You are telling me something I don’t want to hear. You are telling me the honest truth.
We are standing in the garden and it is dusk. There are rain clouds in the sky and midges and someone is planting a rose bush in the garden next door. The telephone is ringing.
The telephone is ringing. I run into the house and pick up the receiver. The telephone is pressed against my ear, someone is calling and I am answering. I am saying hello into hard black plastic but I hear the dial tone and the ring tone happening at the same time. Someone is missing. Someone is trying to get through. And then I remember there is a bird in the garden that imitates a telephone when it sings. I can see it now in the tree in the garden where you are telling me the honest truth. It is singing in an old-fashioned ring tone, it is singing like a landline. I run back into the garden.
We are standing in the garden and it’s autumn and there’s a bird in the tree that imitates a telephone when it sings. Your hair is silver but you are not old. Under your soft silver hair is your skull with your central nervous system inside it. It is dusk and it has started to rain. The roots of the eucalyptus tree that grows in the garden are spreading under the house. Our daughter is sleeping inside the house under a photograph of the sea. She is covered in a thick blanket. Her bed stands on a green carpet. There are two stains on the carpet.
You are wearing a white shirt and a suit and under your soft silver hair is your skull. While you speak the honest truth I am thinking about the time we ate horse steaks in Paris. The waiter served the dish of the day and the dish of the day was horse. It was like eating a unicorn in the twenty-first century. My iPod was playing a song we’d never heard before. You untangled the headphones and pressed them into your ear and you lifted my fingers and pressed them into your mouth.
But now we are standing in the garden and the telephone bird has stopped making calls no one answers. The car alarms and police sirens have stopped too. Silence is cruel in cities where missing people need to hide in noise. But we are standing in the garden in the rain and you have not stopped telling me the honest truth and I wonder if the telephone bird will one day learn to sing computer start-up sounds.
Your silver hair is wet. Our daughter is pretending to sleep inside the house under a photograph of the sea and she’s listening to the rain which always makes sorrow bigger and hard things softer. I walk towards you, bumping into things on the way. Kissing you is like new paint and old pain. It is like coffee and car alarms and a dim stairway and a stain and it’s like smoke. I am looking into your eyes and I can’t get in. You have changed the locks and I have an old key that doesn’t fit and our daughter is making her way across the garden towards us, holding her thick blanket. You are telling me you are dead, and I say yes, I know you are. We miss you and since you've gone I've forgotten all my pin numbers, I can’t remember the code to my gym locker or where the honey is or where I put the blue pillowcase - and could you tell me, again, where exactly the sea is, in that photograph?