I’m holding your birthday Lily in the palm of my hand, no present to adorn with it and no grateful kiss in reciprocation. Unrequited love is the constant for a grieving heart.

The winter evening closes in on a person at this time of year, just moments ago fine late autumnal sunshine coloured the living room wall, now a naked tree’s veined silhouette is projected from the toxic orange street light.

Your glasses collect dust under the cherry red lamp on the side table, there is something particularly affecting about this. A pair of glasses comes as close to a living appendage an object can, seeing all we see, changing our appearance and shaping the world around us. The square of light reflecting on their lens has my mind wandering back to candle lit evenings of our youth.

When true love takes a grip on the heart, it does so by moulding itself to one’s form, like a deep red silk sheet falling upon the body, softening each contour, covering everything in the softest of hues while suffocating those foolish enough to fight against it. All previous love seems sharp, harsh and hurried, permeating little more than the outer shell, inspiring spectacular yet short lived withdrawals.

I often pause here at the bottom of the staircase, still expecting to see you at its top, smuggled under that pale spearmint blue dressing gown which looked as flammable as it did static filled. I’m not sure which thought scares me more profoundly, the shock of seeing you there or the little deaths of not.

I don’t sleep in our bed any longer; it has grown in your absence and refuses to warm my body. It’s as if its circuitry is faulty, but I can’t seem to relinquish my hold on anything between these life-scorched walls.

I’m peering out of our bedroom window to the distant sight of a couple kissing under a lamp post on the corner; winter is the season for lovers, encouraging the warmth of intimacy. Their breath dances vividly upon each kiss, drawn to the sky, lost forever. The cruellest part of love is that each moment is fleeting, a kiss cannot be held within cupped hands or on the lips of those who sire it. Like attempting to catch yourself sleeping, it is destined to be lost unless you are.

I’m sat on the edge of the bed, looking through old pictures I know as intimately as my own skin, often catching myself staring longingly at old wallpaper or glimpses of furniture; it’s amazing how evocative the small details in a photo can be. This particular one is from a Christmas which I cannot place; it has that old wooden clock we both disliked standing over you, which now seems like a kindly protector in the sepia tones of decades old photographs and I miss it like a lost friend.

A singe tear criss-crosses my cheek, forming a pattern akin to the crack on your favourite tea cup — I cry without sound or expression recently, to make a fuss only exhausts me further.

Steadying my heartbeat, I make my way downstairs.

The bannister still holds several jackets of yours, hidden under the heavy grey overcoat you insisted on buying for me last year. In the stark shadows of winter, this pile of stitch and cloth adopts the ominous posture of a Victorian Hunchbacked Villain.

I wrap myself in the familiar scent of feint dampness and step out onto the frost sparkled street.

With renewed focus and a single Lily between my gloved fingers, I’m making my way to your favourite bench, up the steep incline you found so difficult to traverse in the last months, practically carrying you the last painful steps but it was wondrous to see your sallow skin sun tinted and the translucent blue of your eyes catching sight of swaying tree tops once more. Summer seems a life time ago now.

The wind carries daggers that invade my bones as I take my place on our bench’s left side; you were always drawn to its right. How peculiar these habits of territory are, cultivated without thought and carved out over time like the melted form of steps at a busy underground station.

I’m clasping The Lily tightly in the absence of your hand.

Passing night clouds like black smoke drift past a liquid full moon with which my breath seems impatient to join, everything is busy going somewhere.

I place the Lily beside me, my hand dwelling on it briefly before departing back to the skeletal pattern of streets below. I don’t think I’m ready to dwell in thought at home yet; I’d rather walk the back streets and talk for a while if that’s OK with you?

I can feel your arm linked in mine, carrying ME this time, easing my gait and lifting my spirit. I can smell the Lily’s scent upon the tips of my gloves as I breathe hot air into my stiffening fingers and I’m lost in memory once more.

Anniversaries are superfluous reminders in truth, it’s in silence and the mundane that you invade thought, finding energy in my stillness, something I would not change for the world.

Happy birthday Lily, may your scent remain on my fingertips and your memories remain in my heart.


© Copyright Dean Stephenson 2013

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