Artworks, Issue 29, Issue 29, Past Issues
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Love in the dark

By Alexandra Halkias

Love is colonized and recolonized. Never having been pure, technically love no longer can be said to exist really. Hallmark cards and diamonds, laws, LGBTQI+ struggles for its recognition, gowns, roses and designated beneficiaries populate the domain; not just the name is given. The very ground is gone.

the grey melding of selves
lemon slice
blood in the eyes
the fury and the ice
if anything manages to slither between

There is an image of a father, a father who is dead.  The dead body in the bed.  Eyes closed, who closed them? The paid home carer. We got there a few minutes past. For almost an hour we talked to you, I held your hand, the doctor is coming, daddy. We called, he is coming. The color of the face, the position of the mouth. Sideway glances. The look of the mouth. My sister whispers to me, is he breathing? Holding your hand. Rubbing it. The way you used to rub ours. Realization dawns. Such words. The doctor comes. Confirms. A funeral home is needed. Chosen. Called. These are the arrangements. Men come. Almost 3am. Two strange men in the dining room. Papers. Standing up at the dining room table. A question. Cost. I ask. My sister nods. Asks for clarification. We agree. The dead body in the bed is dressed and wrapped with a sheet. Not the one with the yellow flowers mommy, really. We stand staring into the drawer with the sheets. Don’t you have a plain white sheet? Yes, plain. They’ll wrap him with the plain one. I know you like the one with the small yellow flowers.

Baby. Dead and dressed, wrapped. Keep her further away, you said. I did. Sit in the dining room mommy. I stood next to her. We saw them carry the bundle on a rickety makeshift stretcher out of the bedroom, into the hallway and on. Heaved his body on to the sheet spread on the stretcher in the bedroom. Tied the sheet around him, covering even his head. A strange bundle, remarkably small. Heavy. You could tell from their faces. They carried him out of the apartment in the middle of the night. You and I followed them out. We took the elevator. They had to carry him down two flights of stairs. They wouldn’t fit, with him, in the elevator. In the darkened entranceway downstairs, you and I stood to the side, and watched.

They set the stretcher down on the floor of the dark apartment building lobby, carefully lining it up next to the coffin they had brought in, next to the window, not the real coffin, the coffin they use for these transports. I acted like I wasn’t watching. They grabbed the sheet corners firmly, looked at each other, and lugged the sheet-bundle up, a little roughly. They swung the sheet-bundle, the father, my father, his body, over the edge of the coffin, setting it down in there, with a bit of a plunk. Surely, if we weren’t there, watching, they might have been able to do this

more easily.

                                                                                                We were there.

Myrrella was wrapped in the little black blanket yiayia had knitted for her. With her name stitched in white yarn in a corner. The vet had tied the bundle, when I handed him the blanket, like a little pouch, her body curled within. We drove to the mountain and we buried here there, above the monastery of Kaisariani. Her. It was hard to dig deep, like the vet said we should, with all the roots of trees and rocks in the earth. You dug as deep as you could though. I held the pouch in front of me and kept muttering, silent tears, what a gift she had been, what a joy, streaming, what a life. Tremendous. When you were done, I put her in the hole. A banquet for worms, a snack for any abandoned dog roaming around for food up there. We covered her with dirt. Then you found a big rock and put that on top as well.

I decided not to take off her collar. It was hers. Even though it is made of nylon and won’t disintegrate ever. Maybe someday I’ll find it somewhere in the area. She wore it like a necklace. S/he, really, an incredible black cat called Myrra who lived to the ripe old age of 19. San Diego, New York, Boston, Athens, Greece. With homeopathic remedies, lots of sprawls in the sunshine, and a royal blue necklace. Though at the end, I made a mistake, another mistake? When she became blind from a stroke, she had learned how to get around in the apartment anyway. But she also lost use of two of her legs. Yet she did not seem to be in any pain. I did not know if I should do euthanasia. I could not tell what she wanted. Tell me. I kept not hearing the other vet, the homeopathic one, Dr.B, correctly on the phone when he said “Ignatia.” For over a week. He had explained, the first time, “this will help her go, if that is what she wants to do.”

You opened
the apartment building entranceway door for the two men carrying the coffin. I walked out before them and stood to the side, seeing you standing tall and holding the door open, watching in the semi-dark of the middle of the night under a weak street lamp as they carried my father out and past me and on to the coffin car. How would they have gotten out without us? The car trunk was open. They put the coffin down there and pushed it in.

Love in the dark is hard. If anything manages to slither between obsession, rupture, failure, family, intimacy, or self, love eludes and mystifies. Mutable, indeed almost primordial, and radically ephemeral, it persists as a permanent horizon, accessible to humans too. In Trump-like events unfolding around the globe and Anthropocene ongoing developments, the hope for love remains, its forms and conceptions ever changing.

Zappeio Park, Athens, Greece, 2018.

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