5 stages of grief
her eyes are missing in dreams, there’s nothing there, just clean skin, stretched neatly. like it was always that way. hey, there’s no shame in being a body of lies girl. the clawcut’s festered, become a part of her. i need it now, take it like medicine, like a holy thing. i’ve been seeing ghosts on the bathroom walls, their mosaic faces telling me i’m already one of them. people disappear, the water takes them, and the roads are clean again. i don’t expect to see your face for more than a month, don’t expect to hear your voice (SOMEWHERE) for more than ten days. some people, i’ve only really loved them after they’re gone. in cold storage, foxes lope, bark. fur always cold under my hands. the place is different every time. sometimes i leave bleeding, sometimes i leave with them. sometimes i cannot leave. sometimes i crawl into the coldest place, till i lose all sensation, till my heart stops loving.
her grandfather has a house in the hills. the journey down to the lake is fraught with hairpin roads and whispers from curious things. as a child she was never to go alone. as a child i went every week, once. running like a storm till i could outrun the trees and their dead hymnals. i did not understand grief then, but i understood fear (how to run from it). i understood love (the impure kind). grandfather says, child, foxes do not come here anymore. the world is too old for them. i am filled with a malice i cannot explain, for the hunter and the hunted. a fox stands by the lake, her eyes shuddering with the untold. she never comes across, but we look at each other for a long time. at night, grandfather smokes on the verandah. in the morning he will stir watercolours to make a lakescape for me. maybe he will paint me in, facing the lake, holding a camera. looking in (ON). maybe i will tell him, no. paint a fox, instead, with pearl-paws and ravening eyes.
in ac three tier carriages, the subdued flavour of metal, the thin sheets. she feels the cold keenly, legs cramping on the steel-blue bunk. villages go by, the train stops erratically, greets empty platforms, a lone hawker boarding with his wares. the paper cup in her hands is wilting, the milky tea a wintry congealed mess. setting it aside, a pang of missing. quick, a turn to the window. a flash of whitegrey, a rustling whine, and then nothing. the train gathers speed. leaning back, i gather my bones together, dream bad dreams of sweat and platforms, curdles slipping down, sticking in my throat. sitting with my unflavoured milk as a girl, wanting to pour it down the sink. having to swallow. the train shrieks. it is still dark. we have not reached.
in a hotel, life jerks into a slow whir. they leave travel brochures at the door with breakfast. for 48 hours i drink only coffee, and look at pictures of places i will never visit. there can be no foxes here, in the heart of the city, but still, wherever i look, i feel the disjointed colour of dread. i call my grandfather from the front desk, it is the first phonecall i have made in five weeks. he says, where have you been? i say, oh, around. he says, i painted a fox for you. yes. yes, i thought you would. the clerk smiles at me. are you liking it here? i smile back. it comes automatically, no effort. yes, i say. it is almost spring, no? she looks thoughtful, says, good weather is hard to come by here. i think it will be overcast for some more weeks yet. would you like dinner delivered to your room?
the airport is pristine, as airports often are. in the waiting room, a part of a girl gets up. leaves, like a ghost. no one sees her go, but i feel it. it feels like freedom. winter, sighing into spring. putting the luggage up, i look out onto the tarmac. a fox, fur like snow-dusted dirt, eyes clear. she sits there a long time. i never look away. the plane moves, smoothly, gently. the fox stands, she runs, runs out of sight. the plane rises into the sky. sometimes, late at night, i see her eyes, unblinking. i see too much of myself in them.
i never see her again.