It has always been this way.
An ordinary house in a quiet suburban street, no garden, just a concrete path leading to a thick glass front door. He takes her hand, locks fingers with hers as they walk inside.
The child’s father, drunk into a stupor, sits slumped in a chair against the far wall.
Her mother, his sister, eyes red and swollen, face blotched from weeping greets, hugs him….meets her, acknowledges and accepts her presence here in this house of desperation and despair…..leads them into the young girl’s bedroom, where she lies, dressed in a long simple white cotton nightgown her Grandmother has made for her final sleep. Arms straight by her sides, her cuts hidden now, surgically bound.
Face still and stark in death, showing nothing of what went before as she slashed her wrists….as she saw the dark blood gushing, tried vainly to get up off her bed, to reach the door, where she, not long before in anger, had locked herself in. And now as the blood pools ever faster onto the floor, she cries out, calls to her family……but each and every one is enclosed behind their own doors, transfixed by their flickering screens.
She screams, once more cries out to them, then lies down, weakened, drained…..her thick blonde hair dyed metallic black falls back across her ashen face, as she slips away, as death takes her, and her last whispered words….”what a shit of a life” as she dies.
The air in the house is suffocating with guilt, with blame and shame.
She stands trying to still the need to run, to rid herself of the horror of this place, this house from where nobody will ever recover.
How can she help, how can she be of service, to bring something healing, to become more of herself than she feels….for him, fingers still locked with hers, head bowed, ashen faced by her side. To this beautiful, snow white child.
Turning then first to him, Brian, then the mother, the aunties who stand at the doorway looking in, heads bent, weeping.
“I would like to do something, bring something of myself, to offer some Healing.
May I ?”
Heads nod in acquiescence ….they are all frozen, unable to think, to move.
“Bring me her favourite summer dress, some scissors, needles and thread.” and to the other children, brother, sisters, “take this basket, go down along the street and pick as many flowers as you can….everything hanging over fences, fill it to the top….can you do that?” and nodding yes, pleased to be released they rush outside, into fresh air and momentary freedom.
A moment alone, she turns into him, feels the sob rising in his throat, his heart hammering in his chest, places her hand against his cheek, touches his lips…..
“I will see to it, I know what to do now, I will take care of everything …..you will get through this, I will help you” and he grabs her hand, kisses her fingertips, his eyes fierce with unshed tears, trusts her, leans down to her….breathes her in.
All is in readiness, the beautiful young dead girl, Sophie’s favourite floral print dress…..a scattered pattern of wild flowers, ferny leaves, butterflies and bees. He brings chairs, circles them around the bed, as Maggie instructs Mother, Grandmother, the Aunties….”tear the skirt into long wide strips, as many as you can, and then we’ll hem them, and rebind her wrists” and to Brian and the children, “come, bring the basket here” and placing it by the bed, she begins, weaving flowers through the young girl’s hair, nods to him, “will you take over with the kids, while I start sewing?” He’s only too pleased to have something to do, to work quietly beside his nieces, his nephew……then he finds something more….a quiet inner peace fills him….unafraid now, as he adorns her hair, he looks his little Sophie fully in the face, finds solace and tranquility there.
And the day slips by in a slow dream filled silence, but for the occasional murmured word, the soft sounds of sewing, people shifting, someone crying.
And the wrappings are done….again Maggie shows the women what to do.
A slow, methodical winding of the lovely floral fabric, completely covering the surgical bandages, then she, Maggie, neatly folds the ends in.
A white clothed maiden, flowers woven through her jet black hair, on her wrists her flowered gauntlets, and flower chain anklets. Ophelia, lying before them, waiting, in stillness, in deathly silence, but waiting.
Opening her bag, she brings out a bundle of herbs, a shallow ceramic bowl, dried grasses, matches…..ushers everyone out of the room, except for him, who closes the door, waiting. Dried leaves piled upon a bed of grasses, she lights the match, ignites a tiny fire of eucalyptus, lavender and sage…..blows to fan the flames, then lets it all die down as the cleansing smoke rises, as she walks the room, smudging the body, each other, the four corners….constantly blowing the smoke, and the blessing comes unbidden…..”go with love and peace, go with love and peace child, go now, blessed Sophie, and she nods to Brian who opens the bedroom door, who opens the front door wide, as she brings the healing smoke all the way from room to room, and then finally outside.
And all the doors hang open, letting the soul leave the body, leave the house in peace.
As quickly as it is done, she puts the fire bowl down, drops to her knees and howls with grief…..at the terrible waste, the futility, and he bends down beside her, lifts her up, enfolds her, carries her out of the house, into the car, takes her to the hotel room they are staying in for the night, undresses her like a small child, places her in the bed, covers her, draws the curtains…..sits to watch beside her, as she sinks down and down and down, deep into the blessed refuge of sleep.
Waking late in the night, she finds him, still sitting there in the bedside chair, doubled over, head in his hands. She slips out of the bed, goes to him….he’s stiff with cold, frozen from the horrors of the day. Touches him gently, her hand stroking his hair….”where was I when she needed help, I could have helped her but I wasn’t there” and lifts his face up to her, stark white in the dim light, face tormented with grief, with the relentless unanswered, never to be answered questions.
“Why didn’t somebody know how bad things were for her….how angry and alone she was feeling……ahhhhhh we were all so goddamned fucking busy. It’s like a blighted religion…..the religion of busyness.” And scathingly….”I could have paid more attention, visited more often. But of course, I was so busy.”
She cannot fix it, all she can do for him, is listen, touch him lightly with her hands….a blessing on his head, and allow him to speak, to rage, to weep. Until he reaches up for her, pulls her down into his lap, wraps arms tightly around her softness, holds her close to keep the damning thoughts at bay.
She turns her face to him, hands lightly caressing face, neck and shoulders, easing cramped cold muscles, lending him strength.
Feels him stiffen, as grief becomes need, as he stands up still holding her, takes her back to bed. And still she holds him, holds back the tides of grief that threaten to engulf, to drown him. “I’m choking ” he says against her hair, “I can’t breathe ”!!!
Then she covers him, unable to still his mind, she can comfort his body….give him release from the sorrow, the pain, the cutting blade of grief, covers him completely with her body, feels him slip between her legs, enter her deep….cleave to her, like a man drowning. This is what I can give him, an anchor in his emptiness, as she rocks him gently, feeling the horror and the tumult of this terrible day fade and fade and fade away…..and still she rocks him till she falls in and in and into him….one flesh, raw grief, lust, sweat and tears, and frenzied now, wanting only to be devoured….to disappear into that single blinding point of light. And weakened, trembling, gasping for breath, the gracefilled blessing of sleep comes down upon them….and her last thoughts, a prayer for the lovely lost child, “holy Mother of God, bring this blessed child peace….bring her peace”, and still she holds him, deep inside her, she holds him