Copyright 2016 Jillian Tunbridge
Published by Jillian Tunbridge at Shakespir
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Where am I? I just needed…I couldn’t breathe. I just needed to come outside for some fresh air. But I can’t see…so many trees. How did I get so turned around?
It’s okay, just breathe. I can smell pine needles. Mmmm, fresh and warm. The right path is around here somewhere, I just have to figure out which footprints are mine and follow them back. It’s all good. I’m light-headed. Okay, sit down. I wonder if anyone heard when this tree fell. My laughter sounds a little manic. Just breathe. Think about something else.
He can’t be gone. My toast smelled the same. If everything was different how could everything feel the same? How could my toast have smelled the same this morning as it smelled every other morning before I knew he was dead? It’s not fair. Stop. Think about something else.
I remember when my niece Hope was little. I remember one time I looked after her and I made her a sandwich. She wanted honey but I didn’t have any. I don’t like it. I should’ve asked Mary-Jane earlier what Hope liked. I should’ve been more prepared. Why don’t I ever think things through properly?
I didn’t have any honey so I made her ham and mustard because that’s what I had. That’s what I like. I was scared she wouldn’t like it. I was so happy when she did. But…
I remember she pulled the bread apart. She took out the ham, used it to wipe up the mustard and just ate it like that. I asked her why she didn’t eat the bread and she said it was because I didn’t make sandwiches the same as her mummy and it made the bread boring. She only liked the stuff in the middle. That was the good stuff. The stuff in the middle.
On TV they always dress in black, but I need light, so today I dressed like springtime. I can smell flowers. Strange. I can only see the trees. I wonder where the flower smell is coming from.
His room smelled like flowers. Why do people give flowers? My nephews, Adam and Ashton used to pick me flowers. That was precious. They would find something that looked beautiful and smelled lovely and they’d want to share it with me. They didn’t know that by picking it for me they’d be killing it. But grown-ups know. Hey, I couldn’t think of anything personal to buy you for your birthday so I paid for a bunch of dead things that used to be full of life. So dumb. But…
But I love getting flowers. Not for my birthday, but when someone’s been thinking about me and they just want to bring a little bit of colour into my day…I love getting flowers. My dad used to bring my mum a big bunch of flowers for no reason, and he’d always have a little bouquet for me and my sisters as well.
There were flowers when I graduated from uni. And when I sold my first painting. Everyone was proud of me. Never give flowers because you messed up. Don’t ruin flowers. Flowers are for love. Flowers for congratulations. Flowers for condolences.
Kenny is beautiful. Wrapped up in his blanket. That knitted beanie too big for his tiny head. He doesn’t have control of his neck muscles, but looking around trying to make sense of his existence. His big sleepy eyes looking at me wondering who I am. He doesn’t know who he is yet. He’s too new.
I love how new babies smell. Apparently it’s like a drug. I heard it’s like a survival thing from caveman days. Apparently new babies release a chemical that dopes you up and makes you need to take care of them. But I don’t know if that’s true.
You know those moments you want to savour forever? You want the world to stop so you can just stay in that moment for a little longer. Like when all the pain is over and suddenly there’s this new life in your arms. All the clocks should stop. Time should look over your shoulder and just smile and nod.
The world doesn’t stop. Time doesn’t stop. And it won’t rewind.
I remember the last time…But it can’t be the last time I’ll ever see him because he can’t be gone. He didn’t want to die in hospital. They brought a hospital bed to his house. It was big and soft and it made him look small. He wore a beanie that Nanna knitted for him. Too big. It kept him warm but came down nearly over his eyes. He wasn’t strong enough to keep pushing it up. Big sleepy eyes. He wasn’t small.
Stop, just stop. Only cry in the bathroom. That’s the rule.
Will we go to the same place when we die? Pop believed in Heaven. Did he get to go there? I hope so. It’s not that I don’t believe in Heaven, I’m sure there’s something after life, I just don’t know that it’s Heaven. Or Hell. But Pop believed. So I hope with everything that is me that that’s where he is. And that he’s happy.
It was his time. Bullshit. I hate cancer. It’s not fair. Stop it. Think about something else. Think about Kenny and the whole life he has before him.
I wish Kenny were mine. How come she gets to have him? Timing, I guess. Ben loved me first, but…things happen. We lost contact. But I never stopped…and he always loved me. He never ever stopped thinking about me, he told me, the things he says…
Now he’s with her. Suddenly they have Kenny. But Ben still wants me. Ben still loves me. I know he does. He was there for me when Pop was sick. And you don’t cheat on your pregnant girlfriend unless it’s real love.
But then Kenny was born. And Ben doesn’t want him to have a broken family. I get that. He can’t leave his girlfriend, but he still loves me. I know he does. I just wish…it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters.
I hope Kenny grows up happy. I hope my niece and nephews grow up happy.
The world is blurry. I don’t mean metaphorically, I can’t see coz my eyes are full of tears. Funny how tears twist and distort things. Like a kaleidoscope made from a hall of mirrors.
I don’t think I’m me any more. I think I shattered and some of my pieces got lost. I don’t know where they went. The real me would never be a home-wrecker. The real me would never do the things I’ve been doing lately. I lost the real me. I don’t know who I am now.
I’m so sleepy. It was a lot of pills. It’ll be painless, won’t it? I’m on the organ donor list; someone else will live from this. It’s okay, just breathe. I’m giving life. But…
Have you ever wondered what happens after you die? Not to your body…not even to your soul…what happens to your life? I guess it depends who finds me.
I hope I don’t scar anyone. Maybe it won’t be a young jogger who finds my body, or anyone I know. Maybe there’ll be a search and trained police will find me. I guess then they’ll have to tell my mum and dad. I don’t want to think about that.
Mum and Dad will have to tell my sisters. But they’ll be okay, right? Won’t they understand? It just hurts so much. I…I can’t. My friends will probably find out by word of mouth. I wonder if they’ll wonder if they could have done something. They shouldn’t think that, it’s not their fault.
Oh. How will Mary-Jane and Alice explain it to Hope, Adam and Ashton? How do explain to a child that their aunty is dead? How do you explain that she took her own life? They’ll have questions. How can they be answered? I don’t even have the words.
I’m so dizzy. But it’ll all be okay soon. Just breathe. I wrote them a letter. Maybe it’ll help. That’s dumb. How could it help? How can anything help? They’re going through this too, how come they’re so much stronger than me?
Maybe they’re not. Maybe they’re not acting the way I am, but that doesn’t mean their pain is any less than mine. Maybe my pain won’t die when I do. Maybe it’ll just pass to everyone I love for them to carry everyday until the rest of their lives.
Oh God. I can’t do this to them. What was I thinking? I can’t stay here. I can’t…where am I? I can’t think. Stop. Just breathe.
This one thing looks like it’s my whole world. It’s affecting my whole world…but I don’t have to let it be my whole world. There’s so much other stuff. What am I doing? I can’t do this to them. I need to find my way home. I can do this. I’m not as alone as I feel.
There’s light through the trees. It’s so beautiful. I think I came from that way. Is that the path? Right, stand up. You can do this. Just breathe.
About the Author
The fact that she was born in Perth, Western Australia, in 1981 is irrelevant because Jillian Tunbridge spends all her time in some imaginary world and can never remember how old she is.
She received a Highly Commended in the 2015 Talus Prize for her short story This Road, but this isn’t that story.
Currently she is on the right track to earning her PhD, but it is a very long track, so stay tuned for more of her work.