“All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.”
Pete would gaze down at Tink while I sat in front of them composing prose that poured out of me like a nosebleed, under a sky of glow-in-the-dark stars and some broken fairy lights.
But I’m no Wendy.
I’m simply not that nice.
This is what I came back to that day: a lost boy and some pixie dust. And this is where I’ll go again.
“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”
So what did happen that day? The day in the hospital, where I felt my grandad die, and I didn’t get a chance to say a proper goodbye because it all happened so quickly…
Like most things that have happened, I hardly remember. I was left alone with him for a while, but then I had to go. I vaguely recall a feeling of awkwardness – how long was I supposed to stay? If I leave too soon, will I look like I don’t care? But do they need his bed? What do I do now?
I must have left, because I remember getting the bus. I only remember the bus ride because one of my grandad’s friends was on there, and he asked me how he was doing and I just blurted out “He just died” because I was still in shock. I didn’t mean to be horrible. I have a knack for saying the worst things though. And things I don’t mean. Especially when I’m hurt.
But he had died. At least I wasn’t fucking lying.
“You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”
Did I go home? Or did I go to my mum’s house? I think I went to her place, and obviously she got there before me because she’d left the hospital earlier. She’d said the goodbye that she had wanted to say. I was left to deal with the embers.
Which, in fairness, was fine with me. I didn’t want her there. I’m not even sure my grandad had noticed she’d returned – if he was even alive at that point. I had blinkers on, I had tunnel vision. I’m not angry at her about this. It’s her loss; it was her choice.
The thing is, I just don’t get angry. I get irritated and frustrated, but I’m unfamiliar with loss of temper. Perhaps if I lost my temper every once in a while, I could tone down my other emotions. Maybe if I got angry enough, I could just turn them off completely.
It scares me a little bit that I don’t get angry. Where is my rage?
I can’t even get angry when people are mad at me. If you shout at me, I’ll just cry. Crying and hurting myself are the things I do when people hurt me. My self-preservation technique is to fight pain with pain. (But not at anyone else. I don’t want to hurt you.)
I should have got angry about the funeral. I shouldn’t have let them take that away from us. I should have stood up for myself for the first time ever, and lost it and gone psychotic and thrown things off my mum’s boyfriend’s head. But I just don’t have it in me. The fight was knocked out of me before I’d even had a chance to raise my tiny fists.
Instead I argued, got intimidated, cried, called him an arsehole, walked out.
“I taught you to fight and to fly. What more could there be?”
My grandad did try to teach me to fight. He gave me some tips, anyway. Mostly obvious ones, like not getting backed into a corner and hitting the gobbiest cunt first – and hard. He told me to always hit back. Always. And he told me that if anyone ever says that they’re going to hit you the next time they see you, then they’re probably never going to hit you. Tell them that you’ll see them first.
Not really much good to me, considering I’ve had two fights in my entire life – both when I was 12. Unfortunately – and honestly through no[t much] fault of my own – the second fight got me a bit of a reputation so I then had six months of people coming up to me telling me their friend wanted to fight me and me telling them to fuck off.
The whole “I’m going to beat you up next time I see you” thing was quite funny though. Nothing quite like fronting it out in front of some idiot bigging it up in front of their group of friends, only to have them look at the floor when they did actually see you the next time. I tilted my head towards her to make sure she saw me. Nothing. Remarkable.
“Just always be waiting for me, and then some night you will hear me crowing.”
Once again I found myself in a chapel of rest, however this time I was alone. I carried a flower and a letter from my mum. I didn’t read it. I was curious but I would have only ended up laughing at it.
Humour is a weird thing. It helps us deal with the absolute worst things we ever have to face but it’s so fucking inappropriate.
In the chapel of rest, on a cold and sunny day, I walked along a corridor with the funeral director so I could see my grandad’s flesh and bones for the very last time. She paused a few metres from the room I was supposed to go into. ‘I’m not sure if your mother mentioned this to you, but we’re undergoing some building work at the moment. Unfortunately, there’s another body in with your grandad’s. Obviously we’ve covered the coffin over, bu-‘ I cut her off. ‘It’s fine. It doesn’t matter.’ And it didn’t really matter, did it?
I walked in. My grandad’s open coffin was on my right, a coffin covered in some kind of fancy coffin tablecloth thing was on my left. I walked over to my grandad, tucked the flower and the note in with him and then stroked his hair and face. It looked nothing like the grandad I knew. It looked like someone had made a very good impression of him out of flesh-coloured clay, but without life it was nothing but a motionless golem.
I stood for a few minutes and watched him. Please come back. Please don’t leave me. And because I’m the worst person, with the worst sense of humour, I said: ‘I can’t really talk much, someone else is eavesdropping.’
I left yet another coffin scattered with tears.
“Stars are beautiful, but they may not take part in anything, they must just look on forever.”
And again I return to the lost boy, because he is the only one who can handle me.
I wanted the old man and I to stay in our little Wendy house forever, with the little white bird and the window that opened out far enough for me to fly out of. But I always came home, and my grandad always left the door open for me – just in case the window blew shut while I was away.
His photo is on my wall, his photo is in my wallet. I talk about him less, I dream about him less, I even cry about him less. But he’s still there, along with the sadness I still cling to. I can’t help feeling like my grief is better than trying to move on. Yet… I can accept this. It doesn’t get easier, life just rearranges itself around the holes that death leaves behind.
Holding his hand while he died felt like I was helping to unpick the stitches on his shadow.
So it goes.
“It may have been quixotic, but it was magnificent.“