‘You must feel so empty now,’ they whispered, knowing eyes filled with crocodile tears, faces twisted into grimaces as we stood over his grave. The flowers looked out of place in such a dreary place, vibrant and colourful against the pale marble. The only speck of colour in a sea of monochromes, all white and grey and black.
Death isn’t the black of the midnight, it’s the white of his skeleton, the white of his grave, the white of the ambulance that picked him up the day it happened. I remember every morbid detail vividly, although I’ve tried so hard to move on. I try to think of something cheerful whenever I feel this way. All of us roasting marshmallows, laughing around the blazing bonfire. Getting drunk on New Year’s Eve, a blur of flashing lights and glitter and dance music. Playing paintball together, ruining our clothes.
Black is the colour of life. It’s the colour of his eyes, sparkling as he tells us a story. It’s the colour of his beloved motorbike, purring to life and speeding along the highway. It’s the colour of the earth that now buries his body, pushing out new roots every day, a succour to the velvet grass underneath our feet. He wouldn’t have wanted us to feel this way, lives at a standstill now that he was gone.
They said that grief makes you feel empty, devoid of life and feelings. They lied. Grief doesn’t empty your life, no, it grows when you’re not looking, until you have no choice but to look at it and acknowledge it. And then you can’t tear your eyes away, like watching a car crash happen right before you. A horrified petrification, if you will.
I tried so hard to escape it, for months and months and months. It didn’t matter what I did – in every song I tried to distract myself with, in every book I tried to enjoy, in every memory I tried to cherish –grief would find out, and then it would appear, rubbing its palms in gleeful anticipation. I hated its perverse smile, all razor-sharp teeth and sadistic pleasure. It never spoke to me – it didn’t have to. I’d expected grief to be more frigid, chilling to the bone, but it was stiflingly hot, malice dripping from its skeletal visage.
I tried to make new memories, filling my life with new people and new entertainment, but grief would inevitably find out, and push everything out yet again. Nothing I was doing seemed to work – grief had permeated every aspect of my life.
I would’ve continued to live my life in a loop, each day like the last, with no light at the end of the tunnel. But then, as I was wandering the ruins of a long-forgotten temple, I met him. The sage. No words were necessary to describe my ordeal, he just knew.
‘I can remove the grief from your heart and make your fire burn bright again’, he’d offered. It wasn’t a hard choice to make. I’d had enough grief to last me my entire life. I didn’t want to see the sceptre of bittersweet memories and regret everywhere I looked.
He destroyed the grief that had trickled down into my soul, and he did it quickly. I stared with horrified fascination at the dead monster that lay at his feet. It had taunted me for days. It had taken great pleasure in following me around everywhere, and as soon as I’d think it had disappeared, it would sneak back into my life, rattling my fragmented mental strength yet again.
Grief looked less monstrous now that it was dead. With those blood red eyes closed and that ghastly smile gone, I could imagine it being human, a person with hopes and dreams and desires. I blinked, and the image was gone. The monster was finally dead, bleeding from a thousand wounds.
The sage, on the other hand, was the image of youth. He’d seemed so old and fragile before he’d killed grief. A part of me had doubted whether he’d even succeed. But now, his face held the promise of energy and vigour, bright eyed and bushy tailed. ‘Enjoy your new life,’ the sage said, eyes crinkling into a smile, ‘and do visit me sometime.’
Therapy hadn’t made grief go away, but murder had definitely been effective. I was finally free to live my life.
The memories of that night stopped bothering me, and I was able to sleep peacefully for the first time in weeks. I was able to move on, finding joy in my much-loved books and songs and movies and hobbies. I was at peace at last.
But something was off, although I didn’t realise what. My cat, Pepi, had developed a distaste for me. She’d hiss every time I tried to pet her, and the comfort she once offered was nowhere to be found. Now that I was finally free to be with her again, she seemed to hate me, always scared and angry when she’d see me…
I finally visited his family, for the first time since his death. Then I saw it. Their grief. I guess it was similar enough to mine that I’d be able to see it. But instead of the perverse glee I’d been expecting, its features were twisted into a strange emotion I couldn’t quite identify. It looked almost human, with something resembling nostalgia and regret in its blood red eyes. Looking at it made me uncomfortable, so I averted my eyes.
Despite everything that has happened, I can’t forget my grief. I suppose absence does make the heart grow fonder. Lately I’ve been visiting hospitals and funeral homes more often, the aroma of death hanging heavy in the air. The walls of these places have seen sorrow. They carry the misery of whoever passes through their halls. It feels soothing and serene.
I follow the families around sometimes, just to watch. I find solace in their sadness. But my smiles seem to frighten them. Can’t they see that it’s simply an effort to reciprocate the comfort they give me?
Although I suppose I’d be scared of me too if I met myself. My eyes have turned blood red. My skin has turned pale and translucent, almost white. The colour of Death. It’s a small price to pay, I suppose, for the calm that I feel now. I’ve never felt so much at home as I do near a grieving soul.
I wish I could crystallise this moment, frozen forever in this time and space. And I owe it all to the sage. My saviour. I really should visit him some day. He’s been amazingly helpful so far. Maybe he’s killed some more griefs? Who knows? I hope he’s been keeping well.