Nine Night

John died last night. A heart attack and complications from surgery had kept him down for months. He grew pale at the end, his dark skin bleaching in the English winter. I wanted to count the gaps in his stained teeth that he always showed with that giant grin. The kind of man who forgot it’s an unforgiving city.

The kids were screaming in the basketball court, dominating the space with the shivering crash of railings and the inestimable joys of half term. It looked like another party to me.

Strangers milled in the corridors of my block, seemingly listless. I found the mood hard to read and the dour face staring at my sweaty shirt, the empty bin in my hands, didn’t fit. But I was tired from the gym, paid it no mind. The night before, our sofa shivered with heavy bass and barely muffled laughter was inescapable. Our space had been disrupted. Just a mid-week party thrown by people on different schedules, that coloured the nine night to come.

I lifted my tired legs up the stairs, once back in my flat set to stretching muscles. Our overhead light cast shadows, darker shades, and I heard my wife gasp. The note said nine night, all welcome.

Why do I think I can recognise death, even now after we became so well acquainted? Its English cousin is more severe than this. Vol-au-vonts and restraint over bammy and celebration. I’ve endured its passing over the course of years. Outside, the children play until long past midnight.

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