Rebecca Jessen


December 2014

NINE (Stay)

Two doors up from me a lady sits in a waiting room chair beside an open door. She is reading a copy of New Idea. Her glasses slowly slip to the end of her nose. It is early morning by this point. I get a glimpse into the room as the nurse walks me down the corridor. There is a man in there sleeping.

I don’t have a night guardian, but every thirty minutes a nurse pushes open my door and shines a light to where I am lying on the bed. I lie on my side facing the window with the hospital blanket pulled up to my chin. I lie like this for several hours, completely still. I listen to the few nurses on duty, whispering to each other as they pass down the long corridors. Doors open and close, sometimes words are carried through the still, night air. ‘Just checking,’ is uttered the first few times, and then nothing, as if we have already formed a silent agreement in the night, that I am here now, that I will stay here.

I stay like this until morning. Once sunlight filters through the night sky I wait once again, for my door to be opened, for my name to pass through the lips of a stranger. This stranger will ask me the questions you never could. They will make jokes, not because they are morbid, but because this is the kind of thing they see every day and they need a way to cope too. They will make offers of Fruit Loops and show me the counter where I go to collect my food. They will show me the spot where I can watch the turtles. They will tell me I’ll be out in time for the evening news. This stranger will tell me all these things but what they really mean is, stay, what you really need is to stay.


EIGHT (On A Sunday)

Mum cries out from the bedroom down the end of the hallway, and I know he is gone. Her cry is one of a grief so complex it still haunts me to this day. My older brother is there with her, he was the one who answered the phone. I sit with my younger brother and sister in the lounge room. Tears start rolling down my cheeks and they won’t stop coming. My brother is playing Tony Hawk on the Playstation. My younger brother and sister have no idea their dad has just died.

Mum comes into the lounge room with my older brother. They say nothing. They don’t need to. The lounge room is dark, the blinds have been pulled shut all day. My little brother pauses his game and comes up to me, smiling. ‘Hey Becky,’ he says, ‘don’t cry, here do you want to play?’ He pushes the Playstation controller into my hands and urges me not to cry. The controller slips from my hands and falls at my feet.

My little brother turns to each of us, our faces marked by a grief he can’t yet comprehend. I’m sure he feels it too. They both feel it, maybe now more than ever before, now that they are older and fully understand the significance of their loss, our loss.

I don’t remember a thing after this moment. Did we have takeaway that night? Mum would have been too distraught to cook. We wouldn’t have eaten anyway. Did we go to bed early or stay up late? Were there hushed, fraught phone calls through the evening? Did we catch the other moments between day and dusk as they slipped through our fingers?

It happened on a Sunday in March, many years ago. I am now convinced that Sundays were made for leaving.

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