grief

Back and Forth and Back and Forth

We had breakfast together like we always did but I couldn’t eat, hadn’t eaten much since she died a month ago. I watched him swallow mouthful after mouthful of boiled yam and corned beef stew, with the occasional sip of water to help pave the way. The temptation to pray he choked was overwhelming; I envied his ability to satisfy his hunger. The fist of grief that had made its home in my throat, making it impossible for anything to get past it, had obviously not paid him a visit.
I wanted to ask how he did it, how me managed to make it from one day to the next with such ease, but I didn’t know how. We didn’t talk much, we never had, and we certainly didn’t trade confidences or dabble in emotions. I wanted to ask if he also lay awake at night, the sound of her voice gliding gracefully in his head until he was convinced she was lying next to him, whispering softly in his ear. Did he see her when he closed his eyes? Did her scent dance under his nose too? Did he stand in front of his bedroom mirror watching his snot and tears collide, feeling sorry for himself, and intermittently bursting into laughter at the idiocy of it all?
Nothing seemed to faze him, not once in the last month had he deviated from normality. Her journey to death was sudden, we didn’t see it coming. One Tuesday morning she woke up with a headache, by night fall she’d died of a brain haemorrhage. Three days later, she was buried. Screams and sobs, wails and paranormal expressions of pain, echoed throughout the grave yard as her body was lowered into the ground. Yet, not a sound did he make, not even a dignified sniff. Not as much as a lone tear fought its way past his eye lids. Hadn’t he loved her, didn’t he care enough for the barest tinge of sadness to cast a shadow over his expressionless face?
“Your father is not the emotional type,” she always said when I complained about his matter-of-fact approach to life, “but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t care, he just doesn’t show it.”
My heart was getting crushed under the weight of my unspoken grief. I wanted to talk about her, share my memories with him. I wanted to tell him I wasn’t coping, couldn’t cope. I’d woken up a few days before to find my underwear and bed sheet soaked in blood. I’d started to panic before realisation hit me; I’d become a woman. Who was I supposed to tell? I’d been walking around for three days with my underwear lined with my old tank tops.
The tears I’d been struggling to keep hidden from public view began to slide down my cheeks. I tried to stop them, to make them retrace their steps, but the harder I fought them, the faster they flowed. I gave in to the grief and wept so hard, my chest felt like it would burst open. Eyes blinded by tears, I didn’t realise he had moved to sit beside me till his arms embraced me. I lashed out in anger, pounding my fists against his chest. How could he be so quietly calm when my whole world was falling apart?!
Gently, he lifted me off my seat and settled me in his laps, cradling my head against his chest. Slowly, he began to rock me back and forth. Back and forth, back and forth, till my fists stilled. Still he continued to rock me, back and forth, back and forth. My breathing evened out. Back and forth, back and forth, till the tears subsided. Eventually, I looked up. It was then I saw the stream of tears flowing steadily, silently, down his face. I wrapped my arms around him and squeezed as tightly as I could. My heart felt lighter. I knew I was not alone.

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