The house feels so empty now ... with her gone.
I walk aimlessly from room to room, no objective or purpose in my mind. My lonely foot steps echo hugely in the silence that shrouds the building - a harsh reminder that I am all alone now... and will be forever. The house had appeared so cozy and alive when she had been there - it was a home! Now it seems like a mausoleum, a museum - haunted by her phantom.
Dust is all over but I pay hardly any heed to it. Only one phrase reverberates in my mind when I lay my hands on some object and my fingers come away smeared with dirt - ashes to ashes, dust to dust...
I stop at the mantelpiece in the living room and see her photograph. It is in a 4" x 6" black wooden frame, a frame that I had chosen and which she had loved. The photograph is a close up of her face, with she laughing at the camera, a dimple on both cheeks. Her eyes gaze straight into the camera... straight into my soul. A lump forms in my throat and tears well up in my eyes. I quickly turn away. But there is no escape.
With a feeling of foreboding and without any volition, my brooding brain transports me back to the day the snapshot was taken.
It was a gorgeous sunny day and we had gone to the supermarket for some shopping. Nearby there was this photo studio that advertised instant prints. She had dragged me to the shop, pleading that I should have my photo taken - there wasn't a single good one of mine at home she claimed! - and I had let her draw me, for the look in her eyes and in her face was one that I had never been able to refuse. After having my photo taken, I had forced her to take one of hers, for she had looked oh so achingly beautiful that summer day...
I tear my mind back to the present, tear it away from those remembrances that lie like pieces of lead in my heart and mind... yet, there is no deliverance. Once memories start playing in one's mind, there is no stopping them. Never.
Every single part of the house, every article in each and every room, reminds me of her. I see her sitting at the dining table, the cup of coffee held delicately in her slim and fair hands. I hear her lovely voice as she sang the latest popular songs. I recall her lying in bed, soft and warm and pretty, and the satiny touch of her skin against my lips when I kissed her goodnight...
A couple of months before she died, I remember her standing by the window, gazing outside with a fixed unreadable look on her countenance. Rain was falling in torrents since morning and had turned the garden she had nurtured so painstakingly into a quagmire. (She had loved flowers, my mind murmurs mockingly, while tightening invisible strings around my heart with claws of steel.)
I had asked her what she had been staring at and she had turned to me, a sad smile on her lips and with tears trickling down her pale cheeks, and said, "I was just thinking. How even something as beautiful as a flower, fades away and dies with time. Nothing is allowed to last forever, isn't it? Nothing."
I had quickly enveloped her in my arms, hugging her close to me, and asked her to banish those thoughts from her mind. I told her she was being foolish. God! How was I to know then that in less than sixty days my arms would hold nothing but air ... and ghosts?
I remember the last few days. She lying in the hospital bed, trying to gather enough strength to offer me a smile each time I came to visit her. A smile to encourage me! A laugh to restore my spirits!
I recall the changes in her body as the cancer ate away her insides. The radiation treatments had not worked. Her once active body had become a skeleton, with the bones finely etched out against her pallid skin. Her lustrous black hair, which had earlier flown in waves to her mid-back, had fallen out. She had become so weak that she was unable to even raise herself enough to reach the glass of water on the nearby table.
On that fateful last day, in spite of the great pain she was undergoing, her eyes had lit up as soon as I entered the room and she had tried to lift her arm to wave to me. But her strength failed her. Tears filled my eyes and ran freely as I leaned close to her. With a monumental effort that must have taken every bit of energy that remained in her body, she managed to lift her hands and wipe away the tears from my face.
Her last words before she stopped breathing for eternity, and which now haunt me every moment of my life, were, "Don't cry, daddy. Please don’t cry. Remember what I once told you ... nothing lasts forever".