The Memory of Stars
I am watching the coffee stain my fingers as you lie dying in the gravel.
It is a morning of bright blue promise. The breakfast show host is laughing at his own joke, and I smile at the television without hearing the punch line. Next up a story on how most women do not wear the right size bra. I feel my left breast; it seems perfectly at home within its wired cup.
My elbow knocks the coffee jar to the floor.
The crack of glass against tile. Is this the moment his knife plunges in? I bend down to reach for the jar. I can still see sky above the kitchen bench. Do you sink to your knees at the very same time? When I sweep at the granules of coffee with my hand, I scatter them further. Is this how six inches of metal so carelessly severs muscle and vein?
How is it that I do not feel a thing?
The ground floods with red. Water turns the coffee to rust on my fingers. I rinse my hands clean. Your body makes its last struggles at life. Kitchen tiles and a muddy river separate us.
How is it that I do not feel anything at all?
This early morning run you have taken along the river. I did not know you were here in Melbourne. After three months of looking for you everywhere, I no longer wonder where you are. When I used to be by your side on a morning like this.
The moon must still be out when you start off, a determined sliver holding back the day. They say you came across them arguing, that as you approached you saw him grab her by the hair. You have never forgotten the woman next door, the one you didn’t save, and I know you would have seen this moment as an offer of redemption at last.
Did you yell at him to stop, did you barrel forward and push her out of the way? I can see you running, see you in those last solid moments. Striding along the gravel track, side-stepping ducks and over-hang. And then the bridge, where they are. But here it stops.
I know he followed her. I know he had been watching and waiting for weeks, building his anger on her absence. She was running too, the other way, when he found her. And you got between them. You put your body between the trembling woman and this raging man. A shove, a punch – he will say you provoked him. You struggle, the yelling attracts runners above on the bridge, but it is too late when he reaches down, when he plunges in. Self-defense he will say, but you never left a mark on him. She is screaming at him to stop. She tries to save you, she will need stitches to the slicing of her hands as they brace against the blade. But the force of his anger has found a target, and a lifetime of loss and misery reduces yours to a final minute.
And then he is the one to run, as you breathe out blood, and she tries with shaking hands to shore you up. You lay in this woman’s arms, a stranger covered in your blood, and her screams echo against your silence. By the time the sirens can be heard, you are already dead on the ground.
I do not feel a thing.
We have an idea of goodbyes. We know just how they should be. We imagine running alongside a train until the platform gives out. We see ourselves clinging, until they tear us, still reaching, apart. We think of linoleum cathedrals and hospital rooms, of holding hands all through the longest night. We know what it is to watch a plane taxi away, we close our eyes and remember waving at the hand pressed up against the smallest of windows, the hand that just might be you waving back too. So that even when the plane finally takes flight, even as our insides fall, we keep looking up at you. Still watching for your fingers pressed against that window, right until we can no longer make out metal from sky.
Metal and sky.
We have an idea of goodbyes, Mack.
We are supposed to be present in the final moments. We are supposed to know what is happening to us, and how. We are meant to feel the potent chemicals of loss take hold, to feel the ache of separation as it floods our veins. We are meant to realise the tragedy of our ending.
How is it possible I do not feel a thing?
Eidyia’s Notes: Edits, Edits, Edits! I may finally have this first scene where I want it to be … maybe …