I Watched and Acted Wordlessly
Was there a third state, that was neither conscious nor unconscious? Faith thought there must be, because her dad had evidently been in neither of those states. If he had been unconscious the nurses would have been doing things, there would have been action around the bed. If he had been conscious, he would have opened his eyes at least once, and he would have answered her. Faith had Googled “conscious”, and he wasn’t that, and she had Googled “unconscious”, and he wasn’t that either. So she had asked one of the nurses. She had used an apologetic tone, she had laughed at herself, she’d been sipping water from a paper cone. Is he, you know… conscious? she had said. And the nurse’s face had said: the answer to that question is too obvious for one human to speak out loud to another human.
Faith put on a black skirt. Downstairs, her mum’s face was surrounded by steam. Her mum had been crying all night and she was still crying now, and she was going to be the centre of attention, and steam was coming off her, to show she had suffered, but also, to protect her. It was time to go to the crem.
Faith followed her mum and her sister and stepped out of the car onto gravel. She scanned the people already there, they were moving around. Even though all of them were wearing black, it didn’t make her like them any better. Every time a face she knew swivelled around, Faith said to herself: I hate you and I hope that you die.
Faith followed her mum and sister to the front row, the motivator had told them that they were to go in first and sit on the front row, on the side nearest the casket. She sat down and started to move her head forwards and backwards in a way that wasn’t nodding or dancing. The entrance song started, the song they had all agreed on, at the meeting with the motivator, and Ringo Starr was singing.
All Faith had to do was stay seated, and she had the same kind of feeling that she would have if she was about to be awarded the Gold Cup at school, maybe for translation. She didn’t want the cup because she knew that if she got the cup, the girls would come for her at break, all four of them. Two would take her arms, and two would take her legs. The two with her legs would work together to open her legs, and the two at her arms would take the gold cup from her hands and they would put it in between her legs, and they would walk her round the playground like that, aiming the cup at the boys, and making sounds with their mouths like she was pissing.
Faith didn’t turn around but the room felt full. Somebody who looked like the motivator made a short speech, and near the end of each sentence, she slowed her speech down, and when she had finished, Faith said to herself: bullshit. Then the sister made a speech and cried, and the sister’s daughter recited a poem and everybody cried and clapped, and Faith’s right hand was hot around her phone and her left hand was hot around the clay model of her dad that she’d made when she was about ten, that she'd found in his old medicine drawer. Faith played with the tiny model, rolled it around in her fist, fingered its limbs.
Faith’s mum made a speech and Faith thought, very nice, and she tried to wink at her mum, but there was steam surrounding her mum's face, and both of Faith’s eyes were twitching anyway, the right and the left, so that winking would mean nothing, even if her mum could have seen it through the steam. Faith’s mum was helped back to her seat by the sister’s husband, and the exit song came on. The song had always made Faith think of youth club and tutti frutti strips, but from now on she knew it would make her think of death, and watching people talk and cry through steam. Let’s sway, while colour lights up your face.
The room emptied, and Faith looked over at the casket. They had all chosen it together, at the meeting, so she knew what colour it would be, and she got up and walked just a couple of steps diagonally across the diamond carpet, so she was close enough to touch it. She opened her hand to put the clay doll on top of the casket as a present, a memento, and she saw it was now in two parts, the head had come away from the body. Faith gasped and she looked around, but no one had seen her, and she balanced the head and the body on top of the casket, close to each other, and Faith thought it was okay, everything is okay in death, she thought, and she left the room.
There were relatives everywhere, and Faith moved along the buffet table and thought about the only two things that made her feel full, things she barely ever ate. Jelly babies and cheesecake, she thought, so specific, she thought, happily. Faith smiled at a few relatives and thought about the words: weird, lazy and fat. She was carrying a white plate against her stomach and she kept walking and then she remembered a tray of jellied sweets made to look like jewels, and she remembered they had been hers, given as some kind of consolation prize, by her parents, and she had kept them for years in her desk. They had been giant, and they had been labelled, with names of jewels, and they were beautiful and they would have filled her up, but she had kept them unopened in her desk, secured in their spots in the tray.
Back at her mum’s, halfway up the stairs, on her way to take off her skirt, Faith said: I think clothes will be totally different by the time it’s my funeral, I don’t think skirts will even exist. Her mum was standing up eating a bowl of porridge at the bottom of the stairs.Faith said: People will probably just wear things that follow body shapes then. So clothes will be like a second skin. Her mum put her porridge bowl down and re-tied her dressing gown tie and smiled.Faith said: Don’t you think? and her mum said: If you say so. Maybe there will be something important between the skin and the clothes, Faith said. Some kind of pollution protector or cancer protector. And maybe people will be able to inject it themselves, through some kind of injection port.
Faith came down to sit next to her mum on the sofa and her mum watched the news and Faith started to fall asleep and as she started falling asleep she remembered going down to get art supplies from Hades. She remembered a teacher looking at a hole at the elbow of her cardigan and saying it’s people like you. She stopped falling asleep and thought about the hole in her cardigan and thought, half-happily, it’s people like me. The news was just ending, Faith saw a logo of the earth on the screen, and she realised then that she had never tried a gobstopper and now it felt too late, it felt like it would be obscene to try a gobstopper now, at her age, and she started to fall asleep again and the weather forecast started.
Adelaide Faith is a vet nurse and zine maker from London and Hastings.