Saturday, 27 June 2015

Celestial Invocation by Jenah West

My eyes struggled to adjust to the low sunlight of late afternoon. I was lying in the boot of Dad’s old Volvo estate, resting my head on a stack of jumpers and scarves. My three sisters took the back seat, while Mum and Nan were up front. I didn’t know our destination, having only been given the instruction to “get in the bloody car”, but it must have been hundreds of miles from home.
I shifted my top half to a 45 degree angle, making sure not to poke my head above the window line, and stared out of the back window. It was just before sunset; the sky stained violet, pink, and red. Mum thought of every natural spectacle as a sign of my father’s enduring presence, and if she was right, he surrounded us with brilliance that day.
Dad had the build and temperament of a warrior; tall, broad, often stubborn, always protective. He was expected to fall in only the most spectacular battle. As it was, he passed on his own terms. No note, no explanation, just an infinite number of questions. I couldn’t forgive his actions, because I had no way to understand them. He left too many memories unmade, and had, in effect, robbed all of us of the future we thought we deserved. I couldn’t let go of that resentment. It led to many arguments, which came to a head the night before our road trip. Through gritted teeth, Mum reminded me that we were all heartbroken, and the family needed me to be strong, just like my father.
“Oh really? So I should probably top myself, right?” I snapped.  Mum struck me hard across the face, grazing my flushed cheeks with her nails. Her distress hurt more than the slap, and through tears I apologised. We all huddled on the sofa together that night, under Nan’s crocheted blanket, and shared tales of him. He had left us too soon, but at least with each other. It was a sentiment that consoled me as we arrived at Land's End.
Bracing against the icy wind. I pulled Dad’s scarf over my nose, inhaling the mix of Old Spice and Golden Virginia. Nan had held Dad’s ashes to her chest for the entirety of the journey, and passed him to Mum as she hobbled out of the car. All of us, in turn, held our outstretched fingers to the urn, gently pressing against it for a few solemn moments. Mum unscrewed the lid and turned away from the wind. She swung her arms and returned him to the universe. Dust to dust. Mum’s face contorted in raw pain. She began to collapse, and we fell with her, cushioning her descent. We sat entwined for an hour or so, until the night wind nipped with such intensity that we headed home. I offered my hands to Mum and lifted her up. Though we walked together, there remained a distance. Suddenly, however, we were struck by the dazzling grandeur of the night sky, unpolluted by city lights.
“He’s with us.” I told her, as she squeezed my hand.

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