I didn’t know that the smells would haunt me. Scratch that. I did.
Specifically, detergent mixed with the coconut on skin.
I think it’s my most favourite smell in the world because it is you.
It smells like home. Which is also you.
So now I am exploring the world independently, without you, and mostly it’s pretty okay.
Being busy helps. Watching TV with complete concentration, especially murder mysteries and not guessing whodunit is the best antidote to miss. No mystery there. I have discovered Ms. Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and I won’t recommend it to you anymore. I have given the Honourable Ms. Fisher three days of my life. Entirely well-spent.
And like her, like Ms. Fisher, I have sex, lots of it, so the endorphins keep swimming whether they work or not.
I think to eat sugar in defiance and in defiance shut the tin and show you, ‘Look, I am looking after myself.’
I cook for everybody out of necessity and a grudging love. Again, I am becoming my mother’s daughter and every time I look at the seasoning box, I think, I must buy this for the house there and then my breath catches because without you, there is no house there anymore.
I think I have entirely stopped black coffee and the way the steam wafts out coffee in a French press.
I wear clothes that are cut low and deep and skirts that are short and swirl because I won’t deny my sexuality anymore. I am mostly ill but I am also sexy. And so I won’t hide it and cloak it in the worry that I am sending out the wrong signals. I am sexy. Everything about me needn’t scream sex but if you look closely enough, you will find that I won’t deny knowledge anymore. I enjoy myself. I have stopped denying how sensual the feel of rain is on skin, and how easily I am seduced by the wind in my hair, and how walking in heels makes my hip angle just so and how I feel the movement in all the right places, and how the taste of anything good makes me moan. This enjoyment is who I am. It has nothing to do with you. It never did, I realise now. I was wrong to deny myself because of awkwardness or your imagined discomfort.
I have stopped speaking like you with the ‘mmms’ in between thoughts, and the ‘umm tasty’ for food, and the ‘beautiful’ for trees, bees, birds, people, everything that you see. The only beautiful I reserve is for the one person you refuse to see beauty in.
I have not shed a single tear.
I don’t have a real smile either. Not the sort that reaches the eyes and lights up the entire face. That’s okay. No one needs to see. And I know someday when I least expect it, it will come, and all this will be done.
I have decided I won’t define us anymore. I don’t care who you are to me anymore. I don’t care if you are anymore even. There’s no need. It is as he said to me once when he assumed I was breaking it off with him, ‘We had a good ride, so I am grateful.’ Are you my brother, my best friend, my lover, my husband, my son? I don’t need to define it. I only know one word. Everything. And if you take that away from me, why then, I will survive this too, won’t I?
And when the numbers pop in my head, I remind myself slyly that I don’t know how to count and so it’s not 10 years and it’s not 15 days and it’s not 31 days and it’s not, it’s not, it’s not. What it is, is having your breath catch and your heart still because cactus fruits showed up on Instagram; because a certain beat in a particular song is from the night we danced at a distance, like strangers, not touching, not speaking, avoiding each other, lost in the music; because the letters that make your name suddenly pop on the timeline and it’s mostly not you; because it’s 8 am and I am wondering if today you managed to wake up on time like you assured me you would; because you live without me easily, happily, successfully.
I live without you. And notice I will not say exist. I live. I run errands, I make decisions, I am rude on the phone, I grieve for other people and while reading the army stories on Humans of New York. I curse crazy drivers on the streets. I worry if I will die of cancer. See? Real life. I am living without you successfully.
It is only in dreams that I am tormented. So I try and sleep lesser than I used to because even in dreams we never speak anymore but you are always there, always lurking behind some episode, some incident, some lover, and I worry about you constantly in my dreams. I had stopped worrying about you. Now it’s back multifold, a gnawing dissatisfaction with the world because an entire part of my being that has no voice in my waking hours worries about you, thinking ‘but no one understands you like I do. You said so yourself, and what will you do now? Whom will you share how the salad turned out, how the electricity units are so high because I kept the fridge open too long, how it rained, how this guy checked you out on the train and you didn’t encourage him, and how you don’t know why…’.
My mother says, ‘Why are the sheets so tangled up? It’s like you were wrestling on the bed. Aren’t you sleeping well? What’s the matter?’
And like you, I say, ‘Don’t bug me. Don’t talk to me now. Don’t talk to me.’
And unlike me, she listens, leaves me alone, and mutters to herself.
Another conversation closed.
When I am awake, it’s easy. I remind myself of all your new friends, old lovers, the many people around the world who love you and desire you and consume you in real life and my heart hardens. My resolve strengthens. You don’t need me anymore. You admire all those people now, love all those beings, and you feel nothing good for me.
I imagine you reading this, feeling that cold clasp of death because of the intensity, what you make out as drama, and resolving again that this space, this distance, this timing now is a good thing. Yabba, I hear you say. Yabba, who needs this heaviness, this mindfuckery in life, anyway?
I need you even less. See?
I choose the tiles on my own, the colours and paints and bathware on my own. I design the rooms on my own and I don’t care to ask you for an opinion. I watch what I want to on the TV, eat when I feel like, sleep when I absolutely must, and I don’t speak to anyone. I don’t ask anyone for an opinion. I don’t share. Not a single thing. Not with anyone. There’s no need. If I lose my mother or my father, I will deal with it. If I am grieving because I lost someone like a parent, I will deal with it. I will deal with coming to terms with the exhausting responsibility of parenting old parents who refuse to acknowledge their increasing age and decreasing abilities. And I will deal with taking myself to hospitals and check ups and knowing someday all this will surely end. I will deal with my own stress about money and health, money and health, health and money, health and money. I will deal with everything that comes with being alive in this world.
On. My. Own.
So everything goes on the way it probably always has.
I have a date.
So I meticulously choose clothes that I have washed without that detergent.
I wear black everywhere. Colour, just now, is abhorrent to me.
I wear them and do my eyes, but on its own, my kajal smudges, and I decide I must darken it all around, go smokey eyes. The way you like it, the thought forms and I squash it immediately. I wear neutral lip colour – not because you like natural – but because, really, red would be too much even if I am behaving like that rare, independent woman in the 1920s and singing jazz tunes by King Oliver and His Orchestra.
You were only passing time with me.
My date asked to go steady today.
I tell him I need to think.
I will agree, I think, if only in the hope that I will feel again.
I only hope today is good.
It is. Better than I imagined.
For two seconds, I am myself, unencumbered by thoughts of you, by the burden of everyday things.
And then as I am wearing my sweater, the one piece of clothing I carelessly carried, it wafts in, assaults me with detergent that has mingled with the coconut on my skin and I come undone then. It’s a good thing he nuzzles my neck because a whimper escapes me. I become you. I am you. Full of condescension and loathing towards everything to do with me. But I am also me – misunderstood, little girl lost, bereaved wife, distraught mother, banished sister, depraved soul, dispossessed queen, friendless and fainting, but smelling richly of you.