is related to the potato, which accounts for the similar shape of the flowers. Potatoes too can be poisonous, if left in the sun to turn green. This is the sort of thing it’s my habit to know.

I can tell it’s the wrong memory. But the flowers, the smell, the movement of the leaves persist, rich, mesmerizing, desolating, infused with grief.