The Big Issue : Edition 457
Life... After Death KEELY HOGAN BECOMES ACCUSTOMED TO THE FEELING OF ABSENCE. HE WAS THERE again. Not like before where I could see him; this time it was his laugh. It was there – palpable – in the room as I began to wake. It shocked me at first and I felt my heart beat faster. But then the relief of familiarity struck me as the sound, the feel, the echo of it reached my fingertips. He had a great laugh. I take it in for a minute before the inevitability of reality shakes me from my calm, unconscious state. I’ve learned to love that state where no one has died, nothing has changed, nobody’s ashes are scattered over a river in some dreary London park. I roll over in bed. Looking at the calendar, I remind myself it’s Day 183, or six months less three days, or 15 days less to Christmas, or 54 days after his birthday. They are all numbers. But every one seems to cut like a pain I didn’t realise a date could hold. Now every date is a tool to count from an anniversary, to a birthday (mine or his), from the date of the funeral, from the ever-approaching and non-forgiving Christmas date. Everything is a cruel and brutal reminder. The last day I cooked for him, the last time I told him I loved him, the Thursday I missed his call, the Friday I deleted the voicemail, the Saturday he died. I cry, brush my teeth, shower and then start my daily routine of pretending. Pretending at work, pretending with friends, pretending with the doctor. I would say it is exhausting, but my inability to sleep makes everything seem exhausting. The daily drone of pretending to be fine is bearable at least; it’s the other days I fear. On those days I am consumed with the guilt of not being grief-stricken; the guilt of not knowing how to act. Is it wrong that I straighten my hair? Is it disrespectful to Dad that I still wear make-up and pluck my eyebrows? Is it appropriate that I bought a new top yesterday and it wasn’t even black? Is this not how I should act? Should I not feel this numb? I turn on the radio and try to will myself to eat as my brain recognises the song. The inevitable claustrophobic feeling approaches as my chest constricts tighter and tighter. The song gets louder, as does my breathing, and I suddenly think about the fact I haven’t painted my toenails for weeks. I decide air is the best bet and put on my trainers. I begin with my usual jog, but the pounding of the pavement and the punishment in my legs isn’t kicking in fast enough. A sprint will do it. I start running, faster and faster until, for a split second, I wish I’d taken a more private route. I run hard and fast down the road, across the park and down to the river. Am I running away from the present or trying desperately to get back to the past? The past I unknowingly took for granted and so desperately now want back? I run even faster. Maybe if I pass out I will be reunited with the unconscious state I so enjoy. The state he is in. I reach the gate and slow down as random thoughts cross my mind. We need bread. And I should join a gym. » Keely Hogan is from London but now lives in Perth. She still misses her father.