Where did you go?
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I used to go down to the orchard (which is where you used to be) and look for you. I searched amongst the roses, and the branches of the willow tree, where we used to sit and talk and laugh. I remember that your voice reminded me of birdsong and the ocean, but also tearing wind and lashing rain. I would give anything to hear your voice, to hear you say, “I am here”.
Do you remember when we used to swing on the creaky swing in the quick sharp mornings? Up and down, and down and up, and up and up, higher and higher, until we could reach out, and touch the sky almost, but… not quite, and we fell, disappointed at our failure to reach that one inch more; the inch that we knew would take us out of the earth’s pull, to
Not that you needed a swing.
Remember the long lazy afternoons? Eternities, where we lay side by side, with our eyes closed, lips parted, daisies in our hair, breathing deeply in and breathing out, becoming part of something part of us?
And running, faster and faster and faster still, through the grass and the trees, with the wind in our hair, and the sun in our eyes, and the smell of violets and lemongrass all around us? Do you remember? Do you?
Maybe you don’t. You went away, remember? Do you remember that? You left me alone with only six thousand million people to exchange empty words and empty looks and empty pretences of emotion. And when I finally found a person who reminded me of you, oh such a little, who sang in the garden and danced in the rain, I held that person tight, not letting go. Until I realised that the person was not you, and never could be you, and I pushed them away and they fell and landed hard and tried to drag me down too, telling me that I lived apart, that I’d find myself, one day, old and alone and lonely, and you wouldn’t be there, because you were not real. It’s true now. Some of it anyway.
It was not my fault. It was never, ever my fault. Not even a bit. Well, maybe a bit. Maybe even a lot. But I was pressured. I felt as if all the world looked at me and laughed at me and opened my mouth and tore the words out. Ripped them from my throat. Well, maybe not exactly. Where did they come from, those words? Were they there already, waiting in my heart-cave like a dragon or a panther or a knife?
I remembered you know. I did. I wrote it down and people read it and said it was beautiful but… distant. A little surreal, know what I mean, huh? Is surreal the same as not real? I want to know. So I painted you in blues (but never in reds) and sculpted you in marble (but never in clay), and people saw it and said it was beautiful but still distant. Distant reminds me of echoes. We used to call and call, and all the sounds returned to us, back to where they came from, to their beginnings do you remember? Because I do.
You weren’t perfect you know. There was the time you… Or when you… You weren’t perfect.
The best times, I think, were the velvet-diamond nights, when we built fires and the fire got into our eyes and our blood and our souls and we spun until our legs collapsed from under us and then we sat. And watched the pictures deep down in the dancing flames.
Sometimes now when I look out my window, to the storms and the clouds and the storms in the sunshine (there used to be sunshine in the storms), I think I see your face, but it is only the branches and the flowers, which shape a face for a moment, before moving, and your face disappears. Or I think I hear your voice, but it is only the wind that rushes through me and leaves me empty.
Maybe it was more than a little my fault. Maybe it was all my fault. I am trying, straining with every puzzle piece of my being to remember a time when you failed me as much as I failed you. Or failed me at all. You teased me sometimes, laughed when I tripped and measured my length in a puddle full of rainbows. But then you held out your hand and helped me up. And you never denied my existence. It was my fault. Mine. And I have borne the burden. But now…
All my life I have looked back, and yet failed to see. But now…
I am sorry.
As the shadowed eyes slid closed, a ray of sunshine broke through the storm and illuminated the face on the pillow. And softly, almost as if the wind had spoken, came the words “I am here”. She died smiling.