Ode

imagesDeath isn’t spoken about much in society, except on tumblr by teenagers who just want to like, die, or whatever. 

Which is strange, because it is the only thing in the world that everyone has in common – that one day, you and everyone you love will die. But it’s still a taboo, and today that’s not okay with me.

Four years ago my friend died. It’s still not real.

I’m not in shock, or denial, but the reality, the finality, the unfairness of it all has hit me only a very few times, in moments like short bursts of light, flaring and breathtaking and all consuming. Those moments have taken my breath away. The enormity of that word – death – and all it encompasses are things that can only be felt, not spoken about, but it’s a very human thing to try to explain the inexplicable; this compulsive need to plumb the depths of life’s great mysteries.

She was here. She was a living, breathing part of this world. She was funny and pretty and smart and had so much hope. She was positive and sarcastic and biting and loyal. She didn’t take anyone’s bullshit. She was twenty. She was all those things.

She was here, she was alive. And then she wasn’t.

And then? The weirdest thing happened.

I got used to it.

I pushed all that enormous enormity aside and moved on. But – I’ve never forgotten. You never do forget the first thing which makes you realises that you have a soul and that it can hurt. 

Annie will always be a part of me; she changed my life. How sad that it was only after she died that I could say that.

Annie I remember you. Your warmth, your light, your strength. Thank you for being my friend. What a privilege it was to have known you.

And so today I lay aside all other things. Tiny distractions, life goals, money troubles, DIY projects. Today is for you. Today is for you and all those who loved you. All those you loved.

But please don’t mistake me when I talk about today. Anniversaries are just our way of marking time, a way of coming together, an excuse for those who have trouble expressing themselves otherwise that you meant something to them. It doesn’t mean that I don’t think about you the other 364 days of the year. Not by a long shot.

Today is just the day where we get to say it out loud. 

Week Nineteen Prompt: Et tu, Brute?

The House that You (and Jack) Built

I stare up at your house; your beautiful, ridiculous house. I remember when you came to me, eyes shining and cheeks flushed -“We got the land!” and it had been my flippant idea to make a house out of cards. You had stared at me, and I had no idea what I had done until it was done. Cards, paper, strawbale, mudbrick, rammed earth – anything you could get your hands on, you did. You had me over to colour consult; there were taps and light fittings and trips to the tip for "inspiration". Jack would roll his eyes at me behind your head, a private joke, but you went ahead and you made it. You built a life there, a green, vegan, recycled life, you and Jack, Jack and you – it was the house that you and Jack built.

I had thought it would be raining. It’s the kind of thing you expect, for it to be raining when you tear the world apart, but it's Spring and there are birds and a light wind blows my dress against my knees. If I tilt my head to the side and squint, I think I can see your house swaying in the breeze. All it would take is a chip in the right place; a chip that, funnily enough, I'm here to provide. I know what I’m getting into, by doing this. I can hear the things you’ll say in my mind and I know the look you’ll give me. But I want you to hear me. I want you to hear why.

I want you to know that I would never hurt you, except that I did, worse than any friend could hurt any friend, worse than your worst enemy could. I wish I could say I didn’t mean for it to happen, like all those girls in movies do, but I don’t. I was sick of it, sick of your everything and my nothing when for all our lives it was the other way around. You had the problems, I had the answers. But then you went and got your own answers, and I got left behind, so I took yours. I took Jack, that night we went to dinner together but you went home early because you were sick, and there had been a look, and then it was a touch, and then it was me and Jack, Jack and me, and now I’m standing here at your front door working up the guts to ruin your life.

I didn’t mean for Jack to fall in love with me. I didn’t mean to fall in love with Jack. I didn’t mean for it to be anything more than a restoration of the balance of power between friends – between you and me, me and you. Sometimes we would lie in your bed, Jack and me, me and Jack, and suddenly it was my house, my husband, my bamboo cotton sheets we were lying on. Everything Jack and I were and are and can be is built on lies, but when I lie there with him, head on his chest, heartbeat to heartbeat, the world beats away.  The space between us, normally occupied by the memory of you, becomes space no one can touch.

I want you to know that I know you don’t want to hear this; that I know this will make you sick and that I know I’m the person you don’t want to know. I wish this hadn’t happened, except that I don't. I wish Jack didn’t love me, except that I don't. I wish I could tell Jack it’s over between us, maybe even slam a righteous door in his face, except that I don't.  I wish I was the sort of person who had the guts to say this to your face, instead of to your cardboard door. 

But I’m not. Instead, I’m going to knock on your door, and you are going to answer it. You will smile at me, and I will tell you I just dropped by for a visit. You will make us tea. I will pretend that I still have the right to call myself your friend; that there is no Jack and me, me and Jack. I will sit there with you and I will know that when you find out, when your house of cards clatters to the ground around you, you will remember this day, this warm Spring day with the birds and the breeze that blew my dress around my legs; you will remember the look in my eyes and my uncertain smile, and you will hate me more than I hate myself.

I raise my hand to knock on the door of the house that you and Jack built, and I can hear you moving around inside. There is a moment before you answer, a moment when the wind stirs my hair around my face, a moment when I speak to the air before me, words falling to the steps below me, words that tell you, before I see you, I’m sorry.

 would like to make it clear that this is a work of fiction inspired by this week's topic and by a play her sister was in recently, 'All's golden square in love and war'.

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Week Sixteen Prompt: Reinventing the Wheel

An Alternate History of the Universe

It doesn’t end well, the story of you and your friend, so you rewrite it. This way, you get the ending where your heart doesn’t break; this way, you never have to write your friend’s eulogy, and the world is as it should be.

In your story, Switzerland isn't a place, and she never tries white water rafting. In your story, freak waves and capsized boats don’t exist.

You never receive a gasping-and-shaking call on a Monday morning; you never have the feeling you’ve been ripped up from the inside out. At no point do you yell at a florist for screwing up an arrangement, nor cradle her mum in your arms. There is no need for others to tell you to stay strong.

In your story, she was never dragged under the heartless river. You don’t lie awake and wondering at night, thinking about the water, or how scared she must have felt, or punish yourself for not seeing her off at the airport because you were sick. In your story, you are not numb, you don’t forget your mother’s birthday and there is no need for antidepressants. You never call her phone to hear her voicemail and you never, ever, stand at her grave and whisper ‘I miss you’, into the autumn wind.

The story you write has a different ending.

In your story, you take a trip to the coast together. The air is warm and salty; the sun drenches you both as the sand squirms between your toes. You daydream about Ryan Gosling and you fight over which flavor of Boost juice is the best. There is a sunset, and there is the drive home, and there is the promise of tomorrow.

In your story, tomorrow comes. 

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Week One Prompt: When you pray, move your feet.

Stars

At night when I was little, my mum told me that if I wanted to pray, I had to get out of bed, bow my head, clasp my hands together, and kneel. “To show respect”, she would say when I protested. It wouldn’t be proper to just lie there making a lazy sign of the cross, doing it as quickly as possible so that your arms weren't out from under the covers for very long. She would take my hands and help me make the sign until I knew how to do it myself, tiny hands clumsy in their motions but, like wine, improving with age.
 
Dad would tuck me in sometimes, because he didn’t get to see me much otherwise, and he would sit on my bed and fold my hair behind my ears. “May flights of angels sing you to your rest,” he would say. I thought my dad was some kind of poet; I didn’t know he had borrowed the words from Shakespeare, just like I didn’t know that line was really about death. I just loved the images that sprung to mind, images of angels too bright and beautiful to look at, their voices so light you could barely hear them singing you to sleep.
 
When my grandma died and dad spoke at the funeral, he used the line, our line, asking the angels to sing his mum to her eternal rest, and I remember crying so hard I could barely see the rest of the day.
 
As I got older, I would still say my prayers, but to me, praying wasn’t about bending your head and clasping your hands together anymore. Instead, I would open my curtain and stare up at the stars, imagining that I could see it all (life, death, the universe, and everything). I believed that on quiet nights, with nothing above me but the black sky dotted with sacred silver fire, I had a direct line to heaven.
 
“Hello, God? This is me. I just wanted to say hello.”
 
I imagined I had an answer, that somehow the clouds formed words and I could have read them maybe, only I didn’t speak their language.
 
Years later, I spoke those same words at my best friends funeral. That night, something inside me stirred. I sat up, fumbling with the covers that were too heavy all of a sudden, pushing them off me til I felt the chill. I pulled back my curtains, looked up at the sky, and knelt down as a sign of respect. I began to pray. That night, there were no clouds. There was nothing but the sky above me and the soft earth outside my window, milky white in the moonlight. The stars were fuzzy pinpricks of light and I squinted up at them through my tears. Inexplicably, I smiled. There, laid out in the sky in diamonds (just like the bling she’d always loved), was her name.
 
That night, I didn’t need the clouds to give me an answer. I had mine.
 
She was home. 

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