Writing about grief does feel like an indulgence, and yet writing is how I deal with most things so it would be very odd not to write about it. I have also wanted to write a kind of ‘testament to friendship’ for some time, because without my friends I’m not sure where I would be.
* * *
Layla Rahman does two rounds of the apple orchard and waves at the chickens. There is no marked improvement in her mental health so she catches a bus to the coast where she buys sorbet and walks barefoot by the water. The sand is cold and compact. A walking meditation.
On the bus she’s half-asleep and there’s sand in her hair and a patch of it on each knee and her bag’s open, but who cares.
‘Are you alright, Love?’ asks a lady with a labradoodle.
‘Yeah,’ she says.
The lights on the bus flicker and there’s pressure at the back of her eyes. Perhaps her face is rejecting her eyes, she thinks, or her mind.
At home she sits on the sofa with her coat on, shaking. She rings a friend.
He says, ‘Don’t be so hard on yourself, these things take time.’
‘Ok,’ she says, and hangs up. She tries to breathe the way she’s taught herself to, the way the Buddhists and the sane people do. Because she doesn’t want to be mad to the grave and mad through the afterlife. This is her fear: that the rage cannot be contained by a mere nine decades and will instead run on and on.
Stop it, says her friend. Of course it’s not right. Take your time. Take it. We are here.