by Anna

Voyager reached the edges of the solar system and I ran my duster along the edges of the skirting board. I asked you if you would mind if I killed myself and you said you’d understand, but it didn’t quite answer the question. I wondered what the highlight of tomorrow would be, and to the whooping delight of the cleaning staff, found it to be the intoxicating scent of the marker pens. I felt like you wanted a reason, but I wasn’t sure there was one. Things just were. Unchanged. Unchangeable. The pens smelled so much almost like liquorice that I could have drawn rapidly, ceaselessly, on my tongue.

You should talk to someone about it. I lay in bed, mostly paralysed, with your hand on my arm, too delicate and clammy to be real. I felt a single tear slip from my eye, navigating between the fine hairs on my cheek, before it came to rest in the creases of my mouth. I felt the salt harden before I had strength to taste it on my tongue. I couldn’t contact the authorities, there was something too cliché about lying in the dark, crying. It was 05:00 AM before I recognised sleep would not take hold again.

Speak more plainly. I was well accustomed with the contracting of organs under the trauma of the job, and of course your opinion didn’t matter except when it did. I couldn’t stand unethically shredding paper for two hours talking about people who are famous for only being able to live at home. Another profession would have much the same effect, getting up to work for facelessness, applying a face underneath which lay a rotting metaphorical corpse, and a decadent literal unravelling.

Don’t talk about death in public. The pianist had wanted to kill himself, but no-one at the table found it funny. I listened to you talk about your father and your new shoes but you didn’t ask how I was. I added you to my list of people who mostly couldn’t care and considered life without you, and your invitations. I would have held your hand if my sinews hadn’t already decayed, without regret.

This is my elusive daughter. You introduced me to your friend in the bathroom and I held the other side of her handbag whilst she searched for her cigarettes. I sent you messages about your mother’s forgetfulness and your most recent holiday, and reminisced about my time spent in hospital without you visiting. My lack of silence growing parallel to the responsibility for holding your fragile mind between my fingers. Your mother grew grey in accordance with Aristotle’s laziness, she would not remember your next visit. We were elusive in different ways.

You have the wrong number. The scent of the marker pens couldn’t lift me from the coughing woman looking for the health centre on the phone. ‘Thank you’ couldn’t pull me from the emotional lament at hearing that you lost your baby and got addicted to cocaine, nor could £4.50 pull you from yours. Alcohol couldn’t pull me from the loss of £4.50 one dreary, unspecifiable afternoon, in conversation. We were designed to die, like flies, like your baby. You couldn’t look me in the eyes especially when I told you that Voyager had left the solar system. We were all strangers, really, genetic failures: pennies and alcohol. All the money in the world would not have made a difference.

You had drifted off to sleep, so I asked you again. Your silence said you wouldn’t mind if I killed myself this time, but only as I had lived, unexceptionally.