Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Every Grey Day
Alone. Morning. I just keep waking up. Why? Day stretches ahead of me like a yawning mouth. I don't bother to pull the curtains. I know it's a grey day. These days are all grey.
I heave myself wearily out of the bed, and pulling my nightgown around me, shuffle down the stairs, blindly making the porridge. Which too is grey. And tastes grey. The radio spurts out words about life outside like spitfire-too alive for me to catch or care. The kettle swells and bubbles to the boil and I pour the water carelessly over the grey wilting teabag, and with the rusting spoon, crush it against the side of the cup, extract it and dump it into the dirty grey sink. I take the milk from the fridge, noting the paltry, staling items on the shelves: a few browning bananas, a bowl of mashed potatoes from two nights ago, a few yogurts brought by my daughter about a month ago, a packet of unopened ham, and a half a block of cheese. I slurp my tea down, as if I'm in a hurry, and looking at the ring of old tea at the bottom of the cup, wonder what to do now.
I leave my bowl and cup in the sink, along with yesterday's delf and carelessly pour some water over them to soak. I don't bother with wash-up liquid. I plug out the radio and am hurtled into the assaulting silence, each movement seeming to echo too loudly.
In the bathroom, I look at my ashen face in the mirror. I see an over-familiar piece of furniture that just wears with time. I draw my hands over my grey stubble, but don't bother to shave today. I pull on yesterdays clothes that hang limply over the chair at the end of my bed, and sit back on the bed, wondering what next.
I sit there, wondering how I can fill my day today, and nothing happens. I lean back and open the curtains, greeted by the grey droplets sitting on the window. I see the rain dropping into little puddles on next-door's roof extension. It's too wet to go out.
My eye is drawn to the smiling photo of my wife on the dressing table. It's covered with a film of grey dust. I accept the dust as the ravage of time. Its thickening coating puts more and more distance between us. I usually glance at the photo, and look away again, thinking it better to get on with my life. Fine job I'm making of that!
Today however, something draws me towards it, and sighing heavily, I take the frame in my hand. I pull it closer to me, noting the life in her beautiful face. I rub away the dust that occludes her face, and see her bright green eyes, and laughing red lips, the top of her nose wrinkling in that way of hers as she laughed. Pulling the sleeve of my jumper over my hand, I wipe away all the rest of the dust, trying to remember on what occasion that particular photo was taken. Certainly it was on one of our holidays, for we rarely used the camera for any other reason, but what was the particular occasion? What was she laughing at? Who was with her at the time? I cannot remember at all! Several years blur into a grey fog and I feel robbed and violated of a happier time. I feel angry at time for what it has left me with.
As I gaze at the picture, I think of the grey ashes that I spread over the cliffs of Dun Clochar that November morning, the sky heavy with black clouds. I watched them swirl away with the wind as I emptied the wooden box, some landing on the blades of grass underfoot, others carried by the wind to God-knows-where. I remember how surreal it all felt: this ash, this grey cloud of dust was my wife! She was here with me, barely three days before, talking, breathing, moving... And now?!
After watching her ashes disperse, I walked back through the fields, and finding a stone wall, sat with my back to it, gazing at the wasteland ahead, and the bare tree in the distance. This is where my wife grew up. She would walk through these fields towards the cliffs as a child for family picnics. The cliffs are where she would come all her life for peace and inspiration. Where was she now? My heart was squeezed flat with sorrow, so utterly alone. Yet I remember as I sat there, I could not cry. I felt the clouds bearing down on me. I envied the crows as they returned to their homes in the tree. I sat there all day, unable to move, hardly noticing evening falling. Then, something strange happened: As I looked ahead, into the grey emptiness, a picture of my wife flashed before me, and just as suddenly it disappeared. It appeared so clear against the muggy clouds and stony ground: my wife as a child, her long dark hair tied over her back, her large, clear eyes taking everything in, always a dreamer. I continued to sit. I didn't will the image to return; neither did I reject or deny it.
I continue to look at the photo, wondering, not for the first time how someone with such life, can be rendered so dead? Ashes! Why her? Why not me?!
As I gaze at the picture, I realise that I am dead. I'm dead to life. I don't know how to go on. Each day has become an exercise in trying to shorten the long, empty hours of the morning and each nightfall brings with it a sort of relief. How am I meant to go on?
I draw the picture to my lips, feeling the cool glass against the cracked, dry flesh of my lips, and kiss it with all the tenderness that I can. Placing it back on the dressing table, I open the creaking door to face another day.