The bell rang. I entered. I stood at the edge with my back to the open metallic doors. Staring through the streak free lens gazing over the city. I imagined this had been the last vista you had consumed. I held your temporal container tight in my left hand. The sprawling urban expanse before me seemed to teem with signs of life from boutique to thoroughfare. Most of them unknowing and unaffected by your departure. I was alone, as I imagined, you must have been. The void in the object in my hand mirrored an expansive emptiness I could feel growing in my own heart. Like a supernova exploding and consuming its context. I too felt like this event was swallowing me. My eyes welled again with tears. They streamed down my face, pulled by gravity, through two weeks of facial growth. The tears began to drip onto the cream marble floor under my feet.
Mindful of the consuming ache within me I closed my eyes. I re-visited that night you had taken me out to examine the heavens through your telescope. It was alongside you in the darkness, shivering under the blanket of lights, that I knew you were the one.
The doors closed. I pulled my hanky from my back pocket, dried my eyes and mopped my whiskers. I’d only started to carry this accessory in the last week in order to address the spontaneous displays of liquid grief. Little insignificant things seemed to trigger these overflows of emotion as if my body simply could no longer contain all that was within my depths. I looked down past my feet to the street level below. My forehead rested on the cold glazed surface that safely separated myself and other prospective passengers from the risk of our position.
As we traveled along the set path, the urban landscape that had been our home for these past seven years drew closer. The train station, cafe, park and gallery before me represented interdependent sets of memories that were now the residue of our relationship. Was it possible that I could remain at home in this landscape full of rememberings – without you? Suddenly our descent slowed, there was a noise and when we were stationary the doors opened. Two children and a woman entered.
She sighed as the doors closed. The kids squabbled and our eyes met again. “I want to press the button” they said in unison. They pulled at one another and the girl hit the 12th floor pushbutton. Without saying anything the woman excused her children’s absorbed, vociferous exchange. I smiled and another tear pushed through my duct and rolled on down my cheek into my beard. She reciprocated the smile with only her eyes, her face also mediating warmth and compassion. “My partner always wanted to have kids” I said. As I addressed the woman the children both went silent and only their heads turned towards me. “Our Mother is deaf mister” said the girl. The woman smiled and blushed. She signed something towards the kids and the girl then spoke again “she says being a parent is both wonderful and…” “I can imagine” I interrupted, looking at both the woman and the juvenile speaker. “…exhausting!” finished the girl. “You’re looking great for someone who is exhausted” I quipped. The woman laughed, looked at the kids, signed again, and then back to me. “Thank You” said the girl. The woman and I exchanged further smiles and then I noticed her miniature male guardian grimacing at me disapprovingly. Feeling uncomfortable, I looked away towards the buildings opposite.
His facial contortions took me back to those ‘robust conversations’ we’d have about when we would plan to have our two kids, “I’m not getting any younger” you’d say, “my biological clock is ticking and I think my baby making apparatus might already need serviced due to lack of use!” I had kept deferring on making a plan. Becoming a parent seemed like such an altruistic phase. I had been more concerned about preserving our lazy Sunday mornings. Did my delaying fail to divert us from that dark place? “I am so sorry baby!” I said, holding the cold bronze urn in both hands. “Did you say something mister” said the girl. I turned looking back at the questioner, “Sorry” I said. She tilted her head and frowned a little “Did you say something?” “Sorry I was talking to Sarah, I mean myself.” “Oh, okay” the girl smiled and her Mother placed her hand on the girls shoulder.
Our descending cell slowed again, the high pitched ding announced, we were now stationary and the doors opened. The fragrance of freshly pulled espresso entered. It was carried by a dapper gentleman. He reached over the kids and hit the pushbutton for the 34th floor. The rich smoky aroma of black gold in a disposable cardboard cup, filled the confined space we five now shared and was contrasted by the sickly floral eau de toilette that wafted from the caffeine fueled carrier.
Inhaling such fragrances always makes me think of you paused in a moment of indecision, in our walk-in dressing room, contemplating which fragrance from your vast collection you’d spritz. You seemed to always approve of those impromptu perfume gifts. Although I’d like to have had the opportunity to confess that my selections were often more influenced by the aesthetic glass structure rather than the actual olfactory of the contents. I still miss your smell. The doors closed and our journey down continued.
An automated voice filled broke the silence of our shared space and drew our attention to some of the local landmarks in the buildings across the street and down towards the park. “It’s my turn to play on the iphone” said one of the minors to the other. The boys knuckles were white and bloodless as he gripped the phone tightly and resisted any compulsion to share as per the invitation presented by his sibling. Pachelbel’s Canon faded in, growing louder, my phone was ringing. I answered. “Darling it’s your Mother, I’ve been texting and calling, how are you?” “Hey Mom, I’m ok I think” “Have you done it?” “Yep, she’s gone, I let her out from the balcony of the penthouse” “It is what she wanted baby, you did the right thing, it is what Sarah wanted.” “I can’t really talk now, but I’ll call you later.” “Mom, is Dad there, is he ok?” “He’ll be fine darling, come and stay with us soon won’t you.” “Sure I’ll fix something, maybe this weekend or next.” “We love you dear boy.” “See you soon Mom”.
After the call, my phone danced and vibrated again in my hand. I scanned the GUI and the numeric counters on the homescreen indicated that I had seven text messages and thirteen voicemails that were unattended. I re-sleeved my phone and returned it to my jackets chest pocket.
The digital billboard across the street started playing an advert for sports car we’d just bought with last quarters dividend. The doors opened on the 34th floor and a gentle voice from the floor asks quietly “Are you guys going up?” As the dapper gent exited he answered, “this one is on it’s way to the basement love,” “okay” says the voice “not up then!” The cars in the ad had the amethyst paintwork that I had selected on our customised Panamera which was waiting in car park below the daisy garden. Sitting in the luxury of that sports car, hours after we had collected it from the dealer, you had received the call that changed the course of our lives. If only we had tried to have kids before we did, maybe we would not have had to endure the vicious cycles of disappointment following those unsuccessful attempts of in vitro fertilisation?
“What is in the pot mister?” said the girl who’d spoken on behalf of her Mother moments earlier. I returned to my body from the malaise of remembering that I’d slipped into and replied “sorry, what did you say?” I wasn’t being awkward I genuinely hadn’t listened. You’d always said I was gifted with the ability to hear selectively. “In your hand, the pot, what’s in it?” The Woman looked at me, reading between the lines on my face she signed something to her daughter. “It’s empty” I said. “There is no-one in it.” The girl paused and again her Mother signed to her. “I’m sorry” said the girl. “So am I” I concluded. We exchanged silent sympathy.
Tears again began streaming from both eyes. The pod we had shared again slowed, as the doors were about to open on the 12th floor, the bell signaled our arrival. The woman squeezed the skin of my forearm. The children and their Mother exited on their way to I don’t know where.
You used to caress me on the inside of my wrist as we sat and talked or drove together. Such comfort seemed to have abandoned me, as you had been beyond consolation. “We can try another cycle” I’d said, “What if it doesn’t work?” you kept saying. Crippled by that fear your mantra became “I can’t cope with this, it is too much, too much for me.” The tears kept on coming and I started breaking down. The counter above the door passed eight, seven, six and we continued descending. I inhaled deeply, controlling my now erratic breathing, pulled the hanky from my pocket and again buried my face in its fabric to dry myself.
The bell signaled my arrival, I exited and made my way to the rear of the building. The lobby was adorned with colourful assorted seating you had adored. I made my way past the communal toilets to the garden whose status was the same and proceeded to the bench where we would read the sunday papers together with takeaway coffee and pastries from Konstam’s. Bee’s danced from flower to flower. The daisy’s stood tall and crisp drinking in the sunlight. I looked up to the penthouse balcony. Minutes earlier I’d scattered what remained of you from the urn I was still holding.
Only weeks earlier we had been shouted at, by a grumpy neighbour, when seated here, for making too much noise, too early on a Sunday morning. You’d been giggling at some satirical comment and we’d ended up drunk with laughter. I love your laugh. I can’t believe your gone. I don’t understand. I’m sorry.
What do people do with used urn’s? I thought to myself. I’ll never forget you Sarah. I got up and started making my way to the car park. I pictured in my imagination putting an orchid into the urn. I had no where to be and no one I wanted to be with. I reached the car and got in. Your favourite vintage scarf was on the floor on the passenger side and a spare make-up bag in the door pocket. “I’m so sorry baby!” I sat there and wept. I was drunk with grief and a gnawing guilt that I had not supported you at the point when you had reached the end of yourself. No-one was blaming me, but I knew that my withdrawal from being meaningfully alongside had made this madness possible. By doing nothing I had permissioned a chaos that consumed you and allowed you to be overcome by the despair from which you will never return.
I started the ignition, tears streaming down my face, I considered whether I should be driving but all I wanted was to keep on moving. The sound of Bach’s St Matthew Passion emerged. I knew I could not have you back but I needed to keep on moving and for now that meant driving. I headed out of the city and I kept on going. I am going still and your orchid has just bloomed again.