Today, as I always do on your leonine birthday, I woke up feeling a bit perturbed. Nothing specific, it’s just that when you die you really die don’t you? No matter how much I try to trick my mind to believe that we are just busy in our lives right now, and that I’ll probably see you on the weekend (of course you’ll want to celebrate, you big show-off) I still know. Somewhere back in there, nice and deep, is a box with “Hayls” engraved on the lid in fancy-as-fuck script, and mostly I prefer to keep it shut. It’s not dusty though, I pick it up and turn it over in my hands often. I stroke the grain of the wood and trace the lock with my finger. I smile as I think of some of the treasures inside, and as long as I don’t open it, all is well.
But some days I am brave enough to flip open the latch and open that box a tiny crack. Snatches of conversation sneak out and hit the air and my heart. I might hear one of your catch-phrases (cats of Australia, vertebone, heeeeed, muff ’em Liam, big girl, a Billy Ray Cyrus) or maybe I’ll hear you laugh. I’ll definitely hear you laugh- you were always laughing weren’t you? Perhaps you’ll call me waif. I know I wasn’t called waif in a good way, but I liked it anyway. You’re the only one who ever called me that (for obvious reasons), and I felt very Kate Moss. (I could use a bit of that now that I have an expanding menopausal arse, thanks.) Maybe you’ll call me a bogan for one of a myriad of transgressions, tell me how to eat my meal (chef has already seasoned that) or instruct me to drink some kind of weird cherry beer.
Some of our ill-thought out, fanciful plans might slither out, or if I’m lucky I might get an image- one of you prepping a meal, trying on a new A-line “cutesy” skirt, or getting ready to jump in the pool for our laps.
I might get your smile.
The thing is, I know exactly what’s in the box, so I don’t know why opening it is so scary.
Maybe it’s because even after all these years, knowing what’s in it and keeping it pristine-closed is safer than admitting that all I have left of you is some ashes and the contents of the box. I guess I want something more, which seems both selfish and just right at the same time.
I’ve been waiting all day today for someone to post on your page. I wanted everyone to remember that it would have been your birthday and you would be expecting presents and phone calls and cakes, but I wanted them to remember all by themselves. I wanted them to miss your smile as much as I do.
It seems they do. Is it weird or cruel to feel comfort in that? I don’t know any more.
Kaye posted a pic on Insta and you’d love it: you look both happy and hot (not in temperature). I think you’d rate yourself. Your hair looks fab.
Happy what would have been your birthday Hayls. I guess it still is your birthday, but it doesn’t quite feel the same saying that without you here in person. I ate cake. It was too sweet, but I put it on top of the weird stomach-wrench I already had, and it sat on top. I guess it will cover up the ache a bit shortly, the sweetness mixing with the sad and making something digestible. I guess that’s why you nourished so many people. You were healing them. Healing us.
Thank you for all of the times you did that. Even when we didn’t know we needed it.