He threw the phone like thunder throws itself across the sky, never concerned with what is displaced or dismayed, just wanting to display some rage, a little trailer of the lightning that is on the way. He threw the phone like she’d made a mistake, the kind of misstep that could only be trained out of her with fear, and he threw her a glare, she stood her ground, as if she was not afraid, but her shaking hands tucked her curls behind her ear, betraying her bravado as he poured himself a drink.
This is what happens in this dirty country.
He promised her that he’d never down another drop, but life is full of promises and disappointments, and there stood his biggest promise, his biggest disappointment, a daughter that couldn’t resist dishonouring him.
You’re confused. You’re corrupted.
He’d rather see her dead, he says, than to be with those deviants and queers, and while she’s quite interested in the brochure that Death passes quietly under her bedroom door, she thought she’d give life one more shot, and unfortunately gives a shit about what he thinks. One happy parent out of two isn’t bad, and she’s always known that she will always have a home in the warmth of the one with the womb, but like all day dreamers, she wants the one thing she can’t have.
It is a sickness.
I want to tell her that it doesn’t matter. One day, he will be gone, his name just scratches on stone, his rage, just a memory, but in that moment, she is beyond my reach, trapped somewhere that I can’t tread, and it doesn’t matter that he ends up dead, and she lives without his approval, on that day, she desperately needed it, and it never came. She says she can cope without it, but she never can, and she’ll spiral if we don’t resolve this, but he’s dead, and that girl is unreachable, so there will never be anything I can do.
No tengo hija.
Some days she remembers the man who threw the phone, and threw her out, some days, he is too distant, and she just gets the guy in the gallows, looking down, with no expression, no disappointment, no expectation, just a still, sombre acceptance, or at least that’s how she likes to remember him.
I send best wishes to your ashes, flowers with bowed heads are no comfort, because I feel nothing on this day, every year. There is happiness in the days before, then hangovers, then nothing. An emptiness that is taller than you and I, an endless echo of silence that stalks me from midnight, until the twenty ninth stutters into life, and it’s not like I haven’t tried to find something else to think about, to see if the shadows would leave me in peace. I just never could.
Soft, swirling curls in a knot, jotting down the world around me from my back garden, as autumn’s chill beckons to winter, and the sunset spills across my freckled face, at four PM. This is what I will do, when I am old (if I get there).
I look at my grandmother, and I know that nobody could love me as long as she has been loved. I simply know that I’ll be alone, but I will have my words to keep me warm, and the promise of pushing myself off the cliffs of Dover when I tire of trying to make it through the day.
I will have Grandchildren who don’t want to visit, because I am a mean drunk since my woman walked away (either by choice or by death, she never stays when I imagine my future), and I lock them in the living room, reliving my glory days, done up like Baby Jane Hudson, struggling through a verse of Swipe Forever before collapsing into the chasm of my misery.
My Son stops by, without the babies, begging for me back, a ghost he remembers from his bedroom, back in the old house, a spirit who told him stories and sung him lullabies, but I simply tell him that the Ouija board is broken, and so am I.
I checked my watch again and again. Midnight crept closer as I sat in the foyer, staring at the ticket in my hand.
I still had time to leave. It would be simple to just stand up, throw the ticket away and go home, but part of me wanted to go through with it.
It was a few minutes to twelve, and the foyer had emptied out. I could see Pumpkins holding the door of the screen open, one hand on the door, the other, clutching the pumpkin under his arm. He stared, and I stared back, knowing that there really wasn’t a choice.
I straightened out my shirt, with a resigned sigh, and walked towards the open door. He closed it swiftly behind us and ran into the empty screen.
I took a seat in the front row and waited, looking down at the sticky floor, and trying to summon the courage to leave. It never came.
“Don’t look.” His voice came from behind me, and I turned towards him. He was sat in the row behind me, his pumpkin on his lap.
A flash of lightning from behind us lit up his masked face, and his eyes glowed, never blinking, always the same indifferent stare. His lips poking through the bottom, almost smiling.
I stared back. I wouldn’t look at the screen, but I’d look at him instead. That wasn’t against the rules right? I stared, trying not to blink, as the projector above us stuttered into life. I kept my eyes low, fixed on Pumpkins, and at first, it was pretty easy. It was just normal background noise from the projector in the beginning, but then, I heard a voice I hadn’t heard in years. I hadn’t realised before, because I hadn’t let myself think about her, but my heart had ached to hear her voice.
“Martin.” It was Ella. My wife. The girl I’d gone to the end of the world for. The girl I had to rebuild the world without. The girl I lost. I hadn’t heard her voice in so long, trying to forget how meaningless it all felt without her.
I stared blankly at Pumpkins, a few tears rolling down my cheeks, gripping tight to the chair, to try and keep myself from turning to her.
“Martin, I know you can hear me.”
I liked this job, because I could just forget about my empty flat, and my empty soul. I could stare at all the people, stare at the screen and switch off, because if I thought too much, if I was too connected to the world around me, I’d think about her. I’d think about how my survival cost me everything.
“Martin, why did you leave me?” Pumpkins mouthed her words along with her, like he enjoyed watching me being tortured with the voice of my dead wife. I felt a hand on my shoulder and I clawed at the chair behind me, my eyes tightly shut, knowing it was her, wondering if it was her during her life, or the tangled, grey bastardisation of my beautiful girl that I shot, like a sick dog, as she stumbled from the barn towards me.
“I love you Martin Campbell.” Her last words. My eyes were open now, streaming with tears. I was sobbing loudly, punching the back of the chair, desperate for it to end. Her fingers were running through my hair, the lightning flickering wildly as Pumpkins stared intently, his sick smile unmoving.
“I’m starving.” This wasn’t my future. That was just a lie he told people, because it’s what people want to see. He was tempting me with my past. My greatest regret.
“I love you.” I wanted to tell her that I was sorry. I wanted to hold her in my arms, like I used to, when we’d argue over something stupid, just the two of us, before the virus came, before the end of the world, before I lost her, but I never could.
“I love you too.” It’s all I could say. “I love you too.” I repeated it, closing my eyes as her hands began to pull on my shoulders.
“Then come with me.” Her grip tightened, more hands joined, trying to drag me from the seat, but I wrapped my arms around the back and held on as tight as I could. “If you love me, you’ll come with me.”
“I can’t, Ella.” Suddenly, the brightness of the room stung my closed eyes, and she was gone. I didn’t dare to look for a moment, but as the projector fell silent and I began to hear crowds shuffling behind me, I slowly opened my eyes. Pumpkins was gone, and the screen was beginning to fill with customers. It was over.
I dried my eyes, standing from the seat and wandering towards the foyer, aimless. Had I survived? Probably, but again, I had gained nothing but a few more years on the planet by doing so. The only girl I’d ever loved was gone, and I was alone.
Even if she wasn’t real, and it was all just a trick, I wish I’d let him take me, because now I’ve got a taste for my girl again, and I’m starving, just like she was, when I let her go.
Rain in Vegas, as heaven hears the news, the fate of their favourite son. Such a sweet child, lost in the lights, but always smiling, sailing down the skyline, garlands of chrysanthemums gaze at the crowd from around his neck, and white roses fill the row, landing at his feet as he bids farewell.