by Stephanie Hutton
I’d never seen the White Cliffs of Dover in real life until after it was too late for you. They seem unreal, as if Mary Poppins might drift down, her magic umbrella slowing her to a safe speed. I sometimes leave my restless body behind and float upwards to see them, to understand. Some nights, the cliffs look like a pillow ready for a sweet slumber. Other nights, like sharp teeth waiting to bite.
You left a note that was full of life. Cartoons of our early escapades jumping over neighbours’ hedges, calling the operator from a phone box to report a pair of knickers on the line. The list of songs you planned for us to play at your funeral was full of terrible tunes that we couldn’t help but dance to. Agadoo. The Locomotion. That Spanish one we always made up words to. Guests reminisced, glowing. You were always the favourite. Now there’s no point trying to compete.
I cried. Sobs heaved my stomach to sickness. But mostly I smiled, remembered. Guilt snipped at my heels. Trains rattled by, asking why-didn’t-you-know, why-didn’t-you-guess? I ate cake at three in the morning and ironed bed sheets; that would have made you tut, bright-eyed and teasing.
My favourite nights are those where we are together again. We dangle our legs from the cliff top, breathing in sea air like it’s Christmas morning. Sometimes you disappear while I am chatting about mum’s colostomy or the price of coffee. I finish what I was saying anyway. You never minded the inanity of it all. I suppose it took your mind off the other things. I gather my knees to my chest and wait to return to bed. And I never look down. Never.
Stephanie Hutton is a writer and clinical psychologist in Staffordshire, UK. In 2017, she was nominated for Best of the Net and shortlisted for the Bristol Prize. Find her at stephaniehutton.com.