Shook from semi-solid sleep. No dreams the night before. Above me, the face of my aunt with invisible strings of some emotion tugging at eyes and mouth.
-come kiss your daddy for the last time.
Did she speak those words? Or do I use them now, as putty in the gaps of that day?
Still there he lay, still.
Eyes closed, a cruel imitation of sleep.
My grandmother with her eyes bleeding salt and furious prayer frothing from her lips, while my father’s brother, the Imam, ties a strip of white calico around my father’s head and jaw, wrapping a gift for Allah?
Because that was where daddy was, they told me. With Allah.
What six-year old knows of ritual and rigor mortis.
My aunt leads me to where he lay.
Sleeping daddy. With Allah.
That I remember.
But not much of the rest.
Just the house, a haven for tears.
And the women, these nebulous shapes in black, on the blankets spread out where the lounge furniture used to be.
Tissues and tears. And prayer.
And a bulk swathed in white in the middle.
Where was my mother?
I found her in another room, looking small and distant, as only the bereft can.
I was held close, smothered by the heaviness, infused with her desperation and stifled by what I didn’t understand.