Writing Prompt: Recent Past

It felt like it was only yesterday when they‘d sat here together, looking out at the ocean. But time can be a slippery concept. There was a kind of disconnect during those brief, beautiful heartbeats when her mind somehow blocked out all that had changed in the past week. Those moments were fleeting, and reality seemed to be demanding more than she could manage.

Nora wondered if it had been easier in her mother’s time, or her grandmother’s era, this act of grieving. Wearing widow’s weeds was at least an outward sign of the turmoil within, a subtle request to be treated a little kinder or with more compassion as waves of grief were barely suppressed below the surface.

It would have shamed her, a month ago, to think that she could have been so rude to that telemarketer who had called last night. Nora had thought it was one of her sister’s phoning to see how she was – they seemed to have a roster in place as one or the other had been calling her since Ken had passed. But instead it was someone with the relentlessly cheerful tone of voice that covers a need to get someone to commit to something that they weren’t interested in. Nora had been polite, then firm, then told the young man to stop talking and leave her alone. There were a lot of other things she’d said, and it was only after she’d slammed the handset back into its cradle that she had the thought that the call was probably recorded. And that he was possibly a nice young man, just trying to earn a living. But in the moment she had been white-hot with rage. It was misdirected, of course, but that’s the thing about rage. And grief. They don’t adhere to societal norms.

In an act of self-preservation, she’d asked her son to make the necessary calls to family and organisations to let them know about Ken. Initially she’d made the calls herself, still numb with grief, but determined to do what had to be done. But before she was able to get all her words out, unwanted sentiment was expressed, or stories told of similar losses, of how lucky she was that Ken hadn’t suffered. She didn’t feel lucky. And she didn’t give two hoots about other people’s grief. It was like a filter had been corroded, and she struggled to be polite and listen as other people empathised with her. There was a wild, reckless desire to say what she really felt, and it was held in check by the barest thread of social conditioning. She knew that it wouldn’t take much for the thread to break.

It was better for all concerned if she simply sat here, on their seat, and looked out at the view. Nora closed her eyes, a hand held over her mouth as the ocean waves echoed the turmoil of her life which now seemed to be in freefall.

This piece was written to a prompt on the Writer’s Digest website. Recent Past: base your story in the recent past.

Photo: Nobby’s Beach, Newcastle, NSW

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