Archives for posts with tag: family

Hugh knew exactly where he’d find Stevie when he opened the door. What he hadn’t yet figured out though was how to broach the topic with her once he did. He put his phone in his mouth as he fished around for the keys, careful to bite with his lips. Fridays he always finished work early, but purely to buy her a little time he’d decided to do additional grocery shopping. If she isn’t doing what I think she is… maybe we can cook together. Like how we used to.

He turned the key and stepped in. The thick stench of body odour and old sweat knocked him back. ‘Jesus Christ Stevie,’ Hugh said, jerking his nose away. Dropping the phone – and then the groceries as he tried to catch his phone.

He should’ve been used to it by now. The smell. But it had intensified again. This morning when Hugh had left for work, it was far worse than every other day this week. But in the space of half a day it had become more potent again. The stench growth is non-linear, he couldn’t help thinking.

‘Hey Hughie. Back so soon? Hope there wasn’t any eggs in there.’ Stevie stewed around on the couch but didn’t bother to get up.

‘Stevie. We need to talk.’ Hugh left the bag and phone where they fell.

‘Here we go again.’ To her credit, Stevie sat up now and made space for him to sit beside her. Hugh opted for the table instead, windshield wiping a forearm’s worth of mess off it first. He made sure to block her view of whatever game she was playing. He knew it would kill her.

‘Please tell me you’ve sent off an application this week. Just one.’

Silence. ‘Just tell me you’ve started one then. That you’ve found one opening and got a tab open.’ Nothing. He loaded up the laptop beside him. ‘Give me something to work with. Please.’ There were no such tabs to speak of.

Stevie rubbed the back of an arm. ‘Well. I only just woke up.’

‘And last night? Yesterday? It’s three pm, Stevie and you’ve not so much as sniffed a shower. I gave you a whole bloody week. You promised me.’

‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately. I can’t seem to do anything. It’s like… it’s like my health bar won’t fill back up.’

‘It’s a soap bar you’re missing. Mum would be horrified. You’re a grown woman Stevie.’ It was too much but Hugh had held back for too long. Perhaps in being so patient and kind he’d even enabled her sloth. ‘You used to go on and on about carving poetry into stone. What happened to that girl? What happened to that fire?’

Stevie shrugged her shoulders. Her eyes cast down to the control pad on the floor. ‘I’ve been wondering that myself.’

he had a good run at ~81, real age;
the sort of run that gets you through four nationalities

how do you process second-hand emotions?

they lowered him down to us in a white cloth
i’ve yet to empty my shoes and pocket of his burial sand
too clever, i took off my socks before putting my shoes back on
but sand is finer than sock thread

in fragments i guess
indian, then pakistani and bangladeshi, briton last and perhaps foremost

we grandchildren sat in the dark with candles lit
to mask the smell of the incense, not in tribute per se
some laughs, some memories… some fights streamed on a laptop
we’re okay thanks, the elders are feeling it more i suppose
it sounds too rehearsed because by now it is
one face from the past took his tea mug to remember him by
everyone regales stories of his rounds,
chewits and cap guns,
soft cauliflower curries, mushed aubergine, mountains of salt
saucers of goor-laden milky tea, slurped
like the sauce left after his rice
walking stick, hat, glasses, ta’weez
all shared experiences and details
the imaam eulogises him as one of the first imaams of the masjid
’he once prayed for us, now let us pray for him’
the previous imaam splutters through a half-sob in bangla

by the end he was so dry he would bite at the sticks of wet cotton
his nose drooped and his bones revealed themselves
truth be told he was a ghost to me long before he passed and long before he was bedridden
we were two blood relations who occasionally inhabited the same space
his refusal to put in a hearing device, my refusal to yell entire sentences
it’s pathetic how little we knew each other
and yet i dutifully planted a branch by his head atop his mound of soil
my mother fainted from heat stroke when he passed, how pertinent is that?
my aunts cried
my grandmother played the stoic, shed her tears in secret
my older cousin accuses her of heartlessness; that’s exactly how she’d want to be thought of
my uncle and younger cousin found things to be mad about
i used to hang from his neck as he prayed and he’d humour me
i remember seeing the same play out again with my brother as i’d pray beside his hip

‘if you knew the pangs of death, you’d abandon everything and run for the shelter of a tree’
he said
they massaged his inflamed gut, head and legs
we held his skeleton fingers like a child

‘i’m going to die tomorrow’ he said
and then he did.


written November 2016