by Shiv Saywack

This then is the wreck of our lives. Tossed by life’s great storms upon a shingle beach. Under the gaze of an unremitting sun, gulls peck at our souls.

That instance I saw you my days became ones of marvel and wonders. I think these words in the darkness, unable to say them in the light.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” said Cally and she closed her eyes.

So I speak to her of Jason’s Medea. How her spurned love and his infidelity drove her to murder. And of Jason, emasculated and broken, shattered, like a glass, by a plank from the Argos.

“But he was a wicked man,” she said, eyes still closed, “He got what he deserved. He wanted his cake… ”

“Two wrongs don’t make a right,” I said.

“Ah! Homilies,” Cally said, “But it does, especially if you are a Medea, the daughter of a God.” And giggled at the thought.

“Granddaughter,” I said.

“I stand corrected,” she said in feigned seriousness, “Tell me more.”

“Since we are talking Gods…” I begin and in the fading light of that day I spoke of a story I was once told about Krishna and Rukmini and of their elopement. Of how a humble offering to the Gods is worth more than the wealth of nations.

“Ah! If that were the case,” Cally said wistfully.

I notice the curve of her mouth, that imperfection in her smile. I remember her habit of biting her lips at those moments of indecision. I see her in her moments of gracelessness, that lack of pretence, with sleep still in her eyes, as she rises from her bed and shuffles owl like blind in the light of a cold morning. Uncompromising, uncomplaining, purposeful.

I speak to her of gifts. Of a diamond whose curse was to be the largest gem in the world. Coveted and fought over, brought and sold, a dark history of blood and violence, locked away in a coffin vault for none to see; and now whose beauty can only be imagined: like photographs, pale imitations of memories, dreams fading in daylight, leaving ghostly impressions.

Her eyes are closed but she is listening. Her smile betrays her interest. She giggles quietly as if to remind me she is there and silently mouths the word “Gift.”

I remind her of those days before we were married, of how nervous I was that day I visited her at her father’s house. How the driving rain had reduced the gift of flowers I brought to limp shrivelled wrecks, broken and battered. How they lolled and nodded underneath the cellophane wrapper. And how under the obdurate gaze of her father I must have seemed like a bedraggled dog, wet and weary and “So. Much. In. Need. Of. Love,” she mouths from her dream like sleep.

“Ah! Love is not to be taken lightly,” she had an easy way of teasing me, “But I see what you have done.” Her voice had fallen away to a whisper.

“I don’t know what you mean,” I said.

“And what humble gift have you to offer the Gods?…” she asked.

I think I would offer them the world was it mine to give.

“… And would they accept?…”

What will I do without you? How will I pass the time? What shall I do when the days pass effortlessly into each other, with no beginnings and no ends?

“… Don’t be afraid…”

When life’s purpose is lost? When words run out?

“… All things come to an end… Now, tell me something else that I don’t know,” she whispered.

I look at her closed eyes, unable to let go of this one moment as if words were the only sinew left that now held together our fragile universe.

So I speak, frightened to stop. In a midnight darkened hospital room I tell her of Descartes’ unreal world, that all we can be sure of is our thoughts. I tell how her strength and courage sustained me; how she will always be with me. I tell her that scientists say we shed our skin and cells so over a period of time we are remade completely new. Of how our memories bind us to the past. I tell her of that funny incident that happened yesterday at work, and of my train journey. I tell her that I am adrift on a dark sea. I tell her that I love her, unconditionally. And as I do so she gently sleeps. Her breathing slow and rhythmic, quiet and quieter and then quietly hushed.

Until all there is, is silence.

Shiv Saywack was a graphic designer before (for his sins) becoming a teacher, for whom writing has been an on-off passion he would like to explore further.

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