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Image by Drew Beamer


Fall in love again 

Through summers and winters - a whole decade of them – he entered her thoughts each  time she passed over a watery expanse, whether that was the rivers of Kingston, London,  or Paris, the crashing waves of Hong Kong. Traversing those bridges, so familiar in their  longing expansiveness, arcing over the running water, she felt pulled back to a time of  nostalgia, a time when she had loved. When she entered the sea of Hong Kong, navigating  the unruly waves, she remembered the piercing blue of his eyes, and the embers of their  love reignited. 

And now she stood alongside the Thames, just outside of Big Ben – his grandiose stature  reflected in the water, hidden behind scaffolding and flapping construction flags, dusty with  work. She spied the monument suspiciously; what a bizarre place to meet, she thought.  Perhaps it’s a metaphor for our broken connection – under construction, awaiting  renovation, soon to be reborn afresh.  

She felt giddy with the excitement to be seeing him again, it had been over a year, nearly  two, since their last encounter. A tearful walk around the cobbled streets of East London,  ending on a damp bench in January where she had declared her love. When he told her he  loved someone else, she congratulated him with a sad smile, but begged him with imploring  eyes to fold away her love like a map, and to remember it, for if on the off-chance he might  feel the same as she did again, he could unfold the map, retrace his steps… he could find  his way back again. 

She looked down to find her dress askew – a new green wrap-around, perfectly hugging the  shape of her breasts, occasionally parting to reveal seductively tanned legs. She was  confident she looked good today, she had spent time making sure of it – wearing her hair  with its natural wave, as he used to like, buying a dress the day before from an unfamiliar,  expensive French boutique, specifically in the same shade of green as her eyes, knowing  they had once been the feature he admired most. She was confident she had thought of  everything to make the day go as planned, to make the inevitable happen; to make him fall  in love again.

Saying Goodbye 

“Don’t throw those out,” he calls through the piles of open boxes and newspapers separating us. In my hands I hold a crusty jar of maraschino cherries, the label faded, the rim of the lid rusted shut. “They’ll be good for something.” 

Without protest, I shrug and place the jar on the countertop away from the rubbish bag pooling across the floor,  partially obscuring the grimy tiles beneath. I have learnt not to doubt my father – the inventor, the thinker, the clown.  He always has a trick up his sleeve, knows something that everyone else in the room doesn’t. He doesn’t brag about  it, instead imparting wisdom like one gifts magical experiences, always with a twinkle in his hazel eyes.  

Right now, my father is standing in the living room of his father’s home. My grandfather, Ben. I watch him from my  spot by the overflowing bin in the kitchen doorway, dust specks dancing around his frame in the morning light. Crystal  glasses and stained rugby trophies from 40 years ago adorn the glass-panelled cabinets behind him, cluttered with discarded foreign currencies, toothpicks, the occasional bent and dented Queen or Heart, the odd golf ball. The brown  carpet is thread bare. One spot near the hearth of the electric fireplace is worn right through to the boards, signposting  granddad’s favourite spot. His pea-green, lazy-boy armchair just beyond, surrounded by an army of empty Drambuie bottles, Schweppes lemon-lime soda, and an unopened bottle of grenadine. Not a glass in sight. 

Granddad died a few days ago, and my father has enlisted my help to clear out his house. This is the house my father  grew up in, I think, as I collect up the bottles one by one, careful not to spill their sticky contents on my fingers. This  is the house my grandfather lived alone in for the past 11 years. Eleven years alone… how must that have felt. My  grandmother’s neat porcelain collection has been overwhelmed by his inability to let go of any of their past, lest he  forget. Lest he be left alone with his own thoughts. 

“Are you thirsty?” My father’s question pierces the silence. I’m grateful for the interruption, I feel a familiar warmth prickling behind my lids, but I don’t want to cry today. I nod solemnly and follow my father to the cabinet. On his way, he bends down and grabs two bottles from the floor, before disappearing into the kitchen. I listen to the clunk clunk of ice cubes being broken out of an over-frosted freezer, as I admire a picture on the wall. It is a crocheted  

portrait of my grandparents dancing, which my grandmother stitched from a photograph, but she’s used a Mexican colour palette, “to emphasise the excitement of the day” my grandfather used to say with a nostalgic chuckle.  

When I turn around, my father has returned from the kitchen with a delicate glass in each hand. Inside each are chunks  of ice, swimming in a small font of translucent, red liquid, fizzing with bubbles. As I take my glass, I notice the twin  sugary globes nestled in the bottom, their stalks meeting at the top. They are so beautiful and vibrant, the same shade  of red as the swirl of my grandmother’s skirt on the wall. 

“A Shirley Temple,” my father sighs. “He always used to make me one when I was—” the end of his sentence catches  in his throat. Tears the size of the cherries form in the corners of his eyes and he glances down at his glass as they  start to pour down his cheeks. “Cheers… cheers to life…” he stammers, clumsily wiping at his cheeks with one hand,  as he salutes his parents’ smiling faces with the other.

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