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‘Aye, not bad.’ ‘Fine thanks and you?’ ‘No, no, after you please.’ ‘Go ahead.’ ‘Excuse me, sorry!’ ‘Don’t mind me.’ ‘Watch yourself, mind.’ ‘Do take care.’ ‘Drive safe.’ ‘Travel safe.’ ‘See you later.’ ‘Thanks pal.’ ‘Thanks mate.’ ‘Cheers buddy.’ ‘Morning!’ ‘Night!’ ‘Hope you’re okay.’ ‘Same old, same old.’ ‘Can’t complain.’ ‘You know how it is.’ ‘Much of the same.’ ‘Just the usual.’ ‘You know the way.’
You know the way when your heart gets so heavy, feels like it jumps up into your jaw and sticks. Makes its self a wee cog there, a wee mine full of machinery that pulls on your bones and your teeth and your tight eye sting. And you tell people, you say aye I’m doing a wee bit better today, ta, I’m getting on alright now. But you say it dead quick, like, as if the minute they ask how you are the countdown clock’s on and the words are like dogs chasing you round the room, and you’re desperate to feed them any answer so you can escape into the safety of a subject change. And how are you really, they ask, as if they think they know you well enough to owe you the question, even though surely they must know you don’t want to talk about it. Surely, they must know you’ve got a factory of grief sitting in your jaw pulling your face back like a brutal rider, forcing it into the bit of a smile. You want to say, another consonant please, Carol, another vowel, to help me describe the way it feels to have your heart so thick in your throat it chokes you, your chest an empty cavity missing it because its missing her. You want to show them the way your memory taunts you; inviting you with beautiful things to sink into but then refusing to let you stay. But your mouth says, each corner twitching with the rein, ‘aye, you know, going so-so. Taking each day as it comes, you know the way’.
I miss her the way I miss being young, miss the way you’d feel the night before your birthday, knowing you’d get presents from your Mum and she’d make your favourite food for tea and the whole day would be just for you. That special feeling, you know, that warm excitement in the centre of you that makes your whole body smile. When I curled into her body, it felt like we’d made this safe secret castle between us, like my back was the roof and hers was the foundation, and between us we shared passageways and doorways of arms and soft skin, danced through the rooms of each other, played together, the bed a garden of our own making. Now I sleep with the heating on and the windows wide open, the ruur-ruuur-ruuur of the boiler just loud enough to stall the sound of her not here. Now our castle is derelict, our castle is a ruin, our castle is forgotten, our castle is submerged, our castle is my two hands sat in my lap wondering how to hold each other.
They say; time heals all wounds, and I choke, want to spit this wound back at them and say hold it, feel it, taste its smell. They say it never leaves but you learn to live with it, say it gets better, say you just got to keep on keeping on, you know the way. Say anything to avoid not saying anything.
And I say: do you know I can’t go home? It’s not locks or keys or doors, its arm castles and bed gardens and morning hums. Do you know the way she kept me – now I don’t know how to keep myself. Say how do I learn to live with the leaving that lives with me.
Absence. Makes the heart grow so fond it travels. Uproots itself from its plugs and valves, drags its nodes and sinews and grit and pulp, snapped veins and caved atriums, ceilings I used to worship under squeezed and pulled and wretched up, seeking her out, seeking out, desperate for space. Go on, then, I say. You know the way.
Copyright Nadine Aisha Jassat 2017