by Dominique Mitchell
It’s been over ten years since we last spoke. I’m not sure what prompted me to write. It is neither his birthday nor our anniversary. I simply missed you. A memory nudged me this morning, when I sat with a cup of mint tea in the sun. I felt very lonely as I thought of us running like wild animals from school. I’d pulled you by the arm from English. The substitute teacher, with a name I cannot recall, stood paralysed. Only when I shoved you over the fence at the end of the playground did she spring into action. Every moment of that day I can recall vividly, the heckles from the other children (I think Gregory Abbott asked if he could join us!), the clothes we wore, the weather, how you smelled of your mother’s perfume, the sand rustling between our toes as we held hands for the first time. I think that was one of the best days of my life.
It pains me to remember. I miss you so.
Eleven years and ten months have passed since we lost our boy. Any recollection of that memory and I begin to feel the snapping flames of agony, and if I do not suppress it, I fear I should be burned alive. I snuff it out, thinking quickly of other things, errands, and you. I lost him that day, but I lost you too.
I am not confident that I will send this letter to you. I think it will do no good. I wanted you to know that I am sorry for how I treated you in the days and months following our loss. I have dwelled on it every moment since and only now have I allowed acceptance to sit beside me sometimes.
It wasn’t my fault, or yours. He fell. There was nothing either of us could do.
I remember when you hauled me out of class promising a beautiful day at the beach with ice cream and swimming. I had never been to the seaside. Your fractured memory has never mended. We never made it to the beach − when you pushed me over the fence I hit my head on the floor. You had to run back to get the teacher. It was not sand between my toes, it was soil. You had taken a handful from the hospital garden and rubbed it on my feet. I never explained to the nurses why they were so dirty. You used to tell me that story because it is the memory you want it to be, not the memory that is.
There was something you could have done. He was three, Marco.
There was something we both could have done. You should have closed the window. I shouldn’t have left you with him; I had seen the bottle on the side.