Apr/May 2015  •   Fiction


by Alex Keegan

Photograph by Rus Bowden

Photograph by Rus Bowden

There was only ever one real love. She was funny, high-voiced, a little awkward, but she loved me like Jesus. She was the only unselfish person I ever met. She once told me when she was 12, a boy called David said he loved her. "I didn't love him, nor like him much, but he seemed to need that thing, so I undid myself."

After the accident, when she was impossibly gone, I lay in the bath, willing the phone to ring. The clocks were stopped. She was everywhere. I heard her singing, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." I could feel her soft hands on me.

Once, she asked me what was the safest, realest thing I could remember. I told her my mother, swimming slowly up and down like the water was only there for her. I knew she could swim forever, live forever. I knew she was created to be my mother.

We should practice losing lovers, mothers, like Monday Morning Fire-Drill. We should file through the doors—no talking!—being the same as everybody else. There is no rush, no-one gets hurt. Every Monday they should teach us how to minimize the pain.

I was a drunk—I was always drunk, not particularly nice. I was the sort of drunk who demeaned and muttered about needing a fuck. But it was New Year, we were singing, and I thought people liked me. "Don't be sad," she said when she found me. "I need a—proper—I said," and she said, "If you do, no problem, but be patient."

She had that Isadora Duncan scarf, a few miles long, bits added for everyone she touched, stupid color matches, different stitches. "Lie on your back," she said, "stare at sky or ceiling, just stare, wait until it goes away." How beautiful is that? She thought "The Birdy Song" was poetry, that we should all dress as yellow birds once a year, pump out our elbows and simply rejoice.

And Jesus, Mary, holy Mother of God, she loved me.

She loved Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, loved Peter Lorre, loved whatsisname, the guy who was Gutman. "They were good underneath," she said. She could see it, good. "That's the trick, to see the angels." she said. "I see yours in the funny way you sleep, the way you snuffle like a puppy. Yours is very young. That's why I stay with you."