I saw it on my way to work today. Its fragile body lying stretched amongst the leaves, arms and legs reaching out to the railings, as if it wanted to squeeze through to the allotment on the other side. Its cheek was damaged – the fur bunched up where it should have lain flat. But the rest of it looked unbroken – short grey and black fur tiger-striped and strokable. I looked for a collar, an identifier, but there was none. Wondered what to do. Should I tell someone? Be late for work? Who to tell. It was probably someone’s pet. It was someone.
I left it there. Walked to the station. Sad. Moved. Impotent.
Sad for this soft creature and for whoever it left behind.
I wish now that I had stroked it.
Tomorrow is her birthday. You sit down and wait, willing the tears you’ve been carrying all day to spill down your face. But there is no release. Not yet.
Tomorrow is her birthday. You sent a card, as you have done for the last seven years, to her parents. Seven years?! How can it be seven years? You want them to know you have not forgotten.
But you do forget. Things…words…voices…they slip away…
You go through the rolodex of memories: lurex dresses and long, long red trousers; an apple in her coat pocket (always, just in case); long skinny fingers and pointed nails, gesticulating, gesticulating; black eyeliner and mascara – worn every day and kept in a slim plastic pencil case; the hair – god, the hair! – six foot one with a halo of curls – long dark spirals left like calling cards everywhere she goes.
Tomorrow is her birthday. You do what you do every year on this day, the day before her birthday, when you wake with it and go to bed with it and carry it around all day at work, knowing, knowing that it is there, waiting. You get home and sit at the kitchen table and you open your shirt and push through the skin, through the bloody flesh, past the knotty scar tissue and into your beating heart. Feel the tips of it, the edges. Pull it out for a look. This is where you keep it – in this small wooden box with a silver lid, lined with black velvet. You open the lid and part the white tissue paper. Dip your fingertips inside, feel the little gems, glossy and bright and catching the light. A kaleidoscopic composite of pain and loss and love and memory. Of her tight hug…
(Now the tears come. Now the sobs rock your chest. Now your face is hot and wet and hurting).
…T-rex arms on the dancefloor and ALL the CDs The Last Splash Indian bedspread bare feet with silver toe rings sisterly friendship deep love deep respect two skinny women making each other laugh making up silly songs together never wanting to say goodbye…
I miss you I miss you I miss you.
DAMN IT! Why are the dead so fucking elusive?
Yours was never a phone call I wanted to ignore. You were kind and compassionate and bitchy and fucking clever and funny and beautiful.
It was so easy – you were so easy to like. In twelve years I think we only ever had one argument and I cannot for the life of me remember what it was about. You were a really really good friend and I always felt good about myself when I was with you. And this pain – it’s good. It’s because you are missed. It’s because you are loved.
You pack up the hurt and press the silver lid down and push it back into your heart. The flesh grows around it, seals it in. Your heart keeps pumping.
Tomorrow is her birthday. There was a birth. There was a death. There was a life worth celebrating.
In loving memory of Dawn Hamilton
1976 – 2007