Carry Him Safely by Laura Tickle
After the funeral, Dhuka gathers her clothes and goes outside. She throws her robes and dresses onto the floor. The embroidered sleeves, brightly coloured materials and beaded qabbehs are muted by a veil of fine sand.
Beyond the garden and the gate, she sees Manaal approaching. The woman is weighed down by her age and the tin bath in her arms. The hem of her smock is orange with dust. It sweeps the floor as she waddles heavily.
Dhuka does not help Manaal as she struggles to open the gate. Instead, she steps back and loosens the tap under the windowsill. It takes two hands to break the seal of rust, and Manaal drops the bath down just in time to catch the rush of water.
‘Like the ashes of his body. May the water carry him safely.’ Manaal says this with her eyes closed in prayer, as she throws black powder into the bath. The dye curlslike smoke as she lowers her hands into the water. She gathers the robes and submerges them one by one.
Dhuka weeps as the dye bleeds into the fabric’s pores, turning white and blue and green to black.
‘Your tears are good, Dhuka. Cry for your husband’, Manaal says this as she pulls the dresses from the water like bodies.
‘The sun will drink the dye away eventually. You would never know these were black once.’ She tugs at the breast of her own smock and leaves behind grey fingerprints. Dhuka cannot cry for the husband she did not love. For the husband who did not love her.
From inside the house, she watches her dresses flap on the line like caught shadows. Her first night alone is dark and silent, but she sleeps well knowing that her best robe, the red one with embroidered stars, is sewn safely in between the sheets.