OK, ok, I attempt it, I was trying to ‘normalise’. What’s that development cycle I learnt in teacher training? – ‘storming, norming, performing’. I was ‘norming’ or trying my damnedest to. TBH, I thought I was doing pretty well, keeping it all hidden. Success of some kind.
Today, you see, should have been Beth’s 28th birthday. Four years forever 24.
My brother and I got to our seats for the first home game of the season. About 2.50pm it was, minutes counting to the inaugural kick-off. Whilst he chatted with our regular next seat occupants, I casually scanned the fading blue plastic of our season ticket seats. Inadvertently, I brushed my fingers against the number inscribed on my seat. I looked up to the north stand, then to the cop, to weigh up my predictions for the game’s attendance, a home-game ritual of some 18 years.
Then I chanced upon the sky above.
I don’t remember its colour or hue, nor whether I fancied rain or clear. I just suddenly felt a gap opening, a gulf of a gap, a space, opening up right in front of me. An almost three-dimensional space, a suddenly very tangible, very real void, a space, right there in front of me. Or maybe it was somewhere inside of me – in my chest, in my lungs.
It felt like a vacuum of molecules, a buzzing collection of micro particles that should, by rights, have been there, in tangible form. I felt like I could actually touch it, put my hand out now and touch it. It was an irregular shaped thing with soft, rounded edges, beautiful and random, made up of intricate intertwining patterns of pure space. It hovered just in front of me (or was it inside me?). It was there just as soon as I had noticed it was there, as soon as I clocked it.
It took my breath away. Gasping. Just for a moment. A split second, a molecule of a second, in amongst the sea of fellow football fans and a derby home-game opener.
2 minutes in and we were 1-0 up. We won 2-0.
Later, in the pub, as Molly went to get scratch cards (in honour of Beth’s not so secret pleasure) we stuttered through how we’d been today, and I gave Trace a scant description of what happened at the football. It seemed to me that we were all in the same boat, all of the same mind, all trying to normalise the 10th August. But maybe that was just me justifying myself.
The next day I took the dogs for a mid-morning walk behind our house. As we emerged from a cluster of trees onto an open grassy bank, the wind picked up strength and rushed through branches and leaves, gently pushing an aftermath breeze against my face.
And I felt Beth’s gap again.