I could hear a noise, an awful, guttural howl, like a frightened animal caught in a trap. Then I realised that it was coming out of me. I recognised it, I’d heard it before, from the final moments of pushing my daughter into the world, and here I was in another hospital, making it again in the moments she was leaving it.
I’ve little memory of the following month. Snapshots remain; a house filled with flowers in various states of decay, wastepaper bins over flowing with tissue, a coffin, smaller than any I had seen before. Little else. I was a reluctant member of a secret club. A club I didn’t know about before, so feared and terrible, so unthinkable that there isn’t even a word its members. A wife that’s lost a husband is a widow, and child that’s lost its parents is an orphan, but a parent that’s lost its child doesn’t even get a name.
After that, only time dragged me forward, I looked from the outside like everyone else, and I went about my days as best I could. But inside I was heavy, as if I was filled with a viscous fluid which I struggled to displace with each breath. Every mouthful of food had to fight against it for a space inside me. Hours and minutes were long and hard. People were kind but were no solace, They’d ask me how I was and I’d replied with rehearsed phrases like;
“I’m doing OK.”
“You know… taking each day at a time.”
Because the alternative was to cut them with the sharp edge my pain, by shouting at them “MY CHILD IS DEAD!” and that wasn’t going to help any of us.
We were like two ill people left to nurse one another. He had no resources to support me, and I had no resources to support him. Sometimes, as we passed in the house, we leaned on each other, not an embrace, and not to comfort so much as to ease the effort of standing up for a moment.
We went to therapy, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. She talked to us about guilt and shame and anger, she knew all the theory about loss, but I could feel she wasn’t in the terrible club, and though she nodded, she had no notion of the extent of my pain and did not possess the key to helping us. I felt jealousy for her blissful ignorance, and wistfully recalled what not knowing this felt like. I countered nearly all of her questions about all the possible, convoluted natures of our feelings with;
‘No, I’m just paralysingly sad.’
She talked about intimacy too, suggesting that although it may seem inappropriate now; making love might be an important, connecting thing for us. We looked blankly at each other. No, she definitely wasn’t in the club. She had no idea of how this might work.
Each night exhausted from the effort of social behaviour and moving, we’d fall into each other’s arms, grateful at last for something visceral and recognisable. I’d already be crying, not the stifled, furtive tears I’d shed by the dairy fridges in the supermarket earlier, but hearty, gutsy sobs that contorted my face and made my breathing jagged. And the embrace, was not the cuddle you see in films and on TV of grieving people, we’d tangle into each other in each other, losing track of whose limbs were whose. His cock was usually already hard, I’d want it in me, I’d want to be pierced and cleaved by it. This night and many nights around this time, I didn’t want intimacy I didn’t want to make love, I’d want to be stabbed, I’d want to be fucked so hard that I’d be reminded that I was still alive.
I drag my cheek on him to feel the rasp of his stubble. Our faces are close and wet and I can taste him, (or is it me?) salty and slick with tears, saliva and snot. He grabs meaty handfuls of my arse and raises me so that I can I plunge down onto him. It hurts and it feels good. I’m holding him too tight, my fingernails in his chest and the heel of my left hand pushing his shoulder upwards, driving myself toward him. His hand on my arse demands more pace and he pulls our mouths together with a fistful of my hair. I think I can taste blood. We eat each other’s sobs; breath and voice snatched from one another’s mouths
The muscles in my thighs burn as faster now we slam ourselves together, the slap of flesh and the thud of bone colliding. Everything that was held in check each day is spilled here, gasped into the air and smudged into the mattress. Rage, love and pain expressed and shared at last, without empty, inept words.
I come hard, it’s not a crescendo, it’s more like swimming in a too-rough sea and being blindsided by a wave. It slams into me and I flail and tumble helplessly in it until I don’t know, or care, which way is up, and then it spits me out, all buoyancy of the water drained away leaving me heavy and gasping on the shore. I look back can see him drowning too, tensed and arched, mouth open. I use my ragged lungs kiss breath back into him, to bring him home to me.
After the brutality there is a gift; a fleeting window. We are silent so that we don’t accidently let is pass us by. In this place, where pain and love and endorphins intersect there is a secret moment of calm where we might be allowed to slip into oblivion for a few hours. I roll off him and we lie hot and panting, willing unconsciousness to take full rein. It will help us find the strength to endure another day, a day on which we’ll wake, and for a brief moment feel just like an ordinary people. It’s always there, a waking millisecond where we feel like we used to, just before the lurch of reality crashes back in.