I saw it earlier today too when I pulled over and leaned my bicycle on an old stone wall, not far from a group of men all laying nets on the ground. ‘What else do we know’, one finally asked as he pulled a swath of cloth from his pocket to wipe his flooding eyes.
And I saw it even earlier still when I asked a man on a tractor. We talked for half an hour before it occurred to me that I was holding him up. ‘I’m not in any rush’, he said, and then he started asking me silly, small-talk questions, the kind of questions you ask when you want to prolong a conversation, so you don’t have to return to the thing you were doing before. Even at 10.am I could smell the grappa on his breath. His smooth forehead, yet heavy lines around his mouth and eyes told me that he spent the last 60 years smiling, yet he never once smiled as we spoke. ‘This used to be favourite part of the year’, he said, implying that now, it was anything but. We said goodbye and he pulled up to an empty intersection and just sat there for four minutes, his shoulders shaking. No cars passed. My own eyes began to fill. Eventually he popped his tractor into gear and slogged on, to the mill, I hoped. But it just stuck in my throat again, that sandy golf ball that won’t seem to go away lately.