by Farzana Amehd
‘Are you alright?’
‘Yes. Are you alright?’
The line crackles and there is a silence we cannot fill.
‘Yes. I am alright.’
Good. We both nod at our own receivers, breathing deeply together, synchronised and loud, our collective sigh filling the air between us.
You went to visit your relatives, three thousand miles away, before all of this started and I encouraged you to go. You needed to go. There was the inexplicable pull of family ties, the connections to people who had not set eyes on you for years, but I understood. They knew you despite the years of absence; they bled the same and lived the same in that foreign land you only visited as a youngster. You told me you got terrible food poisoning as a teen, that you drank something from a street vendor and the weeks and months that followed were filled with appointments, pain and the sickly yellow pallor of illness. Another time you told me of staying inside for four weeks because your family declared it unsafe, going out only when accompanied by your uncles, and even then, briefly and for a drink, a snack, a short walk along the beach, reading, endlessly reading War and Peace in a few short weeks, a feat narrated to impress me.
Death pulled you towards them, the loss of the final grandparent was a tie too strong to ignore. You needed to celebrate and mourn in person, not over a telephone call or a WhatsApp group. You made the journey to span fifteen years of absence, now there you are. And here I am.
But I do not miss you. To miss someone implies a feeling of absence, a void, a gap where they once existed and a gap that remains until they return. There is no gap and no void where you once were. You are just never missing. I declare again that I do not miss you and I know you will understand. You feel my absence in relation to my presence in a way I never do yours. But you understand that I do not miss you.
“There is no gap and no void where you once were. You are just never missing. I declare again that I do not miss you and I know you will understand.”
I see you on screens and hear your voice with your face in a way that I never could before we were married. But hitting send, pressing pause, opening a digital photograph does not fill your absence in like a telephone call over a crackling line. Seeing you on a screen is not enough intimacy so we pick up the phone, over and over. The flooding of my brain with your voice over a delayed phone line wraps itself around me and we both relax, present in the face of three thousand miles of absence. We muse about how, even now, despite the wonders of modern technology telephone lines across oceans still scrunch and crackle and fizz; we ask about the alrightness in each others’ lives, habitually with every call, everyday, without apology. Somehow, by voicing it out loud over the phone, we traverse continents and everything is alright. Even if it is not.
Farzana Amehd | @farzana_writes
Farzana lives in Leeds with her two daughters and her husband. She divides her time between knitting, reading and sewing, often simultaneously, whilst caring for her children, writing in the stolen moments to stay sane and make sense of life.