If grief were blood, mine would not run red. No, it would ink out black and thick and pool like tar. It would ooze and dry on skin, caking arm-hair and staining veins, changing my prints forever. The black would look purple in dying light, change to midnight blue from an angle. It would run slow.
For how could my pain be the colour of strawberries we once ate? How could I leak the crimson of birthday roses and the shades of a setting sun? My missing you would not burn the light of a Chinese lantern, nor be the red of a bubble heart. It would burst like an ink cartridge popped in a mouth and spat out in pools of ugly black.
In the morning, before the day has burnt through my eyelids and forced me from dream, I would bleed the grainy cream of the walls we once painted. The cream of walls that will never truly belong to anyone, not really. Cream dirtied with blu-tack marks and pinpricked with holes. Layered cream from the hasty repaints between tenants. Cream stripped and stolen of colour or memory. It would puddle on my bedsheets and soak into the pillow, soppy like wallpaper paste. Were it red, they might think I’d killed myself to take the pain away.
When I’d wake, sticky, my veins would clot. The grief would wait, just for a second, for my brain to recognise it. A few beats of my heart when you could be still here, stirring a spoon in a china cup in the kitchen or already outside and running through dewy grass. Best, still sleeping and warm under blankets, mouth half open and eyes shut against the rising sun. But these are seconds of trickery and full of malice. When the light comes and the eyes open, when those seconds have been snatched away by cruel consciousness, the black grief chokes, coughs, gurgles and splutters at the cut. It pulses out of me, desperate. I think I see it curdle on my skin. On the darkest days, I fear it will come in tears from eyes and blood from nose, sweat from every pore until surely there can be nothing left inside. But those are the days when the dark spring deep inside me never runs dry.
In the quiet of some afternoons, maybe it would spill yellow. When I’m washing dishes, hands inside soapy water and wrists hotly wet, staring out at a cornflower blue sky over the garden and following the dives of the swallows, maybe in those moments, blood would catch the sunlight and glisten. For these are the moments when you come to me in sweeter memories, when the thought of your face does not smack and beat the breath from my chest. I hear your laugh in the house and your heavy tread on the stairs, know what you would say and the tone that you’d say it in. I remember a holiday, a weekend, a birthday, a joke you told. The stretch of a smile on my lips feels strange, like moving a broken bone.
Some days, they say, the grief won’t rear its ugly head at all. I’ll wake up and wash my face and the mirror won’t seem scary. I’ll make breakfast and think nothing of only pulling one mug from the cupboard. I’ll listen to different music in the car, sing in the shower, re-decorate. New people, people who don’t know I’m broken, won’t mention your name. The pain will stop bleeding, pouring, drowning out of me in waves and soaking all that I am and do.
I imagine the years as sticky plasters, staunching the flow and leaving grubby marks on healing flesh.
But if grief were blood, mine would not run red.