It was Malcom by Clare Marie Salokoski
Warm breaths fogged the glass. As she looked out from the frosty Wednesday morning window. Gosh, she thought, this coffee had better taste good.
Her hands were a little cold from a, forgetting her gloves on this first icy morning of late October’s autumn; and b, from bicycling all the way from her inner-city apartment to the coffee shop. She had gone the scenic route, through all the auburn and gold leafed parks she could, and also by the high walled waterways. The morning air was hard on her.
She cradled the cup of cappuccino in her hands, drawing the warmth into her fingers and savouring the slight burn on her frosted skin that it brought. This had been a hard morning.
The telephone had rung at 3am. It was her Mam calling. She had pictured her father, sprawled out dead somewhere, his troubled heart health to finally have taken him over. No, it was worse. Her own beautiful, beautiful brother. Malcom. He had fallen into tragic circumstances, in a motor bicycle incident. In the early hours.
It was such a shock. She wasn’t sure if she screamed or was silent, but the whole floor, room, earth had fallen out from beneath her. She was left in some sort of darkness, breathing heavily, the earth silent and holding breaths. “Mummy?” she remembered groaning.
A sip of coffee, a twirl with the spoon. Scooping up the white flesh of the coffee attendant’s efforts, milk froth. With every spoon, she tried to calm herself. He had been hers. Not hers… but hers. A brother was special. At least her brother was. “Oh, Malcom!” she mouthed to the window frame. She buried her head in her hands. “What have you done!” She mouthed again, but she was sure nobody had heard her, not even the pigeon’s gathering outside. She drained the cup.
What does one do on the day that your brother is dead, she thought, as she reclaimed her bike, and started a slow cycle? And where should she go? Home? To a park, library, or friend’s couch?
She booked her plane ticket. It was easy to want that, when you were living seven hundred stories from hope. She imagined the dirtiness of the city, with scenic decay where she was from. It was such a contrast to the clean streets of the inner city in London where she currently found herself. But both cities had those contrasts, if only you stood in the right spot. She could smell the rosewater, turmeric and dust, and see the colours. Sometimes she missed those colours. There were things she didn’t miss.
And then there was chai. Family time. But she wondered now how Mummy would take it, now that she drank coffee.
Laura was her best friend. Delightfully Spanish and speaking both Spanish and Portuguese with a deft tongue. Suneela found herself firmly planted around her kitchen table.
“And! Darling, Suneela!” she announced loudly in English, “What is it?”
Suneela took a deep and shaky breath in, telling her all the troubles.
Laura pulled her by the hand to the couch and grabbed an old doona. Snuggled tight, they sat there in each other’s arms. Then, she told her everything she thought she knew about her brother, everything that was great. All the stupid stories. And sometimes they cried, even when laughter crept into them. When the words ran out, they just sat there, silently. Laura mopping up the river of tears. Somehow the world seemed darker then, as the lights crept out.
Hours later, Laura was making an extraordinary coffee for Suneela. Again, her fingers gripped the warmth of the cup, and the tastes rolled off the tongue. “Malcom”, she sighed. But the earth kept turning. In a way, it did. And the words were lost in the sound of her breaths.
The journey seemed short. The plane touched down. She climbed in and out of rickshaws. Then a short train, and into a family car. The town was a city, and the city had a life of its own. The day sparkled fresh and warm, and felt almost like a paradise. Compared to that frosty cold of London the day she had left. What was it they called it in literature, she mused? Old London town?
When she saw her Mum and Dad, the tears cascaded down. Mummy broke first. The flood gates were open, and for two or three days they did little else. Talking about mundane things, or memories of Malcom. Silent walks together. Chai. Coffee. Oh! He had been so great.
An old boyfriend popped by the house. He had popped back from mid-semester university studies in America some place. All for Malcom. Perhaps for her, too.
They sat, the light trailing on her balcony, alone, each with coffee and their own thoughts. The chocolatey and bitter arabica taste soothed her nerves, and gave her a bit more life. This was going to be a hard year, she mused, as Arjun’s eyes met hers, unguarded, and they both smiled. She for the first time in days.
It was nice they found each other before the funeral. Really, she thought, hurriedly. He was holding her up.
Decisions she made were falling leaves on falling graves, and as the light faded, the coffin closed, and all the love was poured on top in the form of flowers. A floral tribute of goodbyes, flooding, a soul already gone.
The days afterwards faded into monotony. Arjun met her in anxious moments. It added life and colour to otherwise hard and dark times. She wondered if there would ever come a time again for joy and amusement. It seemed like the sadness was a wave that had washed into and on her, and she rode it. Coffee with Arjun were the exceptions to those times. But still.
Then, on the morning she was due to leave back for London, there he was, on her doorstep, holding her favourite bag of coffee beans. The ones they had drunk together all those times, grieving for her lost brother. A little light, a little dark roasted. He was there, in offering, so sweet, and a single rose.
In sadness, she recognized a happiness. And she cupped his face with her palm and kissed his cheek. “Arjun”, she said. And for the first time in days, she smiled.
This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. For more information, see my disclosures here.