Forty Days in My Father’s House
Day 1: I taste year-still air. Although this is not my home, everything is exactly as it was.
Day 2: Secrets fell out of a book this morning. Photos of my father, young. He grins by a statue in some old courtyard, hunches over in an armchair peering at papers. There were love letters dated last year to a woman I didn’t know. For the rest of the day I traced clues, dates on receipts, his last path around the apartment. I wore his hat and his shoes.
Day 5: I live now as a scavenger. I eat only what was left behind. The thought of my father shopping for tins of food that will never be opened is intolerable. I am a survivalist in the woods, a carrion crow on a carcass, a rat in the sewers beneath my feet, gorging myself on long-expired soup and pineapple syrup.
Day 8: Today my brother called me. I did some research, he said. Third-degree burns destroy the nerves in the skin. What with the shock, he probably didn’t feel much.
Day 16: I am starting to notice dead things everywhere. Not the dust and the cobwebs, but the rotten mess in the back of the fridge, and the open mouth of the letterbox stuffed with unpaid bills. In the bedroom, a plant has grown wild out of its pot.
Day 21: My father’s face is smeared on the walls. His body falls headlong out of every cupboard. His boots chase me around the house. He shouts to me with the voice of the trains that pass the living-room window.
Day 28: Every time I looked down at the canal last night I saw the boat, which is odd given that I did not witness the accident. The image is stuck on my eye nevertheless. A fire on the water. That was the emergency call. September 30th, 1.41 a.m. A fire on the water. A gas explosion. A man who jumped into the canal, dressed in flames.
Day 34: I haven’t left the apartment in a week or my bedroom in 22 hours. I need to fold myself up small, smaller, into the sink, into the wardrobe, into the walls. I am tearing strips off myself. The windows are so far away.
Day 40: The elm tree is spreading its green across the street, up the wall. I open the windows to it and my father’s ghost blows into the morning.