Fatal

We know what we have is finite, we know it has to end, but we stumble just the same because knowing is not the same as believing. This, then, is our fatal flaw. The way we consider our maybe next times and our second chances, our opportunities to change things. We plot and plan – redemption, revenge, renewal – because we never truly accept that something can be lost to us. We tell ourselves that we live in a world of infinite possibility, that time heals everything and we assume that tomorrow will give us another day. We waste so much time believing in the benign nature of time itself, in the idea that it will somehow expand to contain everything we want of this world. If we just keep going. If we never, ever give up.

But you are gone. That which was endless is suddenly contained. The ending has been written, and even if I travel backward through all that came before I will one day arrive at the point where the beginning resides, where there is nothing new to discover.

I can feel the real loss waiting for me here. When I exhaust our memories I will be left only with what we never knew. There will be no new words to decipher, no clumsy mistakes to ponder, no new arguments on which to stake our silence. No new white-flag smiles and no new resolutions. No new landscape awaits our exploration – we will have mapped our love entirely.

You had such an enduring faith in tomorrow, Mack. So much so that you never had both feet planted here in today. And now you are gone. What happens to tomorrow without you there, waiting?

Rock Bublitz by Joanne Piechota

When it was tomorrow I liked it more – and thought it just might be the dream I slept over so easily the night before …

Image: Joanne Piechota

Engineer

The morning everything changed started off like any other. Isn’t that what they say, anyone who knows what it is like to have everything shift on its axis, the way I do now. There is no prescience, no inkling in the waking up, the reluctant sliding of feet into sneakers, the bleary sipping at instant coffee while you wait for the dark to give way to a safer shade of grey. How different can it be, the morning that everything changes? The planet itself is not adjusting itself for your story, it is not preparing you or it for what is to come. The indifference of the world to your plight is a remarkable thing to realize. Liberating even, once you understand that it all goes on without you. Although that day, I learnt what it means to be firmly at the centre.

It started as just another morning in this new life of mine. I had been living it slowly for weeks, testing out this new ground like some baby animal learning to walk. When I left Adam, time changed its pace to something slower than I’d known. When you have been tethered so long and finally find yourself free, you do not burst into a sudden run. Days are to be absorbed; like sun on skin most sensations are felt from far away, and it takes nights and weeks to find yourself present in any moment, to know that you are here, safe, sure. I had been in a relationship since I was 18 years old. I had been wrapped so tight in Adam’s love that everything felt loose and vast when I finally shook it off.

It takes time to learn how to be free. I was terrified of the open spaces before me, the emptiness after years of clutter. I understand a little of why people stay so long. Fear is easier to contain when you can recognize it. Then there is the isolation, the looking up to find no-one is waiting . I had lost so many friends and barely noticed, the girls from my dance classes, the worlds of people from my time with the Company. Each one inching, then turning away when I wouldn’t follow the lead they offered. So many, I see now, who tried to help me extricate myself in those early days. So many who said oh hey there’s a bed at mine if you ever need, and asked of me more than others, Lucy, are you okay? I always said yes because what would you say? When the love we danced, the art we made was so often violent and explosive. How could I say I didn’t want it that way off stage?

They are jealous of you, baby Adam would say as one by one these sentinels dropped away. But don’t worry because you’ll always have me. No-one knows you like I do.

Funny that sentence. No-one knows you like I do. How it can sound so assuring at first, how eager we are to be known, and how sure we are that we are not already transparent. Later, when you have given it all away, that sentence will be thrown back at you, as hard as a slap. No-one knows you like I do. Your selfishness, and your stupidity, and your ugliness. No-one sees the real you, the pathetic you, except for me. And you’ve already believed the words a hundred times, so this is just another truth to absorb. From the person who knows you best. The careful engineer of your isolation. Yes, I know a little of why people stay.

That morning, the morning everything changed, I was thinking about dancing again. How there must be some memory of it still in my bones. Muscle, they say, but I think it goes deeper. I thought I might make a call – tomorrow. Toby, he still ran his studio from that warehouse in Prahran, maybe he’d let me teach a class or two, find my way back. I was sure it would not take long for me to remember.

When I set off for my run I felt pleased with my intentions. A future plan, an idea of tomorrow. For the first time I did not feel like I was escaping. Funny to have that thought right before I was pulled back in.

***

Eidyia’s note: I want to take care with this character. The final act belongs to Lucy …

In the hours between 10 and 12

In the hours between 10 and 12

when limbs grow heavy and fingers light

when kisses are stained with last year’s wine

and Venus can’t decide her name …

In the hours between 10 and 12

when toes protest and cotton clings

when lines are etched down threaded walls

and I cannot remember my name …

In the hours between 10 and 12

when hotels hum and cities dim

when bodies fuse under fervid heat

and gold is molten against your name …

In these stolen hours between 10 and 12

when the sun decides to look away

when darkness is poured all over our skin

– we baptise each other once and again.

Image by Joanne Piechota
Image by Joanne Piechota

Running

I want to hold on to the anger. It is the third stage, and the easiest. It is fuel, a white hot rise in the blood that ensures you don’t stay still when the world goes on around you. I barrel forward for a week after seeing that magazine, I start running, literally, every morning, when the sun hangs out with the moon and the black recedes to blue. You blazed into my life Mack, you altered my direction, and in these early mornings as my feet mark time on the gravel I know I am trying to run away from you, from Lucy, from a pregnant Anna on the cover of every women’s magazine.

Some mornings I am chest out, pounding the ground proud, having my own little revival – I can do this, look at me go. I can be strong alone. Other days, head down, I feel the soft sadness creep back in like a new morning rain and I run through it and in it, so slow as to almost stand still.

And some mornings I want to stop, right there on the river that watched you die. I want to let my knees buckle from the weight of my history, I want to lie down amongst the rotting leaves and yellowed grass of early winter and put my cheek against the dirt.

But I know that if I do this, I will never get up again. If I lay down the world will keep moving, it will not adjust its pace just because you and I have stopped. Anna will still be growing the baby you made when I loved you most, even Lucy will start to heal over, just like the scars on her hands she no longer hides. If I lay down now, people will simply run over the top of me, they have so many places to go that eventually they will not even notice that I am under their feet. The day will give way to a week, a month, a year, and I will not have moved from this spot. Everything around me will be in constant motion and I will be left behind. If I do this I will never get up again.

I keep going. I get up the next morning and I run with a little certainty, and the next morning, and the next. I keep going. Chest out, pounding the ground proud, I keep going. Even in the soft sadness I keep going. I sometimes think it is running that saves me.

***

Running Track at body remember

Eidyia’s Note: This now belongs to Maggie Valentine, but the piece first appeared here, very early on, as my own experience:  

https://bodyremember.com/2012/02/19/fight-or-flight-i-want-to-run-to-you/ 

It is so obvious now that all I needed to do was write. Just write. Even if you don’t know where it will take you. Just write. And keep going. It will all make a wonderful sense in the end …

Severed

He severed the common carotid artery in your neck. It could be considered random, unlucky, that’s how hard it is to kill someone in this way. The carotid artery has two branches, one for each side of your body. These little freeways are barely 6 millimeters in diameter as they traffic oxygenated blood to the brain. The carotid pulse is amongst the strongest; because of the size of the artery and the significance of the blood flow, it can often be felt when there is no other sign of life under the skin. The common carotid artery, it’s called. Once severed you bleed out within minutes. Turns out the difference between life and death measures barely 6 millimeters. It was like a punch to the neck, that’s how a witness described it. But he came down with a blade instead of his fist and you were dead within three minutes.

I want to know the facts. I will come to crave the facts. I will talk with police officers and detectives, with lawyers and doctors to understand how someone can die in this way. Some will humour me, others will provide me with detailed notes on the complexities of the human body, and still others will say Anna, are you sure you want to know? And the answer is, yes – I have to. Nothing in my life is real anymore, nothing contains a truth I can hold on to, an unequivocal on which to tether myself. If I don’t find some way of holding on, of grounding myself I will sink under, I will let everything grow over me and I will disappear from this world we created together.

I have two children to consider, my Ollie who stares at me with the most heartbreaking expectation, the silent imploring that I’m going to tell him it was all a mistake. That they got the wrong guy, that his dad will be home tonight, this night, before we have to sleep-walk through yet another day. And the baby in my belly, this tiny force grasping at life and reminding me to chew at food I cannot taste, to get up and keep moving every day, to orient toward a future moment, when life feels like nothing more than a protracted, endless now.

So I will learn about your death, Ben, I will learn the facts and the science and the statistics on death by stabbing, and why. I will know everything about the murder investigation, about Adam Price and this young woman whose face is all over the news. The pretty ballerina you gave your life for. I will know her, and I will know what happened to us.

I will wrap my arms around your mother and let her cry into my shoulder so that she cannot see how hard I am biting down on my own sorrow. I will sleep next to Ollie every night, keeping the bathroom light on and his favourite pillow between us, and he can think I don’t know how he cries himself to sleep. I will be the one they can ask, when they’re ready. What happened? I will have all the answers waiting.

I have to know what happened to us, Ben.

****

Eidyia’s note: All of my characters in body, remember are constantly asking questions, constantly seeking out the truth after living certain lies for years. There is a moment, later, where Anna is told that survivors always imagine the worst, that there are darker places in our minds than we could ever have imagined. I am beginning to see that this story is about moving from that dark place. Truth and light and all that – if you can take a deep enough breath and turn toward it.