Sometimes, I forget death is just hanging all over us. Omnipresent yet quiet. It’s in somebody’s palm. In the fading laugh, in the screech of a car skidding to a stop, in the eyes of someone. Behind the curtains, under the dining table, in the kitchen countertop. Between the spaces of words, last line of a book. Teeth biting lips, petals crushed under your feet, bones hidden in the closet, favorite dress long forgotten. It is absolutely terrifying to come across death without even seeing it beforehand. It bumps into you in the middle of the day just when you are about to go and you close your eyes, never to open them again. Plans evaporate, everything is void and darkness gobble you up as if it hasn’t eaten for a while. The world doesn’t stop. How do people go about their lives knowing we are all just teetering around death’s lips? When people ask me where do I see myself in ten years, I answer them I don’t know. Because I don’t. I learned death is always going to be there, picking at people’s shadows. It’s ugly. But in order to live, you have to ignore it. Be unafraid of it. Bite with your teeth when you feel it hovering. One day it’ll come, but it’s not going to be today. Not today.
When my husband had an affair with someone else I watched his eyes glaze over when we ate dinner together and I heard him singing to himself without me, and when he tended the garden it was not for me.
He was courteous and polite; he enjoyed being at home, but in the fantasy of his home I was not the one who sat opposite him and laughed at his jokes. He didn’t want to change anything; he liked his life. The only thing he wanted to change was me.
It would have been better if he had hated me, or if he had abused me, or if he had packed his new suitcases and left.
As it was he continued to put his arm round me and talk about building a new wall to replace the rotten fence that divided our garden from his vegetable patch. I knew he would never leave our house. He had worked for it.
Day by day I felt myself disappearing. For my husband I was no longer a reality, I was one of the things around him. I was the fence which needed to be replaced. I watched myself in the mirror and saw that I was no longer vivid and exciting. I was worn and grey like an old sweater you can’t throw out but won’t put on.
He admitted he was in love with her, but he said he loved me.
Translated, that means, I want everything. Translated, that means, I don’t want to hurt you yet. Translated, that means, I don’t know what to do, give me time.
Why, why should I give you time? What time are you giving me? I am in a cell waiting to be called for execution.
I loved him and I was in love with him. I didn’t use language to make a war-zone of my heart.
'You're so simple and good,' he said, brushing the hair from my face.
He meant, Your emotions are not complex like mine. My dilemma is poetic.
But there was no dilemma. He no longer wanted me, but he wanted our life.
Eventually, when he had been away with her for a few days and returned restless and conciliatory, I decided not to wait in my cell any longer. I went to where he was sleeping in another room and I asked him to leave. Very patiently he asked me to remember that the house was his home, that he couldn’t be expected to make himself homeless because he was in love.
'Medea did,' I said, 'and Romeo and Juliet, and Cressida, and Ruth in the Bible.'
He asked me to shut up. He wasn’t a hero.
'Then why should I be a heroine?'
He didn’t answer; he plucked at the blanket.
I considered my choices.
I could stay and be unhappy and humiliated.
I could leave and be unhappy and dignified.
I could beg him to touch me again.
I could live in hope and die of bitterness.
I took some things and left. It wasn’t easy, it was my home too.
I hear he’s replaced the back fence.”
He places morse code on my skin with his lips. Touches me like Braille. I let him, think of the sun setting on the saffron land of India. My bones crack underneath the pressure. I spin knives on my fingers, tease my palms with them, spill blood the color of dirt. I dream of clenching teeth and rotting butterflies, the moon teaching me how to be quiet, running around in a field of daisy. I cut pages from my journal and eat it. I stare over the horizon and pluck the stars from his eyes. Once, I found petals tucked between the pages of a book and I thought about how nice it must’ve been; to sleep in a place devoid of everything. I go to cemeteries at night and let ghosts trail behind me. Far away, there’s a girl buried, death enveloping her like shroud. She used to be happy.
This time, I am going to apologize to no one but myself. I’m sorry for being the forest fire that ruined me. I’m sorry for my hands that broke myself into two; I put them inside a box and buried them behind my house, terrified I’d still be haunted by the blood on my palms. There is this bitter, copper-y taste in my mouth when somebody mentions my name and I’m sorry for feeling this way. I don’t look at mirrors because I’m scared I won’t recognize my face anymore. I’m sorry it took me this long to apologize. I’m sorry for being the supernova that disintegrated my universe. I’ve been planting flowers on the darkest parts of me so I’d have a reason to let light fill up the cracks I’ve made. This time, I’m going to be the sunshine. This time, I’m going to be better.
I’d talk nerdy with you. Yes I really would. I’d whisper something in your ear about subject-verb agreements. Press myself into you while you tell me your favorite conjunctions. Trace punctuation marks all over your skin; parenthesis on your chest, semi-colons on your wrists, quotation marks on your forehead, slashes on your back. Perhaps you’d moan when I tell you the difference of passive voice and active voice. I would show you my books and letters. Show you how I play with words. I know enough about metaphors and allegories to take off your shirt, unzip your jeans. We could go over the tenses of verbs, the different prepositions on my bed. We could break all the rules, one by one, together.
Teach me how to get lost in a moment again. I have forgotten what’s it like. I don’t know which pocket I should put my best memories anymore. A little girl gave me a flower and the smell did not imbue swirly, downy things redolent of soft laughter and a book’s promise in me like it used to. I take pictures of everything but delete it after. I can’t remember whether to turn right or to veer left when I come across a fork road. I hold onto words but they feel dyslexic to me and I collapse on a cold tiled floor, dizzy. The darkness bites my toes when I’m sleeping. The moon does not talk. I try to scream but the only thing that leave my lips is dead silence. How do you put the bones back in your body when all there’s left is marrow? I’ll take everything with me and flee into a black hole.
One thing you have to know about me is that I am deeply unhappy. You can’t dip your hands inside me without corroding your skin. Once, I tried to sing for the moon but all I did was howl until it buried itself beneath its bed of night. I didn’t see the moon again.
I crack book spines and pluck flower petals and pretend there’s no blood on my hands. There’s desert in my bones thirsty for rainwater. Deserts are so lonely. It’s ironic they shine golden under the sun. I wish people aren’t so deaf. They couldn’t hear the screams in my laugh.
Sometimes, I wish my shadow would get up and hold my hand. But the darkness will just eat her up.
Twelve months ago, I let someone make a home out of my heart without any guarantees if it’s permanent or not. He came, quiet like the moon, and slept between my ribs; counted them like rosary beads and carved poetry on them.
It was summer, the sun broke itself apart and spilled its guts all over the earth when we kissed and our lips were clumsy, tripping over each other like little kids trying to outrun the other. I have grown so accustomed to him that my lips only remember his taste, my hands only know his shape, my skin only register his warmth and this love, this love is making me dizzy I see colors in the air.
I never knew my heart could bear the weight of this, never knew it can be as deep as Mariana’s Trench in terms of feelings and it surprises me how this thing beating inside my chest has the sheer strength to stand all of this.
He is sleeping now, and I wish I can hold his hand, anchor him towards me and out of his dream. I realized love is walls holding up a house without asking why. He held me and I, him and together we housed ourselves inside this storm. So devastating yet so, so beautiful.