I sit, staring at the horizon, counting the waves and the flickers of light from another sunset. I gather my limbs and wrap them around me to embrace the approaching night. They walk past; children, couples and dogs, dare not look at the body turning to beach, but stare out to the same sea. Their eyes are not searching; they see the sun and the coast; they don’t count the waves.
A few nights ago, when my lips crumbled, I had resolved to leave. But I saw a hand out there by the ships; or was it a bird.. then I noticed the seagulls flying off with my feet and I resolved to stay.
There’s a beach near St Ives where we sat one clear night in September. You won’t remember it, but you were there, leaning on a rock too close to the waves and the water filled your trainers and I laughed, alone..
There’s a bar in Naples near the gulf, where we sat drinking Merlot one rainy afternoon. You won’t remember it, but you were there, the wine left crimson marks on the corners of your lips and I laughed, alone..
There’s a lake in Annecy where we hired a boat and wandered. You won’t remember it, but you were there, it started to rain and the water dripped from your curls and I laughed, alone..
I’m still chosing the place to let go of your ghost..
And slowly, like the movement of a living statue, the feathers began to fall from her wings; Each floated and danced through the still air, until they were all gathered around her feet and covered in dark blood, leaving only frail bones extending from her ribs and hanging ghastly.
In the same manner the stars began to flicker in her eyes, then bursting and dying one after another, some left unnoticeable brown and green nebulas across her pupils, while others only deep patches of perfect darkness.
She began to rip out and break the fragile bones hanging from her back , and when she finished, she stepped out from pile of stained white as if it were a discarded dress. She blinked,wiping away the marks of late stars from her eyes.
Naked and blind, she began to wander .
Growing apart is inevitable for strangers. That’s what we were, no? Despite the years of cold, dead letters. Despite the ear piercing, blinding blast of a long forgotten December.
The contours of your face have suddenly blurred in my dreams; the reflections turned faint and colourless, as if it were muddy waters we had stared into.
I embraced the certitude of our complete lack of gravity long ago. I accepted that while we may drift together again, we would just as seamlessly drift apart, directionless.
And yet I carry you on the edge of my skin, still. And every subtle movement of my fingers holds a bit of you.
When I wake from the dream and wrap my body in the fading warmth of your ghost. You bleed through my pores and my limbs tense as I wait for the longing to fade..
I stare at my naked refection, see your hands on my neck and grasp them, but they fall through my fingers like sand. I see your head on my shoulder, your lips curved into a tortured smile and my body trembles and begs to shake you off.
It’s one of those days when your name lingers on my tongue like warm honey, and your resurected whispers turn the air to black smoke in my lungs.
I can’t hear the song in my bones anymore. It was loud when you came and it screamed through my veins when you left. Now it bleeds, faintly, from my ears when I hear your name and I shut it out.
I kill the violins every morning when my arms search my body for you and they find the tune in every piece of skin you touched. I wash it off, I peel it away.
I believed, like a fool, that I could make you go since you left. I believed I could be rid of you. But you live in the corner of my eye and in the tips of my fingers. You live, devil, and I fear that death itself can’t be rid of you.
The young man dressed in white helped her out of the car. She didn’t look around, but buried her chin in the collar of her gown.
They walked through the open metal gates together, and in the garden he let go of her arm and stood quietly. The crisp smell of winter filled her nostrils, and another smell, sweet and earthy like tree bark that’s just been ripped off. She looked up.
‘Birches!’ She gasped, her brows folding the ageing skin between them. ‘I know these birches!’ the memory burned her eyes, and she looked away, blinking repeatedly.
She began to walk alone, listening to her feet crush the thin ice on the gravel path. A squirrel jumped from a tree and rustled through a pile of dead leaves, startling her.
‘What is this place?’ she demanded, and the man gestured towards the white house at the far end of the garden. She looked, but her whole body turned around instantly, instinctively. She stood as still as the frozen grass blades, staring blankly.
After a while she cleared her throat and smiled, looking towards the top of the little hill ahead, where an old wood arch stood rotten. She bent over, swiftly pulled off her shoes and socks, and threw them as far as her weary arm could manage. The man rushed to her and grabbed her arm but she screamed and pulled it back fiercely.
She ran up the hill, then down again; spun around and threw herself onto the thawing grass, rolling over and over. ‘I’m the yellow dog’ her mouth blurted out unexpectedly, as if it was another’s. The unclaimed words startled her and her face dropped, as if pulled by a heavy weight hanging from her eyelids. ‘The yellow dog who ran through the arch, when there were roses wrapped around its legs and hanging from the top.’ The mouth continued. She squinted; ‘Yes! There were white roses, big as a man’s fist! and there was a yellow dog..’
Suddenly she laid still on the grass, then curled herself so tightly her knees pressed against her eyeballs. The man came and lifted her, unsettled by the inhuman screeching that now echoed around the silver birches; her legs dragged behind so he picked her up and carried her to the car the way you’d carry a sleeping child. Face buried in his neck, her cry grew quiet and she began mumbling made up words..
Fires burnt out, the silent warmth of settling ash thaws my fingers – at last. Brown eyes, released of their redness, turn green..
I can finally breathe with your name on my lips and my arms no longer beg do dig your grave. The grieving ends, and having passed through its stages, I can hang the enormous picture of us on the wall and stare at it filled with nostalgia, and not fury.
I reclaim my heart, then wrap it around you – thankful for its strength to hold, and to let go. I welcome the longing as my eternal companion and joyfully drink in its honour.