The softest of spirits caresses in the lightest of nights through the rear facing window. The body in slumber doesn’t twitch, it doesn’t make a sound yet the touch is recognised, the moment known and the movement of skin beneath another’s fine life is drawn inexplicably into the internal memory of the living and never will it disappear.
Until this moment pain has had no fury, until this moment I have been without the urge to fall, until this moment I did not know my own abilities to weep and in it destroy soul and heart through the terrifying moment of loss, your loss and in itself my own loss for having gained you. Gone now, gone always, leaving me irrevocably alone.
There is a bright sky with perfect clouds outside and small sounds come from little birds twittering above the window. Slashes of light lay upon the daisy print cloth dangling loosely over an old wooden box that you had insisted we use for a bed side table for such a long time that we kept it even though it was replaced. I cry for the memory and feel the world is mocking me with daylight. I hide within the bed covers and only smell you, your skin – the musk of deodorant, the jasmine in the washing powder and your sweat, lingering in its sweetness and I wish so hard to be close to you again. For a minute I hate you for your stupid choices that led to this, but for a long time I sit with my eyes closed under a tent made of our bed sheets and remember the first day we lay within them together entangled and I pretend it still exists, somewhere in a place I can’t see.
It takes many days for me to leave the bedroom for any length of time. I find myself stopped by the phone as it rings. I watch the orange touch pad light up with the drawn out noise it should make if it weren’t on silent. I know there are messages of condolences, many messages and I can’t foresee a future where I might want to hear them, where I could actually bring myself to listen to someone else’s opinion of you in the past tense, it’s just not plausible – not yet.
I eat an apple as I stand in front of the phone watching the light pulse, yelling at me in complete silence. I become aware of my feet upon cold wooden floor boards and look around for somewhere to sit. I find our recliner facing one way and turn it around so I can still watch the phones light display. Sitting down upon its soft scarlet velour fabric I tuck my feet beneath myself, eyes fixed upon the phone. It eventually stops flashing but I decide to stay where I am.
I like sitting upon something which isn’t in the same position as it’s always been, you’ve never seen it this way and I like that. I look around the room and make plans with different layouts for the furniture we own and I ask you out loud if you agree and I can hear your answers. I hear you laugh when I think to put the couch near the kitchen again as I’ve tried many times before, but you never let me and you know I won’t do it now either.
The phone starts to blink its orange light again and I huddle into myself, close my eyes and see your face. Not the face I last saw you with, that comes at night unbidden, followed by sweats and yelling, insomnia and more tears. Instead I see the face that would welcome me in the morning, the face I met long ago on a train and the face that mocked me, loved me and sung me songs, quoted paragraphs from novels long forgotten. You belong with the old words now, the hero and the phantoms, you can reside within the pages along with them. But you haven’t gone at all; I know that. That’s why I can’t leave the house, because you haven’t left the house either.
I have a shower for the third time today, it gives me a reprieve from the outside world and I am glad we didn’t buy that house with the pool because I might have accidently drowned myself with waves of water just to wash away the world around me. I was standing in the shower crying earlier because all I could smell was your soap, lemongrass and tea tree, when I felt you kneel down to my huddled form and pull me up, hand upon my shoulder, arm around my waist. I felt light as a feather as you braced yourself against my fragile form and I could swear I heard breath in my ear as you exerted the energy it took to lift me. You let go and disappeared and I didn’t know what to do so I continued in the shower waiting for you, but you didn’t come back.
A week or so passes and I start to get dressed for the day. I have to do washing as all of my pyjamas have begun to smell rather awful. As soon as I put on a pair of jeans and a shirt I feel a little lighter and decide I might just do it again the next day. I begin eating more than just fruit and cereal, mainly due to running out of said items and I laugh at myself, like you laugh at me.
I stand in the middle of the house and stare at the scarlet seat facing the telephone (still on silent) whilst eating jam on toast when suddenly I decide to follow through with redecorating. I move the table, the sofa, the cabinet and the recliners, I shuffle the coffee table again and again but finally I have to push it out the front door and onto the porch, it just doesn’t go anywhere; out of sight out of mind. I look around at the mess of furniture laden thick with the luggage of memories of where it has been, where it should go and where it can’t go. Everything was ours, yours, mine. All of it makes me think of you, what you might be sitting upon as you smile at me working my way around a room. I tell you to go to bed. I say it out loud and demand it of you in the tone of voice you always say belongs in a classroom. Out loud I tell you that I have warned you and begin to move it all out the front door and when it no longer fits on our veranda I move it onto the lawn instead. Soon the entire contents of our lounge and dining rooms are on display upon the lawn at the front of our house. I sit down in the space left like an empty belly.
I crave a cigarette but I can hear your warning voice telling me not to. I remember you dragging me back to bed every time I wanted one when I quit years ago. You bribed me with sex, chocolate and my favourite TV shows. I quit then, but having quit for three years I now want one and I want a drink to match too; I want scotch. You’ve never enjoyed Scotch so we’ve never bought it. I used to drink it in the days before I drank wine with you. Without thought I grab the keys and walk outside. The sun screams terrible words at my dangerously sensitive eyes and for a minute I have to wait for the dots to disappear from my vision. I fumble at the front door lock then turn around. I realise the pointlessness of my having locked the house, anything of any value sits patiently out the front of our house anyway. I shrug a shrug directed at you and proceed to the car.
I am lucky I didn’t take any of the medication they offered to me, for sleeping for coping. I don’t want chemicals in my system anymore. It reminds me of you now, of that night and the blame I have for the bubbles in your system, the brew in your belly and the foam at your mouth which destroyed you. I wasn’t going to take another pill or powder as long as I lived. I could, however, drown myself in alcohol – that I have no qualms about.
I drive to the bottle shop nearby, buy a bottle of scotch and three packets of cigarettes. I drive past the shops we used to go to, but I couldn’t stand the faces of the people who knew me as yours, who knew my hand in your hand and our joint comments to the same question and the raised hand hellos to the friendly cashiers and fresh food tenders. I drive around a bit and find a shop we rarely visit. I buy fruit, bread, breakfast cereal and biscuits. My mind isn’t clear, it’s focused on the alcohol waiting in the car so I buy what I think I want to eat, but not necessarily what I need.
I sit cross legged in that gaping empty belly of a lounge/dining room with an old scotch glass we were given as a joint birthday present some years ago in a set of four, the bottle of old brown liquid, an ashtray and the remote control to the stereo. Earlier I moved the old stereo in and took all of our CD’s out of garage storage and put on music from long ago. Thrashy music I once loved, before you. All of those stupid melodic emotions from black clad men trying to express an esoteric love. I listen to Big Band and Bebop jazz, loud crazy numbers you never really enjoyed. I like having CD’s again, not just a computer or a small player, I like to make my selection by flicking through clicky-clacky cases. When I have drunk enough scotch I stop thinking of you as much, instead I think of what I might do next and I like it.
I wake up to thudding on the front door I actually locked last might, familiar echoy, voices and sunshine without your smell. I also wake up with what feels to be a large elephant crushing my head onto a hard surface and glimpse an almost empty bottle at eye level, resting on wooden floor boards so close to me that its blurry, but I know what it is. I finished off three quarters of a bottle the night before and I am just quietly proud of myself for the commitment I showed, regardless of the outcome. The door bashes some more and voices rage on. I consider the prospect of possibly opening it when rather suddenly someone discovers the open back door and comes barging in anyway, swearing at me and trying the help me off the floor. I fight back, hit them, tell them to fuck off but they pull anyway. I punch them again and feel my fist hit something with a thud and I am happy, they let go. I stand up and go to the bathroom, three voices ask me what I am doing and I tell them to fuck off again.
They stand around me like parents with their arms crossed, talking about me like I’m not in the room. I sit on my area in the middle of the big open space and smoke cigarettes, making the house fill up with wispy bits of smelly brown smoke only for it to get dragged away out of the newly opened, sunshine laced windows and to the bigger, wider world. They yell at me while I stare ahead, they are self righteous and demanding and I’ve never responded to demanding. I can almost feel you against my arm as you sit beside me and tell me they might be here to help me, I ignore you but you turn up your volume and I can’t do a damn thing because hitting you or yelling isn’t going to work. If only you were sitting here, you would tell them to go away, you would tell them that if there was anything that needed to be done you would do it for me. But you can’t say that and you can’t be here because if you were, this would not be happening. I understand the paradox before I even consider it all and I smile to myself as I think that way, because that’s you, all you.
Finishing off a cigarette I reach for another. They stop talking and I know they are watching but I don’t care. I light up, inhale the familiar freedom and exhale a satisfied breath and continue to look away from them and through the window that shows vivid green outside. You planted all of that, you kept it alive, I couldn’t. You said I have a black thumb and always forget to water things. I am transfixed by the hues shining through the window and sense myself getting up off floor. I can almost feel your fingers wrap in mine and walk with me outside. My legs feel light and I just keep staring at green waving palms and large shining leaves and tiny purple flowers hidden within sunshine and for the first time since you were gone I feel something more. The three people are following me, I can here clip-clop shoes that aren’t mine because I haven’t worn shoes for weeks. I push the French door open and step onto warm wooden planks and I stand there, bathed in sunlight, surprised by the way natural heat makes me melt. Everything in the garden is swaying and I can’t help but move to its intrinsic music and I walk very slowly down three wooden steps to a little bit of grass and an old white seat. I sit upon the seat and run a hand across its smooth, cool metal surface and I laugh. I look down at my other hand and the cigarette, I inhale again and look around for a place to put it out. I take a tissue from my pocket, spit in it and extinguish the cigarette within. I couldn’t possibly tarnish your beauty, for all of this is entirely you.
I knew you hadn’t left me, here you are in the daisies, here you are in the green, here you are in the scarlet roses, and there you are amongst the ferns, I smell jasmine on the wind and lemongrass in the herb garden sitting alongside tea tree. I see it all as if I hadn’t seen it before, and truly I never really have, not until now. I breathe you in; the mist of memory hanging amongst the flowers and I know you’ll never leave. You sit with me here in the garden, you sit in the trees, the flowers and the hidden creatures meant to reside within your make believe world, I see a gnome amongst the brush and a clay turtle near my toes. I smile, I laugh, I feel sun, I feel wind, I smell life.
I have you, you may be gone but I still have you.