Saturday 21 June 2014

'Red Scarf' by Claire Hennessy

I have this dream where you die. I’m not told directly, but the information skips around the city in whispers and murmurs, nothing yet confirmed or denied. I click onto your work website and they’ve already taken your photo down; your second-in-command smiles out from a blue background, suddenly Acting Head of Marketing.

I cautiously text my friend and in a series of blue and yellow bubbles on black it moves from maybe to definitely. You are. You really are. You’re gone and now you will never –

It is not that you will never know. This is not a shy crush that hides and blushes like a Victorian maiden. It wears red leather and swaggers and I can’t tell if you’re sick of it or faintly amused. This overwhelming, body-full regret is not about lack of knowledge. It is a door crashing shut.

When I wake up I check my phone for those messages, then wait for a sign that you are alive, thanking social media. I look at your number on my phone and will my fingers away from the keys. You would not find it charming to reassure me that you are still breathing. You have not been slammed by realisations and regret and urgency as you sleep.

If you died, that’s exactly how I’d find out. Whispers and hints, spilling out from those who really know you, who people would think to inform of the bad news, the tragic loss.

Two days later, fated, I see you on Nassau Street. You’re wearing a red scarf, and your elbow is touching your wife’s. You have not parted ways, sadly but also sure in both your hearts that it is the right thing to do. You have not turned to drink as a way to block out the pain, and I will not run into you some dark night when we are both a little too tipsy and a little too broken to care about impropriety.

You will not take me back to your book-strewn flat in a haze of earnest discussions, and kiss me clumsily, because it has been so long since you have done this with anyone other than your wife. You will not be nervous like a teenage boy, and I will not reassure you by smoothing your hair and looking into your eyes and saying yes, this is exactly what I want, yes.

You don’t see me, and looking right at you is like staring at a solar eclipse, so I focus on your wife. Probably, I know, when she smiles, it’s sunshine to you. The world after the eclipse, when the light rushes back in, the brightest it’s ever been.


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