Gone Grey

Image © Rene Böhmer

Let’s look again at this moment you find yourself in. Pause and breathe deeply. Sit down or stand up. Make a space in your day, in your life, in being a mum, a child, the father, the sibling, the elder, the youngest, the middle child, the fixer of all, the provider. Drop the guards you polish each day. Become still. Be quiet. Find that moment of stillness in all this noise. In the sounds of the words that still lurk in the depths of your heart. The words that swim around your head when the air is cold and the sound of life has paused. Listen out for the pounding on the door that is as loud now as it was all those years ago when you were a mere child. The chill you felt as Pa stood there, a silhouette in the blaze of light from the police car. The sound of Mum coming down the stairs towards the door and Pa turning to face her, neither of them seeing you standing there under the steps. Her keening and Pa closing the door. The crumbling edifice of your home, your being, your family and your entire six years of existence on this plane, trapped in this human form. How you learnt to forget that you were light caged in this earth bound flesh.

How you learnt to sway on your feet to remind yourself this space turned on its own axis and was never still. That any stillness you found was because you had accidentally found out one day that if you swayed yourself just so, you’d catch the motion of his rock and be able to float into its rhythm, leaving your broken parents and non-family with their grief and blindness. Their loss, your loss, the loss of what was your space, in the bigger space, in the scheme of things that was now nothing. The rubble that was once a home. In the heartbreak that was your sibling. That you knew there was no going back, nor forward, just around and around until one day it would be you on the floor, keening.

Dig down. Into that still space you found sitting on the roof of the house that afternoon you had that argument with Pa. What did happen there? Why did you shout at him and stomp off when he called to you? What was the colour of the sky on the day you heard the phone ring in the reception area next door to your office? Think about how you felt yourself pull in your breath suddenly at the sound of the phone ringing. The sudden chill you felt sweep through and over you. How you felt the glass walls of your office close in on you in that rare quiet moment and her voice as she said; “Sure Helen, I’ll put you through right away”.

How you knew before her head popped around the door to say; “It’s Helen, she does not sound well”. Remember feeling the chill spread over you again as you stared at the phone on your desk. And the shock of the sudden trilling, ringing reaching you. How you jumped up in your chair at that sound. What chair was it again? How you still jump up every time the phone rings near you. Although you’re much better practised at hiding the shock now, a subtle lift of the eyebrow. Only a little twitch to give you away. Every fibre of your whole and entire being focussed to that sharp point of the accusing ringing. Think about your paralysis.

Then it was Robin, not just leaning on the doorway anymore but now fully inside your office and how she reached over the desk and pressed the speakerphone button before the accusing trilling, ringing finally stopped. Surely you recall the moment that followed. The void. The empty space of a whole universe being born when the ringing stopped and there was a hole that filled your entire being. All that chill that had been spreading when the phone was trilling away, suddenly rushing to a point of sharp pain and the cold exploding all over you. Like the blast of a cold shower on a steamy beach day. The pounding on the door again. Pa in silhouette. The steps. The breaking of everything. Then the silence.

Do you remember Robin’s hands flying to her mouth? Her eyes growing large. Her entire body seemingly shrinking away to a point in the distance and your own being suddenly scrabbling along the smooth walls of a long tunnel where Helen’s words said out loud moments before now reach you like peals of thunder in your ears. Words that suddenly and so very neatly fit themselves into the spaces and shapes of the icy terror that was slowly spreading and then exploding all over you. The same terror you felt that cold morning when you were a mere child. Pa in silhouette. The steps. The breaking of everything. The words and the pain come together neatly like pieces of a puzzle. Snuggled together after being apart for too long. Words and terror that have been apart from when you first heard the phone ring at the reception desk, next door to your glass walled office. Again you see Pa in silhouette.

Then all the small sounds coming from the phone assemble themselves into whole words and sentences and shapes and forms and meanings. Then the thunderclap that is sound processed into packages the brain can receive and send. Now you’re Pa and this is your silhouette you are seeing. Your door. Where are the steps? You look around to where a little child might be standing quietly hearing all these words; unseen by the people speaking the words and those hearing them. These things trigger all sorts of other things. Then you recall you were standing up suddenly and raindrops fell on your hands. How you looked up to see if the sprinklers were on, was the building on fire?

And all this time, Robin standing across from the desk staring at you. Now staring open mouthed at you. Does it feel familiar that moment you heard your voice say; “Are you okay Robin?” Her gaping face relaxes, the tension leaving it. Her stare closes down and reflexively reopens, and then shifts. Her face is streaked with the rain falling in the office, on your hands, on your desk. There is a keening coming from the phone, Helen’s being forming and breaking into sounds flowing over telephone wires. Pa in silhouette. The steps. The breaking of everything.

The prickling sensation all over your head. The sudden heat and crinkling at your temples and at the base of your neck. The density of millions of hair follicles heavy on your head. The buzzing sensation all over your scalp. Robin’s stare opens and unfolds into an unholy shrieking, her hands flying up to her mouth again. Helen’s keening over the phone rising in pitch and her voice breaking through; “What’s happening Robin?”. All the while, large heavy drops of rain keep falling inside the office, on your hands, on the desk, running down Robin’s face but the windows remain clear and you can see all the way to the Magaliesberg from way up here. Pa in silhouette. The steps. The breaking of everything.

Gone Grey is a recollection of bearing witness to a moment of human existence and the unseen happenings when that existence ceases.

© Jesh Baker 2022

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Comms practitioner, aspirant writer and absent-minded baker at #WakeAndBake

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Jesh Baker

Jesh Baker

Comms practitioner, aspirant writer and absent-minded baker at #WakeAndBake

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