I Have Your Eyes
You are sitting somewhere out there, not too far South of where I’m sitting here; about an hour in the car. 60 miles or so is all that divides us and yet we are so apart that imagining driving that hour to be with you is enough to hold my breath in my chest until I remind myself to gently let go, it’s OK to let go. I cannot imagine flipping the button on your kettle, stretching into your cupboard and picking my favourite mug. We are so very far apart that familiarity has become a stranger.
I can see you, sitting in front of your laptop as I sit in front of mine; you adjusting spreadsheet figures and me adjusting words and punctuation. In our hour apart ways we move the dots that define our lives and try to work out where the perfect position of everything should be. Control brings comfort. We talk these different languages and move in exactly the same ways, doing totally different things. Your world makes sense through numbers while mine finds logic with words.
I have your nose and your eyes and my hands are stronger than average, like yours.
If I was holding your hand and you were breathing your last, would we catch a glimpse in each others eyes and wish that we’d dared to stare long ago? If I lost you would a glimpse of understanding and unconditional love feel like enough to bring me peace in your absence? You are an hour away and we have peace in everything that lies unsaid and uncounted. When you, or I, am a heaven away will missing you decorate my thoughts with a regret that matches every event, everything?
I have never stopped loving you.
I remember your legs, the night that the rig burned. I remember your calves, seemingly bare, surprisingly pink, steel strong and defensively tense as you stood and began the slow and alien crumple from the top down. Your hand to your brow, your chin to your chest, your shoulders falling inwards and your stomach coiling down until your elbows were on your knees and the phone in one hand was pressed to your ear and cheek while the other hand pulled tears between thumb and pointing finger and flicked them across the hallway. Your mouth held agape a silent shriek which heavy breaths pushed past. I thought about how the skin underneath the eyes is such thin skin; skin that bruises so easily. I worried for your skin being pulled in that way.
The flames on the rig went out but an ember landed in you; a father stealing ember that burned holes in your heart big enough for daughters and a wife to fall through. And we fell, a freefall across decades until we landed in succession, bruising each other, bones jagging into soft tissue and memories. Limbs jolted and knocked out of sync, injuries sustained that would heal only with time.
You fell too, of course. You fell and landed amongst dusty, buried memories of other pains that stung and bit and snarled. From these vipers you hid in a dark place where no-one could find you. I counted to ten over and over and came for you again and again but your hiding place was too good. I could never find you. The smile I’d set out with would change to a frown each time. I tried to draw you out with kindness and, sometimes, cunning. But you would not be found, could not be found. Yet you were there in front of me all the time, cloaked in darkness, hanging onto reality by a hair’s breadth, your screams soundproofed until you dreamed. In dreams you could stab the gut of night blackness with a scream that tore into silent seconds that echoed for hours.
A father in pain sounds like a drunk on the phone, hiccuping and ranting. Sobbing and then laughing. A father in pain sounds like a man asking you to let people know he’s sorry, let them know, let them know if he ever can’t let them know himself. A father in pain sounds like he’s introducing new strangers, over and over again and saying, ‘she’s the one’. Where ‘she’ starts the pain ends, he hoped. A father in pain cannot realise that he passes on an ember that lands in his daughter’s heart and starts to burn a hole. She frantically tries to plug the hole lest it becomes big enough for people to fall through. We can’t lose anyone else; no one else must fall through. She plugs it with whatever comes to hand and seals it, messy and ragged edged, and says it won’t bleed again. Tears melt away dried brown flakes. No more holes. Please God, no more holes.
Washed up, still alive, cleaned by waves of all the dirt and exfoliated of all the pain by the sand, you and I each made it to the shore. No embers burn now. You have set down your life jacket of numbers and me? I’m herding unruly words that have kept me afloat. I wonder if we might share a vision, sustenance for the journey ahead; I offer this to you and we turn the same frown at each other. Your eyes are my eyes and our eyes look on themselves, from a distance of about an hour in the car, point to point. If we move slowly enough, lay every footstep like a falling down feather on near set concrete, the ground may hold beneath your feet and mine. You shouldn’t ask me to run.
I wish you wouldn’t ask me to run.
I wish I could have found you in the dark.
I have your eyes.