A cup of tea, warm, snug clothes, a comfy armchair. Leaves fall onto the ground. Flames blaze in the fireplace. The open window allows for a draught of cold air to pass by the scarf-covered throat and break the otherwise stifling hot atmosphere, to lend it something crisp. Chestnuts can be found almost as much on the soles of the shoes as in the oven, the entrance is stained with blackish brown water residue, dripping off the shoes that the guests always so considerately take off soon upon entering this haven of warmth in an otherwise increasingly cold, wet and hostile environment. He walks over to the mantelpiece and picks up a letter. He is deliberately slow in opening it with his gold-plated letter opener, the cracks in his forehead accentuated by the shadow thrown on them by the flames as he looks at me sternly. “This is”, he says, “the first piece of mail I have got from Margaret in three decades. Three decades… You imagine? A lifetime for some.” His fingers clasp the right edge of the folded letter which is perfectly tucked into the envelope and he pulls it up halfway before pausing. “A lifetime without her. And here she is now, entering my life again, albeit through mail. What does one have to say after all this time?”. It is apparent that he does not want me to answer, his eyes just swiftly coming up to meet mine and to reassure himself that I look just as concerned as he does. I do my best to comfort him in his gloomy mood, to mirror his every feeling so that he is sure of himself when he finally reads the letter. Encouragement which doesn’t feel like encouragement because all it is, is acknowledgment of his every step in walking to the mantelpiece to smoothing over the folded paper in order to have the most pleasant reading experience possible of these words that mean so much to him – no matter what they actually end up being. “You know, sometimes it is the author, not their particular story that day…”, he says as he looks a little less grim, his eyes wandering up to the ceiling, indicating the beginning of one of his increasingly frequent phases of contemplation and retrospection.
All of a sudden his left hand finds its way to his heart in a swift motion, throwing over the glass of whisky that was sitting next to the stack of mail on the mantelpiece. He falls down on his knees, breathing heavily while grasping his chest tightly. The whisky stain grows ever bigger on the persian rug as he lets himself fall onto it, his head resting on the lake of amber liquid, its musky perfume filling his nostrils one last time. I kneel down next to him and take out my phone to call for help. He reaches for my hand as if to motion to me that I should just leave it be, not ruin the moment – presumably his last – with the howling of sirens, but rather to let the crackling of fire be the backdrop to his death. I lower my hand and reach for the letter, thinking he should hear what it says before it’s too late. With an unexpected surge of strength, he rips it out of my hand and throws it into the flames. I am perplexed. He smiles at me and says: “She wrote me. That’s enough.”