A Story For A Shadow
Written by V.C. Linde
This was written as a study of grief and how grieving changes how you remember people. Half is written to the character who died and the other half is written to an other person about that character.
All through our childhood you held my hand although we barely touched.
I remember it all – right from when we were four years old. He had other friends and we barely noticed each other. Now I can’t pin point exactly when we became friends, but I don’t know anything before he was there in my world.
You had died ten days earlier.
I’d forgotten to turn off the alarm. I always used to wake up before my alarm but now I often forgot to turn it off when I got out of bed. The sound somehow managed to hammer its way into my consciousness even with a frustration of grief and a very powerful shower. There was no one left to disturb so I let it ring and continued crying into the downpour. I had chosen to bury Harry in the morning, it was our favourite time of day and I didn’t want to sit around all day waiting, as if it was something to look forward to. I headed down for breakfast in an obvious black dress which fitted me far too comfortably and with enough make up on to hide the pain that each line in my face was showing. All I wanted to do was sit down and tell Harry about the radio piece on Alaskan trees I’d just heard and ask whether we should cancel our newspaper subscription. He’d tell me what he thought and we could have a lazy breakfast with toast and too much jam. Every piece of the furniture seemed to have moved a few inches so I managed to hit my knee on the kitchen table and my elbow on the cupboard door.
I didn’t have anything to eat that morning. I waited to be picked up, we weren’t following the coffin to the Church, that was too much to cope with. I was running out of groceries in the house, I keep forgetting that I am still alive and the old things carry on. I sat on the stairs in my coat and waited to see their shadows on the outer wall and hear their quiet voices. Not all of the boys came up to the house, Alex came to collect me. They stood by the car - three best friends dressed up to bury the fourth. I sat between Mike and Kevin. The driver took a longer route around but we were still very early, which felt appropriate. I got out of the car and walked around the Churchyard to speak to all of the people who had already had to do this. So many people had died young, so many people had lost people too early. Trying to imagine the only person who knew me laying with all of these still, silent historians I wanted to crawl under the grass, and wriggle my toes until I was forgotten and my head stopped hurting. People in the distance looked at me. I had taken off my shoes and had green, stained feet. I knew Harry was close by but I also knew that I was not able to run to him or even if I did that it would do us no good.
The service was short but personal. Several people spoke and outside of the brief version of the standard C of E service the minister said very little.
I left without realising what had just happened.
We had the wake at Alex and Melissa’s house so that I could leave whenever I wanted. I was not aware of what people were saying to me because memories kept colliding with whatever I was trying to keep in my head at the time. I desperately wanted to listen to all of the stories and anecdotes that Harry’s friends were telling me so that I had as much of him and his past in my thoughts as possible. Some things I will not be able to forget, some of them I already knew but it was good to hear that other people knew him as well. Every few moments something would hit me in my lower back and I remembered. The last few weeks, the arrangements, the long future ahead that I didn’t want to start. Once all of the mourners had gone home it was just me. I was the person who had to sort it all out because I had no one to help me through. My person was in a section of earth saturated with tears of people in our lives, but no longer really in mine.
Alex began to clear up while Melissa sat quietly with me and my sixth un-drunk cup of tea. Everything that other people did at the moment just made me miss Harry. They didn’t do anything quite right, and they never would. We said occasional words to each other but avoided whole sentences. Careful not to break the fragile mood the day had created. They drove me home once it was dark. I sat in the back of the car for the third time in one day, they both offered to stay but I sent them home to be together. I wondered what they would talk about on the way home. Harry, the funeral, people they saw, stories we heard, or what I would do.
I walked into the kitchen and put the kettle on, took off my shoes and put them on the table. When the kettle had boiled I went into our room and turned my pillow over before crawling into bed and tightly tucking the sheets around me.
Copyright of V.C. Linde