Pomegranates in January
It snowed, I remember that, the wheelchair ramp covered by a thin sheen of ice. Roland, the hospice nurse, appeared in our lives. No more life-killing treatments to survive, but finding a gentler passage to death. No one was ready. Then, just as quick as the snow fell, it dissolved in warm, balmy days. An uncomfortable halfway from ice to green. Spring waiting in the wings. You’d feel it in the air. We’d sit on the porch and look out at the trees. Coffees, more coffees untouched. Niko’s friends would stop by. An hour, thirty minutes, 10 minutes, a glimpse, a few words.
One day on the porch I had my film camera, and Niko took some photos.
The night he died: I still curse myself. That fucking oxygen machine. While he gasped for breath Tamara and I spent precious minutes fighting the beeps of the erroring control unit. In another room, so as to not further stress him. How long was it, 10 minutes? Why did I miss those moments for this useless gesture. And what were those minutes for him, hours? Years? In the end we held him. We talked ourselves back to a rock on the sea, in our special cove in Aegina, skipping stones, laughter, the sea, salt in our breath, children again. Focus on breath. Niko, my mom, my sister, me. He exhaled.
The next morning, unbearable brightness, and the birds, the birds are deafening. Hot coffee. Opening my eyes, crashing down.
Months later I developed the film. A few blurry shots of me and Tamara and his friend, and this print. Pomegranates. Blurred, in movement, in stillness. Unsmashed. Where had they gone, where was our luck. Niko’s fate. 12 years of knowing. What he was seeing, thinking. Hearing. What his heart was.
He didn’t like to talk about dying. Who would. Did he know?
Why it’s so hard to remember. To know. I trust the memory is there. I was there. Images passed through my eyes, I heard. Something is imprinted in my body. But I can’t bring it to the front. What did we talk about, when I wanted to know, what was passing through his mind those last weeks.
Scrolling through old photos, old emails. But what am I looking for. It’s the same images, texts. Nothing is ever new. Sometimes a fragment brings my revised attention to an old joke or horror or hope. Then it melts away again.
It’s ten years, today. Maybe he wasn’t the one in denial, maybe there is nothing to deny or accept. My 8 year old today: “life is like that. Sometimes it’s unfair and sad. Sometimes it’s very nice.”
I don’t see him in my dreams as much any more. I used to have the same one: a miracle treatment has been found, we’re saved. And life continues on in a precarious treading of water, but happy, well enough. We could stay like that forever. We will suffer the uncertainty and the medical routines and all is accepted.
Or the other: the cure’s been found, he’s fully healed, we weep with joy, I watch my own dream knowing it’s a lie, I’ll wake up, we are talking together but I know he’s gone, that I’ll wake up soon to a space without him. I don’t mind that suffering, because then you’ve seen him again, spoken, he sees me again, and also, because his memory is there. Here. Not there, 10 years ago. Today, now. Can I call him? Send a text? Chat about football and stupid things, serious ones, politics. doesn’t matter. There was a time I thought of him every day, many times a day. Then you realize one day it doesn’t happen any more and then?
From here on, we must begin to heal breaking pomegranates in the centre of the wound.
I know, Miranda. And I try. I am nothing if not a lover of lost causes. But today is heavy. This wound is still here. It will always be here. But it’s ok. It keeps you close.
Miss you. 🖤