by Jessica Patient
I found the advert online while I was purging my life of you – cropping, blocking, erasing – so much easier when there’s a delete button. Shame there isn’t one for real life so I can forget you. It sounded too ‘self-helpy’ for me – the ultimate way to unleash yourself from the past – a journey into space, release memories into a black hole, guaranteed enlightenment.
The idea grew while I slept, and it was definitely more exciting than filling up the car with our junk and driving to the recycling centre. Our memories would still be there, drifting towards the event horizon long after we’re both gone. The hardest part was packing up everything which reminded me of you – I’ll be going back to a bare flat.
If you knew I was doing this, then I wonder if you would have stopped me. I imagine some grand, over-the-top, filmic-like gesture – you running across the departure lounge while in slow motion I hand over my ticket. You would grab my hand just as I start to board, and pull me into your body, crying or maybe not crying, but you would definitely be saying sorry. Except that didn’t happen – I boarded with no fuss, only a quick glance over my shoulder just in case, with an empty stomach, ready for hyper-sleep. One good thing about hyper-sleep is the deep emptiness – no dreams of you.
Waking up, thousands of light years from earth, and from you; a wall of Perspex boxes, not completely transparent, its cloudy texture concealing the contents, ran along one wall of my suite, lids bulging. Eight years’ worth of memories all stuffed, and wrapped in bubble wrap. I woke up thinking you were there but it was only the aroma of the spicy aftershave you left behind, leaking and seeping into the carpet. Instantly regretting paying extra for a room with a window – it’s just endless emptiness of black on the other side of the glass.
Standing in the control room, watching as the technicians filled the cargo bay with the boxes, carelessly dumping them, nudging the boxes along with the tips of their boots to slide them into place. I want to shout at them to be careful but I stop myself. I shouldn’t care anymore. The counsellor, constantly smiling, constantly dressed as if it’s summer with loud prints and wavy hair, rests one hand on my shoulder, presumably to hold me back from charging down to the cargo bay and barricading myself with my boxes, begging to go home. Her long finger with immaculate sparkly nail varnish points at the button, once white but now grey around the edges, looks just like any other button on the console.
My finger, with chewed nails, lingers over the button as this uneasiness in my stomach starts to ripple through my whole body. The counsellor says a few words of encouragement but I can’t really hear what she’s saying. You are stuck in my head, thinking about the time when we were huddled under a tree during a summer shower, both of us whispering, even though there was no one around, about our plans for the future, with my back pressed up against the tree, and you nibbling my neck. And then I remember me curled up, crying, on the kitchen floor, the tiles are cold on my cheek, with you standing next to me, no emotion in your face.
Hurting my finger as I press down on the button, and holding it down long after the doors are open. Pressure is sucked out, boxes lift up, breaking out of the piles, lids burst off, boxes tumble and roll, bouncing off the walls. It’s like watching water swirl around a plughole, going around and around the loading bay before being drained out into space. There’s another button, a smaller one, tucked to the side, for shutting the bay doors, and restoring the air pressure to save anything which hasn’t been dragged out to space. But I don’t want to go back.
Our mug collection from all of our holidays bashes against the walls, tumbling and colliding, and that blanket – the one your mum knitted for the baby that was never conceived – floats out into space, icicles weaving themselves into the pattern. A photo frame of our smiling faces, hugging each other, at a friend’s wedding, looking like our love would be a never-ending story, floats out of the bay doors, further away from me. Memories of us tumble slowly towards the event horizon, scattering the ashes of our relationship across space.
Time slows down – that picture of us smiling next to an ice cream van will spin, and swirl long after we’re both dead.
Jessica is currently redrafting a novel, and has another one buried deep in the bowels of her laptop. She lives here on the internet: www.writerslittlehelper.blogspot.com.