I knew it was coming.
Chapter 40: Poor Ginger
There was a hopeless look in the dull eye that I could not help noticing, and then, as I was thinking where I had seen that horse before, she looked full at me and said, “Black Beauty, is that you?”
It was Ginger! but how changed! The beautifully arched and glossy neck was now straight, and lank, and fallen in; the clean straight legs and delicate fetlocks were swelled; the joints were grown out of shape with hard work; the face, that was once so full of spirit and life, was now full of suffering, and I could tell by the heaving of her sides, and her frequent cough, how bad her breath was.
Well, Black Beauty, I have news for you. Time can be hard on a girl. With all that carting around, Ginger hardly had time for much of a skin-care regime did she?
He later sees a dead horse in a cart that he thinks must be her, but there is an air of uncertainty. Like he can’t reconcile the lifeless eyes with the sassy mare he once knew.
Even though I had done a lot of bracing for it, I found this chapter brutal. A real tear-jerker. R+G seemed a little nonchalant about Ginger’s demise, quite frankly. I found this curious given we recently wrote an obit for an inch worm that died in our car worthy of the Lives Lived section of the Globe. Children are so patchy with their empathy.
This idea of unresolved death also comes up in Moon over Marrakesh. I wrote earlier that I loved this story. And that I ended up loving the author, Nazneen Sheikh also. Almost enough to hang around Patachou to see if I could stage a run-in with her to discuss things further. I would, but unfortunately, I cannot bear it in there, and I don’t eat pastries anyway.*
Her story is about many things. Unbridled romanticism. Abandonment. Intimacy with a stranger. The seduction of seeing only what you want to see. But fundamentally perhaps, it’s about her experience in the aftermath of her husband, Cesar’s descent into mental illness and the subsequent transformation of her reality.
There are many amazing things this woman experienced. But the way that she learns about Cesar’s death struck me in particular. She finds out months after the fact, when someone accidentally phones her looking for an administrative detail. Even though they are divorced and estranged at the time, it still feels so disconnected from her description of the passionate relationship. He became a stranger and was able leave the world without her knowing it.
On their last sighting, Ginger tells Black Beauty that he was the ‘only friend she ever had”. In horse talk, that means that they were soul mates. And I believe Cesar was the love of Nazneen’s life But time changed them all. And I suppose the lesson is, that in death, that change is mourned as much as the person (or horse) that no longer really existed anyway.