she is a landmine that i haven’t yet learnt to defuse. weeks may pass, sometimes months where i tread my terrain with ease, i dance a complicated choreography over, under and around those hidden munitions with precision-like timing. i’m the artful dodger, dodging artfully. as artfully as a dodger can dodge. on those days when i tell our story and sing the songs that were ours i do so with a melodious intonation. i’m a rockstar rocking in my rockstar car.
until i’m not. step and stumble and click. the radio torpedoes a song i’m not prepared for. i’m reminded again why i only listen to my playlists. playlists are predictable. i know what’s coming next. there are no latent surprises on spotify. i’d stopped listening to the radio the day i fell apart doing a hundred on the freeway, the freeway that didn’t exist when she did, because when she existed life here was small and there were no roads taking us away to other places. doing a hundred through the sting and blur of tears is chancy at best, an invitation to dance with death himself at worst and who’s to say that’s a bad thing.
my car was once a cocoon of cigarette smoke and fast food trash. she sat beside me, making waves on the warm breeze with the passenger window down. the scent of her, stale tobacco and impulse – the purple one – a blanket to tuck around and under me when the world threatened to unravel us both.
sometimes i spy her in my peripheral vision, but if i turn my head to ask her why, she dissipates into the upholstery and i figure it’s because she can’t really give me an answer that would readily satisfy me.
there are streets i can’t drive down. familiar streets where she waits for me in her long black coat and sad red-lipstick smile by the kerb i once collected her from on her way home from somewhere that belonged to another part of her life, a secret part that she kept from me because she had her reasons and it’s too late for me to ask her what those reasons were.
i can conjure so many things about her. the way she squinted when she smoked. the way she fell on me when we were both wrecked on the tequila with the tiny sombrero cap and told me that she loved me, that i was the sister she wished she’d always had and she smiled her sister-smile just for me. the way her hairspray smelled and made her hair crunchy and i could feel its coarse springiness on my skin when we bent our heads close in cahoots with one another, when we’d pass a pen and old notebook back and forth over cappuccinos paid for with the loose change we scrounged together, and tell our story to each other even though we both already knew it by heart.
i can conjure so many things, but her voice? her voice is nothing more than a whisper deep in the soft marrow of my bones that i can’t quite hear, saying, goodbye i’m going don’t try to stop me i won’t take you down with me your place is here.