This time the room was dead quiet, and there were no words I could put into the silence. It was cold down here, and the air I breathed was hollow somehow, and not thick with the stench of antibacterial like the wards above.
There was no better word for it, the room was just dead.
The feeling of death all around me was a heavy presence, tangible and hollow.
There was that word again.
Perhaps I only thought 'hollow' because of the gap in existence where my father was supposed to be. This gap had suddenly taken over everything in me. I saw it in my mind like a dark monster consuming all my hopes and dreams and replacing them with an empty awareness.
An awareness that nothing, and no one, could touch me, could tell me what to do, could change me. No one could hold me down. I know now there is only one thing I am ever a slave to, and that is the body I have been born in. But flesh and blood it seems are so easily cast away.
And what then?
I picked my chin up off the cold metal of the drawer and stared properly at the empty shell before me. I took in the whole of it. I touched the cold hand where it lay slightly curled at an angle.
How does death feel? Cold and thin like a rotting peach kept in the fridge.
In my mind I knew I was searching for ways to disassociate and place blame. Placing blame had always worked while he lay asleep, and now disassociation would serve me well.
But the hard truth in this moment, right now, with my chilled fingers clasped around my father's frozen hand, is that I'm not really disassociating.
I am still connecting. I'm intelligent enough to know that breaking into a hospital morgue at one-eighteen in the morning is not a sign of someone disassociating. It is more closely related with someone who refuses to let go. I didn't come with my mother when they turned off the machine today. When she finally came home she refused to talk to me, except to tell me that I couldn't see him anymore, it was too late to say goodbye now. According to her, I had made my choice.
So I waited for her to disappear into her bedroom and shut the world out.
And now I am here, holding hands with a corpse.
I let go and began to straighten the hospital gown he was still wearing. I folded his hands over his chest like I had seen at funerals. Then I combed his hair with my fingers and parted it where he always did when he was going to work. His hair had grown long while he was asleep. There were scissors on the mortician's bench, with a crooked end that suggested they were not designed for cutting hair.
I cut his hair anyway, just a bit to tidy it up.
Then I gathered the hair into a little pile, and stole two locks, one for me and one for Claudia. I put the rest in the bin.
He still had his wedding ring on, and I had never noticed it before, but they had left the ring on his little finger too, the tacky little mood ring he had put in my stocking for Christmas when I was seven. I suppose it should have caused me to feel sadness, or happiness, but I felt neither. It was just another broken promise. He wore it because I had gifted it back the following Christmas and told him he had to keep it so he would always remember to be in a good mood with me.
Years later my dad would still happily tell the story to anyone who would listen, that after the giving I confessed to taking the baby Jesus made of fondant icing off the top of the Christmas cake and splitting it three ways between myself, baby Claudia, and my dog. He kept the promise, and didn't get angry. I even think my mother may have laughed about it.
But now the promise was eternally broken and the ring was jet black.
Of course, I knew how mood rings worked now. But illogically, I was also haunted by the knowledge that the ring had not changed colour since the last time that I saw him awake, the time he had broken his promise to always stay in a good mood with me. The dead have no mood.
They are dead.
YOU ARE READING
Loretta of the LampFantasy
Loretta bit her lip and took a deep breath before she peered into the keyhole and slid the pick into the narrow opening. "You will open for me," she murmured. Loretta knows how to pick a lock faster than you can say "juvenile delinquent". But the si...