Gone

nong-vang-470941-unsplash.jpgI haven’t started the search for you today, but I find you on Google Maps. Virtual me stands looking at virtual you as you peg an army of shirts to the line, white snapping against blue. A good drying wind, you’d say.

When I zoom, you melt into a creamy streak. There’s a vanilla cable-knit in your wardrobe and I press my face into the wool. It smells of your body lotion. Oatmeal and shea butter. There’s an ivory bathrobe too, but that’s not what you’re wearing in the picture, because only slovenly women go outside in their nightwear.

Until two months ago. Your face was shadows and uncertainty beneath the streetlight, as I slipped my arm under yours. You hadn’t worn your slippers, so you sat on the edge of the bath with the water around your ankles, smiling and stroking my hair, as I scrubbed your blue feet pink. I smiled back, relieved you’d forgotten that this was your vision of shame.

The policeman, the one who showed me the security footage of you leaving the bank only minutes after me, says it’s unlikely you’re still alive. He sits with his knees apart, feeding the peak of his cap through his fingertips. I tell him again that I was tired. He says he knows. He’s sorry, and I know he’s thinking about the day you disappeared, when he chuckled and told me that new mothers forget their children all the time. I’d asked him if he knew whether children forgot their old mothers too. He’d looked wounded, as he does now, when I straighten and remind him that they haven’t found your body.

I wish I’d thought to ask you where you were going, those nights you left the house. Those nights when you forgot about me too.

I crawl my daily spiral outwards from the town centre until I find myself back at the last place you might remember as home. Against the greying sky a nightdress billows and a sleeve rises, pauses, in a wave. If I squint, the woman taking in the washing looks a bit like you.

Published by Reflex Fiction, August 2018

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