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He doesn’t want to go.

His eyes are slightly open when he sleeps, leaving the windows to his soul ajar, so death can escape. His eyes are slightly open, letting the light in so his heart does not beat in the shadows of the tumour that’s rising like a boulder, hardening his belly.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

His rosary beads dangle from his branchlike fingers, a purple lifeline he winds around him. He turns breath into prayers and they bubble silently from his lips, seep into the air we all breathe.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

He holds my daughter’s hand, walking her around the lounge room, their feet shuffling. Grounding them in a moment that will fade from her memory but not her skin.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

So his body is on trial. His veins flow with new medication, testing his limbs while hope burrows inside him, promising one more day. To breathe his wife in as they lie on the makeshift bed in the lounge room that does not close in on him.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

So he eats with his mouth but he tastes with his eyes. He imagines the flavours bursting on his tongue as he spoons my plain fried rice into his mouth. He remembers the streak of spices that he washed off plates in Paris restaurants when he was a new groom, and the leftovers he packed in containers to share with his wife.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

His wife goes to Mass and brings home the Body of Christ wafer in a gold rimmed box. It melts on his tongue.

He wheels my daughter around the lounge room on the seat of his walking frame, his wife shadowing his fragile steps.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

His son massages his head, his skin collecting like grooves in the sand.

His daughter makes chicken vegetable pie that he eats with enthusiasm. It tastes of love on his tongue.

His son in law listens to him as he speaks of his childhood in Pakistan that smelt of worn out plastic shoes.

His wife dusts his worries and his fears and collects them inside her.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

His beanie keeps his head warm as the nurse sits beside him in the lounge room and drains fluid from his stomach.

He swallows the pain as his belly deflates. I massage baby oil onto his skin and it sucks it up like chapped earth.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

His smile lifts his tired eyes as he gives his family hoarse instructions on how to make Nihari, his signature dish. He directs us from his bed with gloved fingers. We scramble about, writing down his recipe, frying the meat, letting it simmer for hours, so that once a year we can recreate a piece of him.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

So he swallows the medication, knowing it will get caught in his throat.

We rub his neck, lift him up, knead his back to coax it down.

 

He doesn’t want to go.

He clings to his son’s neck as he lifts him up off the bed and onto the couch. The heat pack loosens the knot in his stomach as he writes his own prayers in a yellow A4 notebook. We are penciled between the pages and he breathes us out every night when he prays, even after his mouth stops producing sound.

 

We don’t want him to go.

“I’m tired,” he mouths, his hand caressing his face in slow motion. He signs the cross on his chest and lays his head on the pillow. We sit by his side, hold his hand, and wait, the air thick with our tears and singing.

 

In loving memory of Stanley Lobo

RIP – 29/12/1946 – 13/8/2018

 

 

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You burrowed inside my body
And made a home for
five weeks six days.
My heart beat for two
but couldn’t revive you.
They called you a “foreign body,”
I called you my baby.
My body became a fortress
to keep you in.
You wrapped your arms
around my heart and
we stayed like that until week ten
when you flowed out of me
and anger filled your place.
I didn’t know that you could go
that so many other
mothers’ hearts
were breaking too.
It’s been two years
but the anger still
bleeds into the present.
I dilute it with
the courage
that you left me
to try again
and again
for that second heart
beat
that now belongs to your
sister.

When I was seven I had a conversation with God.

We sat in a white room, nothing fancy, and it perched near a cloud that drifted at the speed of our family car.

“God,” I said, “please tell me what’s going to happen when I grow up?” Would the shrub of curls on my head grow longer? Would I have two children or three? Would I be pretty?

God sat quietly on his throne, his features blurred.

“Please?” I clasped my hands together in desperation, trying to coax the glittering future out of him. “I really want to know.”

“I will tell you,” God said, chuckling. “But what’s the point? You’re going to forget it the minute you get out of this room.”

“That’s okay, still tell me please!” You see I was going to trick God by retaining clues. A few words that would act as signposts, a feature of my future husband, an image of long locks. I was devising ways to recognise the clues when the wail of a Turkish folk song plonked me back into the scorching car. The room disappeared behind a cloud with my prophecy.

It’s been twenty-three years since then and I’ve tried relentlessly to get back into that room. I acquired a taste for Turkish coffee and learned the murky language of the coffee cup. Fish, seahorses, giraffes, kangaroos delivered auspicious messages from above regarding my future. ‘See the bird’s beak? Yes, the good news you’ve been waiting for is nearly at your door step!’ When the brown symbols blurred, the birds froze midflight and these conversations became a repetitive mantra, oracles took over. Fairies, angels, the Major Arcana encouraged me to follow my dream to become a writer, to travel, to apply for that course.

But my impatience to know, that eager need to fill in the unknown with the promising contents of the future grew along with my hair.

I wanted evidence. I wanted another rendezvous in that white room.

It wasn’t until I took a day trip to Sydney’s Red Gum Forest to attend my first alternative lifestyle festival that God showed up. I was slightly overdressed for the occasion. A black maxi dress, black suede flats, a grey tie up jacket on a drizzling day in the wilderness. Tents were set up randomly providing reiki and other healing practices. People were walking around barefoot, others sat in groups near their tents. This was no picnic. I followed the scent of burning wood, fighting off the leeches that were sucking my ankles and found myself at a tantric workshop. I was assigned a partner. I was ready to run.

“Stand a hand’s length away from your partner and close your eyes,” said the facilitator. “Do not touch them. Today we are working with each other’s energy.”

Ahem, right.

I took off my shoes, scouting for leeches. Confident that they couldn’t possibly crawl onto the tarp, I closed my eyes, raised my hands in front of me palms up, waved them slowly, careful not to poke my partner’s face.

“Take deep breaths,” said the facilitator. “Take note of your breathing, feel the ground underneath your feet.”

Ah. Yep. Okay, the ground full of leeches.

“You may feel a tingle in your hands…”

Someone was playing the flute and it had started to rain.

I focused on my palms, on the facilitator’s soothing voice until my thoughts drowned in the enchanting melody of the flute. I waved my hands up and down, over my partner’s torso, his face and they felt warmer and warmer. I took careful steps, circled my partner in a blind dance.

Until my right hand was burning.

I froze, still sceptical about this energy realm. I pried my eyes open to see the cause of the heat and there a few centimetres away from my right palm was his heart.

And in that moment, that presence, I felt God on solid ground.

And I didn’t have a single question. On a grey day in the NSW wilderness I found my answer. I’d been so busy chasing the future that I was chasing away the present. I was so engrossed in wanting to know, to grow up, get my writing published, “start” my career that I was living in the shadow of a future. I didn’t realise that the future was being created with each moment.

So I stopped searching.

And today I have conversations with god without words.