Since the Last Goodbye

You can’t leave like this.

Branka looked back into the chaotic apartment. It seemed that nothing was where it belonged, not even the floors and lamps.

You can’t leave like this.

For a moment she considered cleaning up, putting everything where it belonged, the books on the shelves, the laptop on the desk, the broom in the closet. But how would she handle the floors? Or the lamps?

One of them still swung slightly as if there was a breeze it knew about and Branka didn’t. She watched the hypnotic movement for a while. Back and forth, back and forth, the motions becoming ever so much smaller. A shade hung askew, another was missing, probably lost in the chaos and broken.

It is not your chaos, she told herself. Not your plates shattered all over the kitchen floor, not your curtains hanging ripped and tattered, not your vase, the flowers crushed and the water dripping from the windowsill into the carpet. It is not your carpet, either. Get a grip, Branka. Leave.

She didn’t move. Why are all the glasses broken? Why didn’t one cup remain whole? She couldn’t see the shelves from where she stood, but she remembered. Tilted, ripped out, some of the cutlery stuck in the walls. If she cleaned up the mess, would she have to smooth down the holes? Fill them in? Paint them over? Would that work?

And then? The pens back into their holders. The paper could be stacked, some of it smoothed out again. Righten the TV, put the remote beside it. But what good would it do? It is not your TV, she told herself. It is not your remote. What are you even doing here?

I was living here.

And what good did that do?

Branka looked at a trail of crisps leading from the middle of the room to nowhere. There was a broken bowl somewhere around here, wasn’t there? She couldn’t remember.

But I lived here, she wanted to say. I should know.

And what good would that do?

What good is talking to myself?

Are you?

Branka ran a hand through her hair. It was wet, tangled and starting to clot. A shower, after all the cleaning, that would be it. Even if the shower curtain lay on the floor now, some towels were jammed into the toilet, the mirror broken, shining pieces of silver all over the apartment. Slivers lined with red.

It is impossible to tidy up everything, she told herself. And who had tidied up after the big bang anyway? Nobody, that’s who.

Leave it, Branka, leave it like this.

But her eyes were roving across the scene, fitting things into their places in her mind as they went. Righten the vase and smooth out the petals of the flowers. Scoop up the water from the carpet with the hands and return it into the vase. Scoop up the blood with the hands from the carpet and return it to the body.

What good would that do?


So this is what you don’t see: a graveyard.

Rows and rows of headstones, I painted a grey night without stars. Maybe if you had graveyards here, this is what it would look like. Paint a moon on your sky and clouds. Gnarly-fingered trees are reaching.

It is not a well-kept place. Stones are broken and fallen. Dry leaves on the ground for the noise it makes to walk on them. The iconography of horror means nothing here. And yet I can touch the heavy taste of the air closing in. How can I read all the tombstones when it is so dark?

Because I know what they say. There is my name on all of them, each single one: me, me, me. There lies the girl that dreamt of growing up normal. Sometimes I can still hear her whisper dreams in my head.

The lies the woman that dreamt of fortune and fame and acclaim. Her words are buried beside her. In the darkest nights, the ground still moves. The headstone of the sweet one has fallen over just as easily as the dreams of marrying the first love and settling down with kids and a dog.

I am not a dog person. I am even less of a kids person. That one is forgotten, a wisp of smoke indistinguishable from the clouds. The list goes on and on. There have been so many of me.

This is what you don’t see: it is all of us.

When I see you, I know there is a graveyard like this behind your eyes. We buried many people to be where we are today. We do not talk about the dead. They haunt us. They shine through our eyes and we cannot help it.

They say the dead don’t return for an encore and it is a lie. We live them every day. It’s okay. I will not tell on the small bodies in your backyard. Knowing who you left behind makes a strong case. I will hear you out.