When the phone rings, I think it’s you
Calling to tell me you’ll be home soon.
But the voice that speaks up belongs to a stranger
And, sounding sorrowful he says you’re gone forever.
He says there was an accident, because of the storm.
And just like that, he says that you’re gone.
Dead. Four letters, just a single syllable
Unforgiving, inescapable and inevitable.
I wonder at how suddenly, everything has fallen apart.
Just a few hours ago, you’d called from the airport
You joked about work, I ranted about life;
In another world, you’d have been back by midnight.
(If I’d known it was the last time we’d ever speak,
I’d have asked you to give me another minute, or another week.)
“Mum?” Philip asks, appearing at the door,
“When will Dad come back home?”
And all at once, something in me snaps; my resolve cracks.
How do you tell a five-year-old his father won’t come back?
Tears pool in my eyes and they roll down my cheeks
My throat’s run dry, I can’t bring myself to speak.
But your son, he runs up to me and hugs me tight
He brushes away my tears and says: “Mum, it’ll be alright.”
He doesn’t know what’s happened,
And I don’t yet have the guts to tell him.
So I wipe away my tears and force myself to smile.
I nod at him and promise that we’re going to be fine.
(Why does it feel like I’m lying?)
It doesn’t feel right that the world moves on
That in a few days, the crash is forgotten.
For how can life continue as though nothing has changed
When deep down I know it’ll never be the same again?
My days are a blur, I’m barely getting by
Each night I curl up in bed and cry.
Your son is doing better than me, he’s a brave kid.
He smiles and he laughs; he hasn’t forgotten how to live.
I try for his sake, to pretend like I’m fine,
(It wasn’t easy to have that conversation about dying.)
Sometimes I swear I see him trying
To catch me off-guard and make me smile.
Like he knows that I spend my evenings crying.
He’s the best parts of me; he’s just like you.
If you were here, you’d be proud of him too.
I think I’m letting him down, I’ve forgotten how to laugh,
I’m not there for him; I’m not doing enough.
If you were here, you’d have told me to fight.
If you were here, we’d still be alright.
I wake up one morning, to a sound next door
I stumble out of bed and stop dead at Phil’s door.
He’s kneeling on the ground, arms propped up on his bed
He’s watching a video of you on the tablet.
You’re laughing at the camera, music blaring
And though you’re terrible at it, you’re loudly singing.
Something comes over you, and you do a little dance
While from behind the camera, I hear myself laugh.
If I’d known back then, that you’d soon be gone,
I wonder if I’d have tried to hold on
To the little things— the crook of your smile,
The warmth of your hands and the gleam in your eyes.
I still remember that when you’d laugh out loud,
You’d draw unwanted attention from everyone around,
You used to be unapologetically happy, you didn’t hesitate
When I was with you, I was never afraid.
Now I feel lonely, I’m so alone.
I don’t think I know how to laugh anymore.
And as the memories pile up, a sob escapes my throat.
Philip straightens up and turns around,
Eyes wide at having been found.
“Mum!” he says, rushing to my side.
“Get out! You’re ruining the surprise.”
Then he sighs in defeat, and grabs my hand,
He points to the bed. “Sit down,” he demands.
He opens the video, he hits play once more,
He starts to dance, and he’s as bad as you were.
He’s awkward and clumsy and off-beat,
But none of it matters because it’s occurred to me
That he’s trying to help, he’s trying to fix this,
I didn’t realise he’d noticed that I’d grown distant.
It shouldn’t be his job, to keep me going.
I should be there for him: I can’t keep mourning.
The music stops and, smiling broadly, he strikes a pose
That feels like an eerie reflection of yours.
And I laugh a genuine laugh for the first time in days,
Phil grins at me giddily, playing the video again.
He does it over and over again until we’re both laughing
Laughter: too many letters and two syllables long,
It’s the feeling of freedom and the feeling of warmth.
“Thank you,” I say. “I’m sorry,” I add.
I’m sorry he thought he had
To put on a brave face and shoulder the responsibility;
I’m sorry he thought he had to keep me happy.
I’m going to try harder, I’m going to be better
I will make sure that tomorrow is better.
Healing isn’t easy, it takes time,
But the world feels better when I don’t waste my days crying.
We go to the park and Phil chases the birds,
I smile at the sight, and he shrieks with laughter.
It almost feels like the days are getting brighter.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never forget you,
But I laugh and I smile, and I feel alive once more.
You may have died that night, but I’m not yet alone.
I still have someone worth living for.
I have someone to fight for, and someone to laugh with.
And sure, the laughter doesn’t ease the pain away,
But it certainly makes life easier to live.
Written by Naintara Singh for MTTN
Edited by Vaishnavi Karkarefor MTTN
Featured Image by Bhargabi Mukherjee for MTTN