This clumsy attempt is dedicated to my friend, Luisa, who lost her husband five years ago on this day. She still longs for him….
She missed him sometimes, even after all these years. It always happened when the air began to smell of summer and the days grew longer. Those evenings came back in a rush, drinking cocktails from Portuguese glass, eating jumbo green olives stuffed with fetta, talking about inconsequential things long into the night.
The fruit bats rustled the Bangalow palms, jostling for position; the setting sun glowed, a dull tangerine, hanging low in the sky. The nights were warm, soft as a mother’s hands, inky as velvet. As spring turned to summer she felt as close to him as a cloud does to the sky. But he was gone.
‘I don’t want to talk about it,” she said, grief closing up her mouth. The jacaranda tree began to bloom, lilac curls falling on the grass like fairy caps. “That was his tree,” she said. “The trunk is strong enough to take a swing. I bought the wood for the seat – maple, rich as honey. He never got around to putting it up.”
She never remarried. It was the way she recorded his memory. She could not be moved to let go of the lamentation, it clung to her, silvery as the slightest of snail trails, visible in moonlight. She filled the house with wild flowers, his favourites – reds, yellows and purples – coating the air inside the house with the smell of the bush. She painted the walls lavender, crimson, cerulean blue, seeking a buoyant heart.
Regrets flowed, imagined mistakes. What ifs? and if onlys speckled her tongue. She kept them at bay with travel, sending postcards by the hundreds from places she only half-paid attention to; unable to avoid the reality that every road led back to the place where he was gone.
She caught glimpses of him in others – a tender edge in a voice, a smile where eyes crinkled at the corners, a laugh that nourished the soul; but she turned from them all. “It’s too soon,” she said. The obstacle of time rose. How long was long enough?
“I still long for him,” she said. “I can see it, spiralling out from me like smoke. But it’s growing less and less. The songs in my head used to be black, now they are summer green. I’m afraid of letting him go. For so long, the memory of him was all I had.”
She bakes bread – walnut and apricot. For the first time she forgets to add the nutmeg, his favourite. She grinds coffee beans – fine not medium, and adds a splash of milk, not half a cup. Slowly, time moves forward. She begins to know herself again. She longs for him still, for the way it used to be; but she also longs for the day when she can finally let him go. For the day where to do so will be all right.