By Jessilyn Rich
Silence hung in the eaves of the village like burnt out Christmas lights in July. Mundane tasks kept anxious hands busy, as the morning wore on. No one complained about the fatigue that weighed heavy on heart and soul as the day ticked by. Fishermen had returned home for fresh clothing, warm showers and hot meals before moving towards their normal day. No one was concerned with getting to market before noon today, just tending the traps. Wives held goodbye kisses a moment longer than usual, before tired husbands slipped out the door and back to the sea. The only signs of a tiny village still holding its breath from the night before was the silence that ached even the strongest heart. Even the school children seemed to know that this morning was different, as they quietly walked the main street to school. There was no yelling or laughter, no flamboyant gossip from shoppers nor shopkeeps alike; everyone just quietly marched through the motions of the day.
I stayed on the docks until my legs ached from the wooden slats so badly, I thought they might never forgive me. The wind had burned my fingers and cheeks, worse than the July sun, and yet they both felt numb. People passed me as they hustled about their mornings, looking through me as if I was part of the normal landscape. I knew what everyone was thinking, I knew that everyone knew. I pulled myself away from the edge and returned home. I stood in my kitchen for a long moment as if I was supposed to do something here, that I hadn’t done. I picked up the kettle from the stove and began to fill it. I wasn’t thirsty, and didn’t really want a cup of tea, but habit was soothing and the only thing I could think to do. The flame of the stove felt warm as it erupted beneath the kettle. My nerves tingled, as I came to realize this was the first time in twelve hours that I had felt something. The thing I felt was the flames. Tears threatened the edges of my eyelids as I steadied myself against the frigid rim of the sink. Swiping at my eyes with the sleeve of my shirt only to be overcome by the smells of the night, smoke, fuel, salt air, and grief. I ripped the clothes from my back, throwing them into the trash can beside the counter. I wanted them gone, I needed them gone, I couldn’t ever look at them again. I turned off the stove burner and sprinted towards the stairs, trying to outrun grief’s haunting shadow.
I took the stairs two at a time, throwing my weight into the bathroom door, crashing through it like a lunatic. I was trying to seek comfort from a chilled tile room, like a fool. I yanked the handle to the shower, water gushing from the tap, beating against the stone below. My aching body collapsed against the shower wall, and slid to the floor, like the discarded wedding dress of a woman that had been left at the altar. Grief heaved the air from my lungs, in a tug of war with my aching heart. The heat of the water pouring from the shower head beat against my bare back. Why was it happening again? It can’t be happening again. Haven’t we paid enough for a crime which we did not commit? Cursed by an unpaid bargain that I didn’t make. Tears blurred my vision as I sobbed on the shower floor like a child. I couldn’t do this again, it couldn’t expect me to do this again. Grief had haunted my heart all these years, waiting in the shadows to return, and it had. It was happening again.
Categories: Arts & Culture