by Ray Hoskins
Remember that plant you bought, the one with the spiky leaves and flowers like angry berries? It died three days after you left.
Those early days the house was pretty much the same, except for the not hearing you. It was like you’d gone down the shops or something and left a silence behind, laid it carefully at the door so I’d notice straight away — this is my absence.
I walked from room to room remembering how I could always hear you, in the bedroom with the blow dryer, in the kitchen rattling pans, in the living room watching soaps or the back room whispering on the phone.
But you didn’t know about that did you, that I could hear the whispering? Or the shower, how I would hear you in the shower, would stand outside the door and listen to the water running over you, over your breasts and belly; I could imagine it all while I listened, could see the hands, their dipping between thighs, the rippled water.
Right until the very end, even with the whispering, I still waited while you bathed, still reached for you from behind the door, still listened.
After you’d gone, when some days had passed and the silence you’d left had grown too deep, I arranged the bathroom shelf with your shampoos and conditioners, your creams and razors, turned on the shower and closed the door softly behind me, leaving you in peace, took my place outside the door, leaned my head against it and listened, listened again to the water on your breasts and thighs, and running between your toes.
The angry berry plant was the first to go, curled up and died without you, and before long the rest of your plants followed suit, except the ivy in the bathroom, and that little cactus your mother brought round, because she simply didn’t want it. Everything died, until it was just me in the dark, and the unwanted cactus in my hand, and your absence, and the water in the shower, forever falling.
Of course in the end they broke in; they couldn’t leave us in peace, with eyes all around to see us not there, see us not leaving, not coming or going.
And so they came in, and they took us both away, but they took you one way and me another.
It might not have been so bad if you’d told me, hadn’t left me wondering about the whispering. I suppose you thought you would have more time, time to tell, time to let me gently down, but time was against us, time came and gripped your heart and took you from me in moments, lay your body silent at the door — this is her absence.
Now it’s just the desiccated plant your mother didn’t want that I have; that and the memory of the water, the water running over your breasts and thighs; that and your absence.
Ray Hoskins is a copy editor, native of Durham, northeast England, now living in Brighton on the south coast. He has published poetry, short fiction, and articles. You can read some of Ray’s longer fiction at http://rayhoskinsstoryblog.blogspot.co.uk/