Eleven Years of May

Marc Brightside

i.

Affidavit A pertains a gherkin.
I was cross-legged on the carpet, bordering on five-years-old,
back when death was just a thing that grown-ups did, like holidays,
or weddings. We ate dinner in Sudoku silence, indulging in the council-
housed delight of fish and chips wrapped in the Metro, and the contents
of my father’s plate, those funny green things caked in batter, captivated
“You always want what you can’t have,” he said, “you won’t like it.”
I whined until he caved, and the acetic fire sent me rolling to the floor,
scratching at my tongue, while everybody laughed. No-one could blame them.
My performance was forgotten by the morning while my brother and I
swung branches together in the garden; almost twenty years apart,
yet we still pretended these were swords, that we were gladiators.

ii.

Affidavit B pertains a suicide.
I was cross-legged on the carpet, bordering on six-years-old,
with plastic bricks and model trains to habituate my isolation,
the way you let a fish float in its bag for fifteen minutes prior
to release. The doorbell rang. My mother rose, her crossword left
unfinished on the coffee table as she spoke quietly with strangers
in lime-green jackets. The world turned monochrome on her return.
“Your brother always loved you,” she said, “he loved all of us, but not
himself, because he did drugs.” Colin. Named so because the midwife
asked what they were callin’ him. That’s my mother’s sense of humour.

iii.

Affidavit C pertains a haunting.
The lights came soon after the funeral, at the foot of Summer’s door.
They’d manifest in droves as patchy frames of green and yellow,
occasionally red, solid and opaque with clearly defined corners.
They outran me when I chased them, slipped away when I tore through
the living room, arms outstretched, shouting, “Look, it’s Colin’s ghost!”
as my mother wept into her hands. Ghosts exist when you’re a child;
they mean that no-one ever has to leave if you don’t want them to.
I knew that he was dying when the lights turned seasonal. For a time
I could still summon them. It only took a moment’s breakdown
and they fed like butterflies on bitter honey, because a child’s pain
is easier to digest and a single tear is much more tragic than a torrent.
I knew Colin was dead when the lights had bled me dry,
when they refused to show up on demand, when I was seventeen.