It was on my way home from my child's kindergarten that I heard them. Through the thickness of no tears, I heard church bells.
My son, he had forgotten his gloves. No, he is four. I had forgotten. I had to turn back.
After placing him in the car, I turned around and went back up for the gloves. I walked every step as if in a fog, a haze. The drunken haze of those who do not sleep. The drunken haze of those who overeat while they grieve over life.
Four minutes later I floated back down to the car. After having made overfriendly overtures to the people who care for my son. All day long. I am grateful. I observed myself presenting nearly hysterical levels of 'see how well I function and how normal I am?'.
That's when I heard them.
The church bells.
And I wondered why. Why now? Church bells at this time of day?
And then I realized. A funeral. Someone is mourning and someone is in pain and someone is, yes, someone IS crying. Expected, accepted, and acceptable tears that do not have to remain hidden. Unlike mine, my tears. So hidden that they are out of reach, no matter how hard I stretch, reach and grab for them. Unacceptable! Hidden.
And that is how I came to hide. At funerals. Funerals of people I did not know. All kinds. All kinds of churches and all kinds of people. Just so that I could claim a few tears. No one would notice. Just another mourner. Just another soul full of tears to be released. To be expected. Accepted. Acceptable. Poor soul.
Heather knew of no one else she could call. Her father had few friends left at his age. A neighbour and a home care nurse. A distant cousin and nephew and herself. That would be it. That would be all.
They would be all. They would be all the grief he had left behind. They would gather together and be polite and eat small sandwiches and drink too strong coffee. Black. And probably not even mention the man she had known all her life as Father.
And so it came as a shock that he had a secret life. And it was a life that was younger than her.
Who was she? The woman on the very last pew. Crying. Another daughter? Why had she not known?
Why had this woman been hidden? Was it out of fear? Anger? Shame? How should she reach out to this poor soul who was sitting at the back of the church crying? Such real and deep tears. Her love for Father must have been great. How could he have stolen from her this one chance at having a sibling? How could he have kept her hidden?
Martin was in a state of shock. His wife was gone. Drunk driver.
He was numb. He felt nothing and this scared him. It scared him more than the thought of being left completely alone. Completely alone to care for their 5 month old child. Lately Kate had seemed so distant. He had noticed the change right after Zachary was born. As if she were keeping a secret from him. He did not know how to reach her. He figured it was a 'new mother' thing or symptom. Something he would not be able to understand and should not even ponder to ask about. He would only make it worse.
But not this worse. She was gone. Walked over the street to borrow a pump. And never returned. Hit by a car. Volvo. White. Drunk driver. Dead.
And Zachary to grow up knowing even less of his mother than his father did.
So who was this woman at the back of the church who seemed to know more than he would ever be allowed to know? She was crying - it must be due to having the truth die. Some hidden truth and this woman. At the back of the church. She looked nowhere near familiar and yet the sense of grief and tiredness that she released overwhelmed him with what felt like his own skin. Like home.
Was she a friend? A lover, sitting here in pain.
The scum bucket is dead. My husband the sleaze is dead.
He was drunk - as always - and driving his damn Swedish made car and he slammed into a brick wall after bouncing off of a woman.
The two-timing scum bucket is dead and yet I cannot stop crying. And I do not know why.
One of his many lovers is at the back of the church, crying. I almost feel the need to comfort her slutty self.
Maybe she knew some truth about him that I did not? Maybe he kept the good sides of himself hidden? The sides I once knew. And maybe he shared them with her? Maybe? Maybe I missed out and it was all good and yet hidden under ounces and litres of alcohol.
He was good once. Once he was good.
But he is gone now.
There. It's time. The church bells.
Goodbye Harry. I am to follow you out now.
I must not forget my gloves.
Lødøen, Norway (snapshots)
photo: Boris Brockmann, Germany