Content warning: This story mentions suicide.
It’s the distance of a car ride, but I like to walk. The sweating, the panting, and the pain in my heel is worth it when I reach you. I feel like I’ve done something for you: buttered your toast in the morning, washed your clothes, watered your avocado plant.
‘We were never meant to be, but here we are,’ you said, looking to the distance as if you knew something I didn’t. You called me an addiction, one you ‘couldn't live with or without,’ and you decided we were ‘a momentary madness.’
‘More like adulterers.’ I laughed to lighten the moment. I was terrified that you might change your mind again, but I refused to be vulnerable in your eyes.
‘You are so immature. A child.’ You always accused me. You had the upper hand because you were older, but I wanted to be the mature one.
‘Polkichcha!’ you exclaimed once on my balcony. It was a single black and white bird. You were wrapped in my white cotton bedsheet.
‘Someone will see,’ I warned. But you were brave in those days.
‘Quick. Look for another,’ you invited me urgently. We searched together till we found it perched on the TV antenna, singing to its mate. Your eyes darted from one bird to the other, absorbing the scene, making it permanent.Your shoulders relaxed and the white cotton sheet slipped a little, showing the side of your breast. Stretch marks glistened like sparks of lightning on your ivory skin. I wished I was born in your time. ‘Two is good,’ you said in relief, ‘a good omen.’
You made love differently that day, like you were already satisfied, like the birds had made you happy, like they changed your life.
Two is good, your words reappeared in my head while I puffed on a Marlboro and waited for the neighbours to switch their lights on. Your Polkichcha hopped on the low electrical wire just above my roof. I couldn’t find its partner.
Lena hurried into the lecture hall the very next morning. She was as pale as boiled red rice. ‘It’s Miss Viveka,’ she said. ‘She’s dead.’
I thought I heard wrong but the shrieks, shrills, swearing and endless barrage of ‘oh my God’ from those around proved otherwise. Hands went to chests, handkerchiefs to eyes. Lena couldn’t stop. She continued to speak, and her words made my blood ice.
‘11:30 in the night. She hanged herself.’
Thoughts swarmed inside my head like attacking bees. I couldn’t understand why you were dead. He found out and killed you is the only thought that got me through the next few days. I met him at your funeral. I didn’t see him as the killing sort. His eyes were red from crying. He didn’t talk much. Your daughter was tethered to his side and he constantly checked to see if she was still there, like he was afraid she would float away with you.
He didn’t have a clue who I was, who I was to you.
He caressed your cheek, touched your hand and wailed when they lowered your casket into the ground. I couldn’t touch you one last time. I didn’t cry, afraid people would notice.
‘Your home will never be mine. We have two separate lives,’ you convinced yourself. But your toothbrush is still in the plastic cup in my bathroom, the clothes you left still folded neatly inside the second drawer. The book you kept on the dresser still gathering dust, the avocado seed you hid in the dry potting mix still without life.
I visit you on Saturdays because I know he comes on Sundays. I don’t bring you flowers like he does. You lie in a field of dandelions. They bloom at liberty. You would appreciate the simple beauty.
At dusk I walk with my head low, fighting the ideate wind blowing me back to you. Stepping out to the world through the iron gates is always hard. It feels like I left you and never the other way around. You wanted to burrow into my mind and listen to my thoughts, but it was your thoughts that needed listening to. ‘You are an addiction, Viveka,’ I say every Saturday at the commencement of my long walk to you.