Jay received the letter late on Thursday. It had been raining, and the snails living in the letterbox had attached themselves to the chalky underside of the official looking envelope. There wasn’t much in it. Just the note saying that she’d died.
He realised his hand was shaking, and he noticed the skin on the back of his hand looked puckered. He was getting old. But then, she had died and she wasn’t even as old as he was.
The note wasn’t altogether specific about her death, just in her passing she’d left behind a few belongings and her family had tracked him down and would Jay want them? He wasn’t sure he did. But then again the loud roaring in his head said “absolutely fucking too right I do”.
He didn’t care if it was an odd broken chair and mismatched forks, she had owned them and he wanted a piece of her. He always had.
Whenever he thought of her, he imagined the smell of storms approaching; the damp smell of grateful earth and wind that picked up shit off the ground and threw it at you. He was immediately reminded of biting her bare shoulder, making her swear and come at the same time. Then it was mouthfuls of her long hair in his mouth, that infuriating sense of being interrupted as he fucked her. Jay’s last vignette of her included her mouth making that rare ‘o’ shape, and her eyes widening in surprise.
Vignettes of her were all he really had. But somehow he’d ended up on the family list. How did they even know where he was, or who he was? He hadn’t seen her in, what, a year or more? They had barely spoken on their last encounter anyway. He had told her he wasn’t interested in hanging out with her anymore, even though she could see straight through his lies and obfuscations. She knew it was his new girlfriend telling him to say it. She simply stared up at him from under her blunt fringe, and those dark, dark eyes that were starting to get lines. She made a shape with her mouth that said everything and nothing, sucked back on her cigarette and picked tobacco off her lip.
In those small movements she asked him “what the hell are you still doing here, then?” Without saying a damned word.
They’d had sex that night. It was full of goodbyes and regrets and it was fabulous, every last raw minute of it. Jay had wanted to cry, to take it all back, to hold her hip bone one last time. But she’d already rolled away, and grabbed her soft cotton top. She had left shortly after that, but not before making herself a coffee and stabbing out her cigarette in the sugar bowl.
Nice touch, he thought. She always was one to make a statement.
Now she was making a statement by going and dying. He felt a scraping feeling in his chest, a heaving movement. How did she die? Did she do it herself? Did someone else have a hand in it? Jay could feel the shaking rage at the merest thought of someone daring to be involved in her life, or her death. The familiar gnawing of lust and tangled feelings he thought could approximate love.
Of course he wanted her belongings. He would take her tattered pieces, the hair caught in her hairbrush, her eyebrow pencil and her cigarette case. He would take the notebook that had nothing in it except a couple of receipts and scrawled bus times and the odd loose phone number with no name next to it. He would take it all.
Jay sat with the letter in his hand and watched a blowfly crawl across the window. There was a clock ticking somewhere, or maybe a dripping tap, he couldn’t be sure. Maybe the sound was in his head. The sawing sensation in his chest was lessening, but he knew there was something bigger behind it. He could tell this was just the beginning of a greater keening, an unspoken, gutteral noise that he really didn’t want to know about.
He sat and stared obliquely at the kettle, and loosely considered the march of the blowfly. He distanced himself from his sensations and their heat, letting the letter fall into a tea stain on the kitchen bench, watching it smear his address.