Until I wake up

Lucy

It is something to watch a man die. It is something to have been the last touch, the last      connection to life. I don’t think I believe in God or heaven. But I feel that I’m tied to Benjamin Mackintosh all the same. When he interrupted Adam’s assault, he traded his life for mine, and that makes me responsible for the life Benjamin will not get to live, as much as for his death. I talk to him about this as if we are old friends, old souls who have found themselves with an odd, explicit connection. When I talk to Benjamin, I feel like I just might make it through the day.

I want to know more about him. I have the images and stories that have been shared by the press, stories of a man who loved sports and good wine, and his family and faith. But those things I could have guessed, they could be attributed to any man of his age and standing. I want to know why he stopped. I want to know what he was thinking as he rounded that bend, what last thought gave way to instinct when he saw Adam close his fingers on my throat. Was it work, love, sex? Some dream or some regret he’d slept over the night before? Was he happy in those last moments of his life? Before he gave it over for mine? These are the things I want to know. These are the things I would ask of his grieving widow, or his mother, or his stoic, sharp-nosed brother who shows up in the news so often now.

Tell me something about the man you loved. Let me hold on to who he was, so that I can let go of what it was to watch him die.

Benjamin, what do you say? Are you ever going to answer me? Were you a good man, a happy man? I have known so few in my life. I have messed everything up, I don’t think I even know what a good man is, let alone a happy one. I have hours and days to consider this now, as I wait for my body to heal. My mother retreats to her books and soap operas each afternoon – we don’t talk, and she doesn’t ask questions, not even the ones I might like to answer. So I think about you, Benjamin. Correction. I think about us. The pair we have become. I dress, and then slip back under the covers to think about us, until it is late enough to take another blue pill. And then I dream us. Those last, suspended moments played out over and over. Until I wake up and begin again.

Into the After

Sometimes, I time travel through their wounds.

I take them back to before. Before the wheels over-corrected, or the under-tow pulled too hard. I take them back to the moment before they said yes to that guy or before they turned that corner – before life began to slide away from where they’d been.

I’m piecing them back to how they were, when they were whole and untouched. Everyone has it. Every body has it. A time before. Some people get further along than others – some get to live entire lives in the before.

Others come with the smallest amount of time and grace, and fall quickly into the after.

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Into the after. The new working title for my second novel. To write, I need a literary leitmotif, a melody of words and ideas to thread through the story. I’ve found it here. Now the work begins …

This is what happened

Beginnings

I had a dream last night where I told her the truth. Out loud. Tongue against teeth, it snaked out from pressed lips, the sound escaping with the slowest release of air. As if I had been holding my breath for days.

This is what happened – and there it was. Such freedom in the words, the way I suddenly released all of our secrets from where they had so long been sitting. These sugared pills hidden under the tongue, and now spat out at her feet.

She stared in surprise – but just for a second. I felt a cloudless relief to say where I had been.

And as she took my hand, we saw nothing but sky.

^^ The epilogue to The Memory of Stars …

In every beginning an ending is written …

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.” – TS Eliot, Four Quartets

I’m a better person for knowing you. For this invitation into your world, and the people you loved. I know why they loved you back, Ben. I know why they love you still. You were so loved. All of the mistakes, all of the regrets you might have felt that morning as you tied your shoes, as you set off for that run along the river. They don’t count for anything in the end. They are not the things you leave behind; the mistakes are not what we remember.

We remember the impact made. We remember the aching, tender, breaking impression left upon us. We remember how people change us, and how if we are lucky, that impact changed them too. This is love, Ben, at the end of the day. And love is what we remember most of all.

I have to go now. Time to meet Maggie for cake and wine. Mostly wine, I would imagine. We have a birthday to celebrate. A new beginning. An ending too, after nine months without you. I know I’m going to have to confess my part in this to her. Eventually. But that story belongs to a different ending. Or a whole other beginning. See, I keep coming back to this, Ben. The idea that beginnings and endings are one and the same. And that a connection like ours is never truly severed.

It just changes. Expands. I was not wrong when I said that surviving is one of the hardest things to endure. It means to live beyond. And to live beyond what you once had, you have to let go of the past. You can’t hold on too long, not when you have to move on. Not if you want to survive. But Ben, you take the love with you. Of this I am certain.

I have to go now. Time to meet Maggie for cake and wine. Mostly wine, I would imagine. We have a birthday to celebrate.

The End at body, remember

Eidyia’s Note: This past week I wrote the last lines of body, remember. The journey I started here on this blog 22 months ago has lead me to an 80,000 word manuscript ,and I’m now one giant leap closer to my dream of being a published author. For a writer, I’m not even sure I have the words to say how it feels … but I’m taking it in. Before the endless edits begin!!

body, remember

What does the body remember of another?

What memory sits at the tip of the tongue, ready to burst? Does desire constantly swim in the veins, little pieces of longing that warm the blood and rise to the surface at the slightest provocation? Do they reconstruct and orient the desire toward that which we cannot forget? Is remembering merely the act of desire trying to make itself whole again?

I miss your body. I miss how I made it mine. I miss the caught breath and the shifting weight. I miss the switch that flicked, the way your hands would suddenly tighten and pin me down.

I miss the safety of this certain surrender, the risks we took. The weeks apart, how time would build a tension in the muscle, a coiling of need that unravelled so beautifully on those nights we came back.

Sometimes a fast and furious unwinding, the release like a firework that explodes in the dark. At other times a slow and tremulous untying of knots, working into the early hours and seeing the sun come up on each other’s skin.

I never lost the craving, even when we were in our wars, all those battles finely played to lose. The body has always been the ultimate traitor, don’t you think?

Jo Piechota image at body, remember

Image by Joanne Piechota

Eidyia’s note: Today I was curious to see just what I was writing this time last year – to see who I was, where I was at the change of seasons. It had been a tumultuous winter, no doubt. But I can see that I was finally beginning to explore memory and desire in the deeper sense – the universal sense. A year later, the work continues …

Details

The Detective in charge of the investigation is Mike Keegan. We have talked on the phone every day, and yesterday he flew to Sydney to update us in person. I knew as soon as he walked into my mother-in-law’s house that I liked Mike Keegan. He felt like the only solid thing in this cloudy atmosphere where we are all moving as lightly as ghosts. The after-math has hollowed us out. We are people whose veins show through skin, whose words are formed over hushed tones, people who eat around our dinners and lay in bed without crumpling the sheets.

Keegan is broad shouldered, tangible amongst our shadows. He looks like the cops on TV, I tell him that and he shrugs, and plays with his graying moustache. Try not to watch those shows he says. They’ll fuck you up. People want to tell us now, how to do our jobs. Because they’ve watched CSI or some Unsolved Mystery shit. But it ‘aint real, and we have enough of the real to deal with right here, okay?

I like him. I like him better than the two young cops who came to my door, who said sorry and looked down at the ground the whole time. Who left me phone numbers and information, but nothing on how to survive. Mike Keegan might help me survive. It is Keegan who tells me about the severed artery, he replaces the general terms I have been given – There was an incident, your husband was stabbed – with something specific, something I can see when I close my eyes. And this helps.

Keegan tells me survivors always imagine the worst, that there are darker places in our minds than we could ever have imagined. That it is important to get the facts and to face them head on, even if we can only do this in small parts, even if it takes us a year or ten, the facts will do more to stop the nightmares than anything else, more than any therapy or support.

I’m here to give you the facts he says, and I offer my first and only honest thank you since you died.