A grief exchange
In the thick of the party, quite casually, like she was asking him to pass the lighter or something, she asked, “how many deaths have you known?” His face was unclear for a second as wisps of someone else’s cigarette smoke melted between them. He replied finally, that he’d lost just one loved one. “So far,” he added, for a touch of lightness, however morbid. He didn’t tell her who had died, even though this was the most important detail.
Their feet carried them to the garden and they found themselves on a wrought iron bench, its metal cool and sharp against her bare legs. She knew him a little but not much, he was easy to talk to at places like these where silences were swiftly and ineptly stuffed with words. The dog had burrowed a cool, damp hollow in the mud and lay inside it, curled tightly within himself. She wished she could hold herself like that, from end to end so no part of her risked neglect.
She’d lost too many, too young. Was that the trouble? Perhaps grief got easier when you were older, where death became commonplace, darting in and out of Whatsapp groups in condolence messages, or sitting suspended in medicine boxes on bedside tables––a collection of pills from Monday- Friday to stall the inevitable.
But can you ever be ready for death?
Even in the darkness of the garden she could see soft blue shadows under his eyes and the beginnings of worry on his forehead.
She’d been trying to compare their suffering in the weight of the grief they carried. But who was to say the dead brought more pain than those who lived.