Waking to Me, Chapter 1

June 14, 2004

I still feel her around me, the feeling of walking into a room after someone has just left. A presence glimpsed out of the corner of my eye. A sound like a half-formed footfall. I feel that I could turn around and there she’d be, like she never left.

Maybe it didn’t.

Maybe she didn’t leave that morning, a quick kiss on my lips and out that door.

Maybe I didn’t find a note from her, and heard a knock on the door as I began to read.

Maybe I didn’t find a policeman on my doorstep, come to tell me I had to learn to live without her.

Maybe I’m asleep and this is all a bad dream.

And now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray to God my soul to keep.

The sun’s up.

Hidden behind rainclouds, but bright enough for me to see frost on the window.

I’ve been staring at it for a while.

I keep thinking that if I stare at it long enough she’ll walk into the room, call me a sleepyhead and pull me out of this nightmare.

I did the same thing yesterday.

And the day before.

Didn’t work.

And about now I’d start wishing for a genie in a lamp or a time machine. But I live in the real world, so it’s not allowed.

Then the ‘what if’s start.

‘What if I grabbed her and kissed her for just a little longer before she left? Delayed her just ten seconds so that when that car spun out, she was twenty feet behind instead of in front.’

‘What if I’d brought her breakfast in bed and she stayed in that morning?’

‘What if we’d made love instead?’

‘What if?… what if?’

I’m downstairs now. Staring out the kitchen window instead, but at least I’m out of bed. Faded smiley face drawn on the windowpane. I was holding her when she drew that. Her way of saying ‘yes’ to a question tongued out on the back of her neck.

Dirty wineglass on the counter. Lipstick stain on the rim from the night before.

Two hooks on the wall with one set of keys missing.

I know the feeling.

Just made coffee.

Poured myself a mug.

Poured her one as well.

I keep forgetting.

I’m walking around now.

Now standing in her studio, looking at her. She looks back at me. A self-portrait she’ll never finish.

I stand in the doorway. Can’t bring myself to step inside.

Outside.

Check the bowl. Still full.

No cat.

In my study, at my desk.

Screensaver, tap the mouse.

Looking at words on the screen. The same words when I left to get more coffee and found the note and heard the knock.

The same words I stared at yesterday, and the day before.

Don’t know what comes next. Don’t care.

Machine’s flashing 28. Start playing them back but end up just playing her message over and over and over.

‘Hello? … Hello? … Anyone there?……. Hel-lo? … Oh, that’s right, we’re not in! You know the drill. The machine beeps, you talk, we get back and I beat up Dan ‘cos he forgot to put the tape back in and the world goes round and round and…’

‘Hello? … Hello? … Anyone there?……. Hel-lo? … Oh, that’s right, we’re not in! You know the drill. The machine beeps, you talk, we get back and I beat up Dan ‘cos he forgot to put the tape back in and the world goes round and round and…’

‘Hello? … Hello? … Anyone there?……. Hel-lo? …………..

Lying on the ground. Curled up. Not sure how long I’ve been here. Long enough for the machine to run through.

Ringing.

‘Hello? … Hello? …

Another voice. Sounds familiar. Keeps talking.

Stops.

Machine’s flashing 29.

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