By JULIA THORNTON
The news came in a whisper. In fact, not even a whisper, but a funeral notice in the paper. But it felt like a whisper, a tap on the shoulder. Hffff.
His name popped out of the lines in bold type, between a woman aged 83 years and man aged 72 years.
I knew a HAINES, I thought.
That was years ago.
I knew a Pat Haines.
I knew this Pat Haines.
At one point in my life this person was my whole world. He was everything to me. I loved him as only a young woman can love, and for a time he loved me back.
We loved passionately and badly. Two wounded souls who weren’t ready to be together. We were volatile and vocal. Stubborn and uncompromising. Unwilling to give but unwilling to give each other up.
We loved each other, nonetheless.
And the way I find out about his death is in the funeral section of the daily paper. The section I read to see if I know any names, or if there are similarities in names. Sometimes I would see the name of a friend’s parent or grandparent.
But here it is. Hfff. The breath. The whisper.
For his family and friends, the devastating news would have come from another source: a phone call, maybe a text, an email.
But people like me – ex-girlfriends and has-been friends in the lives of people with lives – the news comes between that of Jean Dixon formerly of Imbil, and Owen Mason, late of Dunwich.
‘Died peacefully in his sleep…’ Why? How? He was 42. He was only three months older than I. Died. Dead. Exhale for the last time, hfff.
The whisper of breath stopped for some reason three nights ago. Peacefully.
When you think about the word ‘peaceful’ it’s almost like a whisper. His ending may have been peaceful, but I imagine the painful chaos that peaceful passing caused to those who loved him today.
Who found him? Did he have a flatmate or a partner? I know nothing.
Hfff. The wind blows a little of the dust away from my memory. The unbelievable nature of the news is starting to become believable. His Facebook page has proof that he is gone. Virtual reality that the mourning had started without me and I hadn’t felt a thing.
The shock clears slightly and I feel confused. Why am I reacting? Why is this person important to me today? I am 17 years older, wiser and calmer. The 17 years between our last time together – an argument or a phone call – contains thousands and thousands of kilometres in travelling for both of us. Emotionally we grew.
We are not the 20 somethings we were.
Hifff. More dust flies away and I feel the pain I felt when I grieved him then. A shadow of that glorious pain I felt when we parted all those years ago.
As I mourned the loss, I couldn’t eat. I existed on health shakes. They took me hours to drink.
I existed in a fog – a half-dream, half-nightmare of losing him.
I feel so bad for the people he’s left behind.
Hifff. More dust goes. I relive the fights. The temper tantrums I spat at him. The embarrassing events when we were out. The horrible things I wished of him.
I am ashamed as I think about us objectively for the first time. I realise that Pat was the gentle soul and I was the tormented one. His demons had been faced and dealt with. Mine were still stewing in my mind and heart.
He found a family amongst his friends. He would never give them up. I was a fool to think I could be more important than them. Girlfriends come and go.
Hffffff. The disgust with myself washes up like I want to vomit. Why had I been so cruel to such a gentle person? Why had I tried to force him to be someone he couldn’t be. Of course he couldn’t be. There was nothing that would change him.
Hoooo the breath goes further. The surprise party he planned for me. The sweet gestures he made towards me when he decided I would suit him. The beauty of that Winter trip to the west to take a bull home.
The full moon, which didn’t have a man in it, but a bunny.
Hofff. And the grief and sadness are back. The melancholy is in my heart again. I know that he had been better without me, as I had been without him.
But this sadness? Why? Why has it taken my breath away?
The whisper had come just in time. Hiifff.
Julia Thornton lives in Brisbane with her family. She has worked in government and private sector public relations and policy positions but now enjoys life as a full time mother and part time writer and philosopher. Domestically lacking, she is currently perfecting pikelets. You can find her on twitter here.