It came to me in a dream. I was in a church, on a pew at the back, sitting alone in silence, head bowed but occasionally looking up towards the altar. Black suited, the best dressed I have ever been, freshly polished designer leather shoes. About four or five rows at the front of were full of people, all dressed in white suits and shoes. They were weeping softly, which echoed around the high beams, buzzing and distorting the grief. One of the men comforting the woman beside him turned around, saw me at the back, shook his head and got up to confront me.
“What are you doing here?”
A sharp intake of breath and I awoke to the sound of birds yapping in the early spring darkness. A feeling caught my gut, synapses sending signals across my body. An internal wound. Laying in the darkness, I thought of you. I buried my face into the pillow and hoped to smell the residue of your perfume, but my sweat had collected where yours may have once been.
Maybe I dreamt the whole thing. The girl I thought I fell in love with, the girl who used to laugh at my jokes and listen to the music I liked. It does sometimes feel like you were an apparition, a fuzzy ghost of some head trauma I’d suffered.
It could have been 5 days or 5 months. I stare at the words we wrote to each other, I can’t see any sign of change in your tone. I won’t send you more than two messages in a row in case you think I’m over-bearing, but I’m still thinking about it. I won’t say hello, it’s your move. I’m telepathically sending signals but you’re not receiving, I wonder if your ears are burning. Is it the right or the left that’s supposed to be about your lover?
I’d once told you that I worried it wasn’t you who messaging me, but an incredibly elaborate plot against me. “I do like to question everything”, I’d joked. You’d laughed lovingly and kissed me on the forehead, “Why would anybody do that?”
I didn’t answer.
I could feel the inhalations and exhalations when you slept beside me. Sometimes, I’d get up and look for traps in amongst your things. I’m not paranoid, I just wanted to make sure it was real. How do I know that there aren’t a team of writers and producers waiting when you leave the room? Discussing your next move as you shower and retch at the feigned enjoyment of sharing a bed.
Maybe you are oblivious to everything, or there’s a really good explanation. It’ll seem obvious when you say you’ve been teaching tourists to scuba dive in the Pacific ocean and you didn’t think to write because everything was fine. I’ll smile in joy and relief and you’ll laugh and kiss my cheek, waiting for it all to be lost in the clumsy extradition of our clothing from body to the floor. The quantum entanglement of germs waiting to be re-acquainted.
I watched a funeral procession ride past from a first floor window on a late-autumn Sunday afternoon. The wedding hats had been dyed black, each sporting a white rose. Everyone wore white suits, a large group of people walking alongside the car, and the rest lined up behind it on the narrow street. The short trip from the funeral directors to the church was filled with ghosts. Maybe it was symbolic, a wish of the box dweller, the only one not to see it as the traffic further back in the line honked, less in support and more in annoyance, before apologetically offering condolences when confronted by the pall bearers. I was an overhanging branch in this solemn looking picture. But in my best black suit, I didn’t ask whose body we were following.