Based on the poem Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney.
I remember the day it happened, the look the matron gave me, a woman I once believed was made of ice, now looking at me all teary eyed, like I was a lamb being sent to slaughter. It was nine o’ clock in the morning as she lead me to the sick bay; before it was the most exciting place to visit, nurse Lay used to hand out lollipops to the boys who were sick. However she just glanced at me and scurried away with her head down. I sat all morning, watching how people would walk past and never make eye contact with me, I counted the bells knelling classes to a close. At two o’ clock the matron returned and she asked me ‘urm Heaney, urm, yes follow me, your neighbours are ahh here to collect you. I’m um sorry’ she then left me alone on the steps of the school. I walked down to my neighbour’s car and awkwardly clambered into the back; me neighbours, Mr and Mrs Peters both gave me sad looks and started driving. I held onto my knees, hugging them closer to my chest to give me some stability which I knew I’d never have again.
The house always looked the same. No matter how long was between my visits. I hadn’t even entered the house when I was greeted by father on the porch, his face was blotchy and snot was dribbling from his nose, even when he saw me tears still ran down his face, he was standing outside know in the rain; I couldn’t distinguish between rain, tears and snot on his face. Then my father did something I’d never thought I’d hear, he was sobbing, loud, gaspy sobs. He went from just standing silently crying to crumbling to his knees, like he was a puppet and all his strings had been cut. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t comfort him, this was my father, my six foot, five burley father, I was unsure how to react. I felt my knees jerking and a lump in my throat but I couldn’t cry. Big Jim Evans approached me and put his big meaty hands on my shoulder, as we watched my father he told me ‘it was a hard blow’ he shook his head and followed my father outside. My father had always taken funerals in his stride, but not this one. Never this one.
I walked into the living room and was hit by the scent of lilies, the baby was in the corner, she cooed and laughed but mother refused to even look at her youngest child. Mother stood as far away from everyone as possible, her face still and tearless, I watched her for some time convinced she never blinked. Old men came and shook my hand the chorus of ‘so sorry’ or ‘sorry for your troubles’ were like a never ending flow. I heard people whispering about me to strangers, about my school, being the eldest, about our family. I walked through the sea of whispers to my mother in the kitchen entrance, there was no formal greeting, no words needed spoken. I stood next to her as she collapsed my hand in hers both of us still silent, me keeping my mother ground just by having my hand in hers, I heard her let out angry, tearless sighs. Both of us silently still, just watching, I occasionally nodded towards people. A giant blur of people.
By eight o’ clock everyone had left mother was in her room and father was in the garden, If I listen closed enough I heard them, my parents; my mother sobbing upstairs, every so often I heard something smash, my father presumably throwing the pots in the garden, smash, smash, smash. Aunt Eden had to take the baby, when her feeding time came, the adults tried to get mother to acknowledge the child, she refused. Mother couldn’t even support herself now let alone a child. And I was alone again.
At ten o’ clock I heard a car pull up, the ambulance had arrived, a nurse walked into the house, I showed her to the dining room. I watched her through a crack in the door, I never saw the corpse, and only watched as rivers of red blood was drained from its body into a plastic hospital bag. She fiddles with it for what seemed hours. My parents didn’t acknowledge her, once she was finished I closed the sitting room door and followed her to the door, she gave me a sad smile and ruffled my hair like I was child, and she climbed into the ambulance and left me. I decided that night I was to sleep in the sitting room, on the couch; I didn’t even put pyjamas on, but then nobody checked on me anyway…
We were running through fields laughing together, flowers were blooming everywhere and the sun shone down like gold oozing onto our skin. His copper hair glinted under the sun and he swung on the red swing, higher and higher he went until he couldn’t stop and he was flying, like an angel. Only he wasn’t an angel and he started falling down, crashing down until he his face hit the ground and that’s when I woke up screaming.
The next morning I went into the dining room, snowdrops covered the room and candles burnt on his bedside table as if soothing him. I hadn’t saw him in six weeks and this would be the last time. He looked paler now, no gaudy scars, no disfigured face, nothing like I had feared the bumper knocked him clean. At least he was clean and dressed in the suit he wore for my birthday yet somehow over the course of three months the suit didn’t fit it was baggy and looked old and nothing felt right, nothing would feel right again.
He lay still in the box, as if in a cot. The nurse laid him out straight, he looked stiff and uncomfortable, I reached out to his face, he was cold, I flinched at his touch, his cheeks sullen and his face sad in that uncomfortable little wooden box. A four foot box, a foot for every year.
That when I finally cried. I had lost him and that was final definitive. I would never have my brother, but I knew then I hadn’t only lost my brother, I lost my family in one swoop. We would never recover from this, none of us. The light had gone.