International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes - From our Archives
was thirty four years old when I died. Id never thought about
dying before. My friend Cassie used to be pre-occupied with the
notion of death. I always put it down to her Catholic background.
It was an entirely blank subject for me. So whats it like?
I still dont know if I can explain it. I must be in my fifties
now (if were still adhering to an earthly concept of age).
Twenty years on and Im none the wiser.
Maybe I could try
smells, tastes. Theres so little here. How can I describe the
glorious stimulants of the senses if theres nothing to stimulate
them? My eyes are open and see things - blocks, lines, forms, profiles,
contours of things. Im holding a photograph but I cant really
feel it. Sorry I cant be more use. But if I close my eyes, thats
different. Bear with me, let me go and I can hear everything; bird song,
the cracked laugh of our fire, a single raindrop hovering on the leaf
tip of my geranium plant. Just let me go back, I can give you the touch,
the taste, the smell of their sandy curls blanketing my cheek that early
June evening. Every evening. Let me go, just for a moment.
My eyes are wet. Like when I first found out I was going to have them.
I had just had a job interview at NatWest for a position I had thought
I was under qualified for. Consequently in the interview, my laissez-faire
attitude gave way to a confidence and eloquence I never knew I had.
Evening drinks with Cassie and Jade became a pre-emptory celebration
of my new job. I remember that they were the exact words I used
as my friends stood and clinked their glasses with mine. Despite my
tongue in cheek self-indulgence, I was genuinely bursting with a glowing
belief in my job prospects and myself. I was the type of person who
never pushed themselves for fear of failure and yet inadvertently I
had pushed myself (I thought) into a damn good position. Theres
nothing like death to incur regret. I regret that cowardice I let myself
live with till that point. At least I want to regret it. Im not
sure I do. I can show you the true meaning of regret. Then you can decide
for yourself whether you think I give a shit about anything else at
I dont know why Im writing this. I dont want anyone
here to read it. Ive tried to make them listen when theyve
asked. Its very simple I want to be alive. Alive with my
girls. They dont have to do anything, just let me go.
Shortly after my smug toast, I was lying in the back of an ambulance.
Id fainted and taken my dinner and a bottle of bubbly down with
me. In my half conscious state I remember thinking that maybe my body
had conspired with providence to kill me so I wouldnt get my job.
In a way I was right. Pregnant, twelve weeks gone, twins. My first life
ended there. I saw my profile - Single, mediocre wage, stunned. I didnt
speak for a good twenty-four hours until I uttered a word that, as I
scratch on to this page, makes me wince abortion. It was a question
more than a statement, one I thought I had answered until I saw them;
grey and blotchy, electronic and beautiful, together as always. That
was the first and only time I fell in love.
When I rub my thumb and forefinger together I feel the soft, plump pink
of two year old skin. April would only sleep if I used my two fingers,
no more, no less, to stroke the palm of her hand for at least five minutes.
As I sat there, my other hand would stroke Saras forehead, smoothing
the unruly locks away from her chubby cheeks. I would tell April that
this would have to stop soon, that she cant rely on mummy to get
to sleep forever. She would just squeeze the hand that was stroking
hers and make warm, comforting noises on her dummy. I knew it was the
right thing to stop, so three months later, I fought my maternal instincts.
After several calls from April and one from Sara, there was silence.
Both relieved and perturbed that my girls had adjusted so quickly to
the absence of their mother at bedtime, I peered round the door. Both
sets of eyes were shut. Aprils fingers were nestled in her sisters
hair, dragging it over her face rather than holding it back. In turn,
Sara had her hand round Aprils, her thumb and forefinger gently
stroking her palm. If I could have foreseen what was to happen the following
year I would have ignored my sensible parental instincts. If I could
change what was to happen, I would still ignore them. I would spend
every night with my flesh on their flesh. I would spend an eternity
listening to the quiet breath of my childrens sleeping innocence.
Do you ever think about decisions and consequences? Parenting was full
of them: which nappies avoid nappy rash, when is best to stop breast
feeding? Simple decisions can steal sleep. Even simpler decisions can
I decided to drive my twins to Norwich to my friends Linda and Simon.
Since the birth, my friends had been substitutes for a father and grandparents.
It was a cold but clear February day and the drive was familiar to me.
When I go back over my choice to go I search for reasons, signs I should
have spotted to deter me, alert me to the fact that a depressed drunk
would smack his Volvo into my old Festa. But there are none. You may
think this could alleviate my conscience. Youre wrong. I cannot
bear to think that it just is.
They need to let me go. But they wont and each time Im nearly
there, where I belong, they pull me away. Ive been so close, several
times. They try to convince me that I must stay, make the most of the
rest of my life. Yes, they call it life. What a fucking
joke. They thought the photograph would help to convince me.
Well, Ill wait with my eyes closed and try to be patient. Ill
drift back to plump pink and wispy sand. Occasionally Ill look
carefully at the photograph of my daughters graves. One day Ill
live with them again, for now Ill wait for my death to end.
© Emma Callan
I feel like a pigeon, tottering tentatively into the dining room. Nothing
prepares you for this.
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