'We're only taking turns, holding this world,
it's how it's always been, when you're older you will understand'
- The Fray.
'And the hardest part was letting go not taking part,
you really broke my heart'
'There's no light in the hall, there's no sound here at all,
emptiness, emptiness rules'
My suitcases wait by the apartment door. I’m almost ready to leave. Almost. There is no way I can stay here any longer. This place is saturated with too many painful memories. Too much history. This is the right thing for me to do. This is the only thing for me to do. If I stay here, I will be stuck in the past - stuck in my memories - which I cannot bear to recollect. If I stay here, I will fall apart.
I take a deep breath and head over to the open living room window. I feel as though I am treading through a thick fog of memories, threatening to resurface in the depths of my mind. The more steps I take, the more the fog hounds me, the more it is kicked up by my feet, the more it begins to penetrate my mind. Inevitably, the memories are impossible to repress. Like ghosts they appear to me, untouchable yet hauntingly visible.
I pass the kitchen door and I see him laughing at the cooking creation in his hands, a cake tin which contains a blackened inedible lump, his face and hair covered in flour. I pass the television and see him throwing popcorn at it in protest as his favourite character leaves the television series he watches so religiously. I pass the sofa and see him studying for his next exam, books and papers littered all around him, his face wrinkled into a frown as in vain he tries to understand his lecture notes. Everywhere I look another memory of my brother appears and then disappears as soon as it arrived. Each one a stab to my heart. Instantaneous. Excruciating. I can’t stay here. I can’t.
I clench my eyes shut, somehow thinking that if I close my eyes, I can also close my mind. Foolish thinking. I rub my eyes and open them slowly. I reach the window and pull it closed, firmly locking it. I pull down the blinds, blocking out the early morning sun. The apartment is now bathed in shadow. The shadow of the day. If only it was as easy to block out my memories as it is to block out the sun. I turn my back to the window and look at the empty apartment before me. A year ago, this place was so full of life, had such a happy atmosphere, everything was so positive. Everything was going right. And now...the silence says it all. Funny how everything can change so suddenly. How someone can be here one minute and gone the next. It’s so sudden. So abrupt. So merciless.
The only items I have left to sort out are the dozen or so leaving cards that friends have sent me, pleading for me to stay. The cards are carefully arranged along the mantelpiece. I walk over and collect them all before dropping them resignedly in the bin. No point keeping the pleas and appeals that I don’t plan on listening to. A vase of flowers sits in the centre of the mantelpiece. They were given to me the day of his funeral. Three weeks ago. The tulips and roses are all dead now, drooping over the edges of the glass vase, staring at the floor. The flowers looked beautiful when I first received them. Colourful, blossoming, sweet-smelling. Now they are decaying, their fragility and shortness of life all too apparent. Just like my brother. I throw the flowers, complete with vase, in the bin too. The flowers remind me too much of what I am running from.
I walk to the front door and take one last look at the apartment. My past. Tears begin to form in my eyes. I grab hold of my two suitcases and leave the apartment before my emotions get the better of me. Before I stop and change my mind about leaving. Before there is any room for regret. Sometimes goodbye is the only way. I lock the door and feed the keys through the letterbox. Done. A wave of relief immediately washes over me.
As I take the lift down to the lobby and leave the block of flats, the sun’s rays greet me. Warming my face. Giving me hope. Filling me with some positivity. I feel as though my brother is shining down on me, telling me that this is the first day of the rest of my life. That I will be happy again. That he will make sure of it. I smile for the first time in weeks. I walk away. Into my future.
Just as the sun rose this morning to signal my leaving and guide my way, it will set in the evening as I reach my new destination. My new home. My new life. The sun will set. It will give me closure and reassure me that this painful chapter of my life is almost over, just like the day. My brother is gone, but never will he be forgotten. And I will hear my brother’s voice whisper with the wind: The sun will set. For you.