By ELLY VARRENTI
You want to come to the opera with me tomorrow night? Free tics.
What is it?
Magic Flute. Mozart.
Thanks. No. I can’t.
Why? You got a better offer?
No. It’s just that…
What? You hate the soprano? You used to sing with the soprano when you were both young and hungry and had dreams of becoming a star. What?
No. I just can’t listen to opera anymore. I particularly can’t listen to Mozart. He was my sister’s favorite composer and since she died I just can’t listen to Mozart. Not even mashed up versions of him in the supermarket. Not without falling in a heap of dirty gasping sobs or little discrete inaudible ones.
Sorry. I didn’t realize…
Actually it’s not just Mozart and opera, it’s any classical music and anything by the Beatles or with Latin American panpipes. Or anything in Spanish. Or Queen. Not any political songs either. Or …
Okay. I get it. Sorry. Sorry. How long’s it been now since your sister…?
2 years, 6 months and 9 days. But some days it’s like it just happened and I can still feel like I did when Mum told me that day. I dropped the phone. I fell to my knees. It was like what they do in the movies. I ran outside and down the middle of the street with my Ugg boots on and when I reached the bush on the outskirts of town, I cried and screamed at the gums. Why! Why did this happen? She was remarkable. So smart and so beautiful and funny and unusual. Why was her experience of living in the world so unbearable she had to kill herself? Anyway…. And then I just lay down on ground and everything, and I mean everything, just, stopped.
It must be so hard for you and your mum and the little boy. Time. It will take time. It’ll never go away completely, I know. But I’m sure that in time… I mean, it’ll fade. Sorry. What do I know? Talk soon. Take care. Talk soon.
Even friends, close and good friends, don’t know what to say anymore. I have heard that the second year of grief can be worse than the first. Jesus! Really? Why is that? Oh, that’s right! It’s because the reality, the bloody ordinary reality of what has happened and what has been left, finally sinks in. It finally sinks down deep into who you now are and takes up residency in the new post-loss-version of you.
Is it that after 2 years it’s as if every cell in your body has been permanently rearranged? Is it as if your heart has been removed from its cavity and reinstalled at a different angle? Is that why the second year of grief can be worse than the first?
My sister gave me a book – The Atheist’s Guide To Spirituality – and I only just opened it last week. She always reckoned I needed to have more faith. Got as far as the inscription. Just seeing her handwriting was enough.
There are photos of us as kids; she’s the blonde, wiry younger one. I’m the dark, chubby older one. They are on my mantelpiece like a shrine next to the silly silver angel she gave me, and the little wooden cross from Nicaragua. Is it time to take down the shrine?