Strange party: morphine on the bedside table and his mother stuck fast to his hand, blank beyond all measure, sucked into the chasm of the blackest, black hole and spread one atom thick along its walls—you can see it in her eyes.
A table full of aimless gifts, cards whose sentiments were impossible to write. Many Happy Returns—tasteless in the cold light of day.
Picking pickles from the sandwiches in the family room, laying them side by side, wet and soggy and pale on a paper plate.
And how do you know our boy? And talk about the weather whilst it rains outside and a sister silently cries on the wipe clean couch opposite your averting eyes.
Time for cake. He’s not hungry. He’s jaundiced and swollen and running out of time. And the sight of your life, until this point.
There’s a buzz from the phone in your pocket. Everything okay? And dinner? And she loves you. Get cat food. The cat is hungry.
His dad is picking his nose. Searching it and studying the results. You can’t help but judge despite his predicament, despite the impending desolation waiting to run into him like a ten tonne truck, and will.
Strange party: a last birthday at thirty-four. The balloons hang over the room like ghosts. Shoes shuffle in the silence after the small talk.
Love of his life shuffling the birthday cards, poking a bitten fingertip through each envelope, pulling to, stacking each Happy Birthday one on top of the other and watching the leaves leave the trees in anticipation of a storm.
And how to leave? How to dare to move the stale, chemical air? Adjust the laces. Fidget with a zip. Intentions gathered. They’ll be relieved to see you go. Squeeze the clammy hands, gentle with concern, one by one. Leave the pointless presents on the table.
Thank you I’m sure he would have loved them.
I’ll leave you alone with him.
You had best be off. The cat is hungry. It’s waiting at the door, crying to be let in.