Wales Arts Review asked some of Wales’s top writers to pen some thoughts on the future. This new series brings together a wide variety of perspectives and ideas in a vibrant array of styles and forms, expressing hopes for a new way of doing things when the Covid-19 coronavirus is finally overcome. Political, personal, sociological, ecological, cultural – this is an evolving tableau of ideas for the world as it is and how it might be. Here, Rosie Couch offers a eulogy to a world of empty spaces once filled by loved ones.
That earliest enwrapment of one female body with another can sooner or later be denied or rejected, felt as choking possessiveness, as rejection, trap, or taboo; but it is, at the beginning, the whole world.
Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution.
When you love someone but they die, you’re given a new world whether you like it or not. Deal with that, now. Live without her. I don’t think I can. Well, sorry but you have to. Loss doesn’t turn your life upside down. It blurs its edges, makes your surroundings bright and shrill. The familiar and predictable rears up. Any sense of control was a pretence, and life, really truly, has teeth. It did all along. Nobody told me? We did, you just didn’t think it would happen to you. You never do. Give her back. We can’t. You won’t. Alright then, we won’t. Have it your way. None of this is my way.
The new world is haunted by the last. By her? Isn’t it the same? You don’t believe all that, do you? She’s there, fleetingly, in the slight blonde women walking down the street, sharing my height. Unaware of the seismic pull I felt towards them in that slippery misstep of recognition. She’s there in the silence – which is really more like greying cotton wool or thick noise – when I realise I am reaching to call her, to tell her some good news, boring news, or ask whether substituting shallots for onions will really make that much difference to today’s convoluted recipe for one. I don’t know what to make of this new world.
When moving was difficult and sentience was slipping, she told me that she’d had to let go of a lot of things. To commit to the new world, I will have to let go of a lot of things, too. Does that mean letting go of her, too? You’ll get over it. It just takes time, you’ll see. I won’t, it’s more than that, it’s outside of time. I make myself malleable. I stay busy, take care, form new routines. It’s there at the end of the day, was only humouring me after all. Tapping its watch. Quite finished, are we? Now, look me in the face. So many of the thoughts and conversations spreading across these protracted days begin with ‘after this’. After this let’s meet, let’s never forget what we’ve seen, let’s shift into the new, new world with intention, meaning, and aspiration. I wish I could do this, I want to do this. Why can’t I just do this? We start with planning and end in longing.
I want her back. It is an uncomfortable and cloyingly obvious admission. I want, I want, I want. I want the world where she isn’t sick, or dying, or dead. If she still exists somewhere, which version of her is it? It is no small thing to want. To hold this want is one thing, but to name it, let it be seen, another thing entirely. And if you can’t have that? You can’t, by the way. Very much beyond our remit. In the new, new world I am sitting in the grass, contentedly untethered, drinking wine. Shoulders warmed by the sun, freckles plotting, a hand on my neck.
Rosie Couch is co-chair and editor of Assuming Gender.