When it was my turn I leant forward and grabbed a fistful of dirt. I shuffled forward, moving delicately so not to slip and slide across the muddy terrain. I tossed the mud through my fingers, and after a second I heard it thud against the oak. I don’t know why they’d chosen oak. Oak isn’t that great. But, then again, I wasn’t able to offer an opinion when they’d asked for my thoughts. I’d just stared blankly and agreed with the noises I was struggling to decipher as questions.
As I threw the dirt I’d wanted to mutter something heartfelt or meaningful, but I just stood in silence with the remnants over my fingers. I tried taking a couple of steps back to my starting point, but the slippery earth meant I needed to turn and walk back. I hadn’t wanted to take my eyes away, but I didn’t have a choice.
I remember not feeling much. I don’t know if I actively chose not to feel, or if I was incapable of feeling, or what, but I know I didn’t feel much that day. Believe that I tried. I really did. I wanted to feel the pain and fury that I’d expected. But all I really felt was an intense apathy towards the situation. I mean, since then I’ve felt those severe emotions, but at the time I wanted them they were noticeably absent.
After the formalities were over we headed to a local pub. I remember standing and speaking empty words to an anonymous face, eagerly eyeing the alcohol I could spy over their shoulder. All I could think of was numbing those already numbed emotions with the sweet sting lurking within those bottles. I remember smiling and nodding and doing my best “thanks for coming”, “we’re doing ok” and “we really appreciate it”. None of it meant a thing.
I don’t remember what she looked like before we found her. They made her up to be something she wasn’t for that day, and that’s all I see now. An imitation of what was there before. If I stretch my mind hard, I can remember those times before, but it’s painful. Like searching for hay in a needle stack. I can find those happy memories, but will be cut to shreds before I reach them.
I try so hard to remember her. Her walk, her voice, her laugh. Her laugh is probably the hardest thing to imagine. She was always laughing at some nonsense or other, but the second she was gone that melody disappeared from my head, never to return. Sometimes I think I’ve got the memory just right, but it sounds more like a shitty cover version of your favourite song. It’s recognisable, but it’s not right, and no matter how many times you hear it.
My inability to think of a time before is a bit of a blessing and a curse, if I’m honest. It’s good to be numb sometimes. To not think of the happy times means I don’t feel sad about their absence. I have to just deal with what’s laid in front of me. My reality.
The other side of the coin, though, is that my mind races to fill that vacant space with false horror stories. When I close my eyes and let them wander, my dark, twisted imagination explores the things that might or might have ever been. The dip where a skull should have been, the ligatures on the throat, the frail and exhausted body. Did any of it happen? If I thought hard enough I might remember, but why would I want to?
Anyway. The pub.
I pushed past some great aunt or second cousin and grabbed a drink. I sat at the bar with my back to the room, and listened as an endless cycle of people gave me their best anecdotes. The time she bit through her tongue as a kid at the playground, or how she bunk off school to smoke fags and play cards. It was nice to hear, in a way, but really it was painful to think that those happy stories would never be replicated.
I sat and drank for the remainder of the afternoon, and into the evening. It must have been around 11 when my father called me a cab. He knew I needed to go, although I tried to convince him I was fine. He knew I was hiding in a shell. I wanted desperately to protect him from it all. I wanted to be a kind of reality umbrella for him, to shield him from the shit and rigmarole around the whole bastard situation. I was probably making it harder for him. What can I say? The man knows me. He knew I was hurting, and no matter how much I thought I was protecting him he was, once again, shading me from my own grief.
I don’t recall much of the journey home, but I remember stumbling through the front door, and then getting into bed. I remember laying and staring at the ceiling. And I remember her kissing my head before I went to sleep. As I drifted off I realised who it was, and my drunken, fragile mind begun questioning the reality of the day.
Why am I mourning? She isn’t even gone.