• Vol. 01
  • Chapter 10

The Cerulean Song

Dearest Clementine,

Where to begin? At the end? In the middle? Somewhere else? Albert is dead. I can barely write those words, scrape into this white sheet of paper such letters, such shapes, terrible black rain falling from my fingers. How is it possible?
   We are, were (even grammar confuses me, death causes chaos to time and tenses) still in Paris. Albert had a heart attack four days ago, une crise cardiaque whilst playing chess with Boris at the café. Il n’a pas souffert, the French doctor said. What does this mean? Words seem senseless, absurd. We had only been away from London for three weeks; we should have been leaving for China today. Our journey of a lifetime…. Bing, bang, bong.
   I am planning to stay in this rented flat for another fortnight. (I found it through the site you recommended Air and B). There is a view of Parisian rooftops and a blue bathroom. The bathroom worries me. I clean it daily. The day Albert died, I started cleaning. I cannot stop, cannot. Scrub. Rinse. Polish. Wipe. Disinfect. Scrape the gung from the grouting between the tiles. Bleach. Spray. Water. Mousse. I wash, wash, wash until I can no longer, then I sleep, awake and wash more. My fingers are red raw. Peeling skin. The smell of the bleach burns my nose. I think, I am alive.
   The bathroom is immaculate, unsullied, ordered. I line up our toothbrushes like soldiers standing guard against the folly of this death; the nailbrush is by the tap, next to the green slither of soap. Albert’s electric toothbrush faces left, looks East to the rising sun. Next to the sink is a towel hanger, an empty loop in the blue. Sometimes, when I’ve finished, I let the water run, let it continue; and, it is soothing this gurgling stream in such a fractured, broken time.


The Cerulean Song

   Did you know the word clean comes from an old English word meaning, open, in the open? I think of this sitting in the blue bathroom, staring at the mirror, the door ajar. I feel like my world is shrinking to the size of a dot. I clean, it opens, open, in the open.
   Francois Cheng, a French Chinese philosopher writes that there is a moment of silence after death when only poetry and song can convey our grief. In the bathroom, washing, I write in blue, a terrible cerulean song.
   The funeral will be soon. I will ring you dear Clementine. Kiss the baby. I am so sorry to be the bearer of such news,

    Bises de Paris, love to you all,

    Your Aunt Dorothea.