A memoir of farewell
By Belinda Rogers
We sat on the platform, our shoulders side by side. Our worn shoes twisting towards each other. Resting our forearms upon our knees, our hands in wait as we each took turns, inhaling the cigarette long and deep into our lungs. I looked around me as I took it in my hand, uncertain of myself. Feeling the weight of my father’s eye upon the crust of my mind.
Hilary took a confident drag, an extra cigarette tucked behind her ear. Mottled blonde hair hung just below her shoulder. Her blue eyes shining through the veils of tar-lined smoke.
Immune from the hardening stares as they peered down at our sprawling display of woollen bags upon the asphalt floor. Hilary did not flinch as I sheltered in her eyes. Wide blue spheres devouring our derelict composure.
Rusted steel pushed towards the horizon, burnt orange tracks against the umber stone. Litter wrapped in red and silver gathered by the concrete wall.
A plastic bag bounced along the platform, air blown by the east wind. Sniffing the soles of polished shoes, it moved across the feet of strangers, bounding towards us as we looked on.
A light appeared in the distance, the midday sun striking hard against the mirrored face as the train approached. We squinted our eyes to the blinding light, swinging our bags across our shoulders. The plastic bag edged closer, pausing to sniff the ground then bounded forward again. Hilary let out a bellowing laugh as the train roared in. Moments from reach the plastic then turned with a sudden right curl, thrusting forward into the face of the train, swallowed by the turning wheel.
Mum looked out of the window as the train entered the station. The sign swinging in the eastern wind. Reaching to the empty seat beside her, she clutched a bag with her hand.
Nodding kindly to the train master, she walked briskly with sullen eyes. Across the rose-lined streets and into the concrete car park of the hospital. Pressing the red button, the glass doors opened. A temperature gun pointed at her head. Through layered masks, her muffled voice pushing through a plethora of hidden tears.
“Marie Rogers, Wife of Ray.”
A blue gowned nurse nodded, waving her to the lift.
Dad lay on the bed, his mouth covered with an oxygen tube as machines flashed in orange mocking the decay of time. Her warm olive hand etched with the lines of five children cradling his head as he smiled.
At dawn she folded his clothes, placing them in a plastic bag. Leaving the flowers beside the bed, she kissed his head and slowly closed the door. We stood waiting in the garden, beside the roses twisted with age. Blossoms falling in the crimson air with heads hung low.
Fate is not a prescribed future, but life tying itself to a single moment.
As each line draws to its end, it stretches wide, across the fragrance of memory. Turning upon itself, it explodes into life.
I sat on the station, my legs curled to my chest. A sign above swinging in the eastern wind. Looking from a small screen in my hand, I watched as a mother wept an impossible goodbye. Strangers looked on as tears fell from the unfolded platitudes of my heart. A blinding light, a bellowing laugh where life, so potent in it’s final departure, drips from our grasp.
The train rolls in as I grab my woollen bag.
We board the train together.
Rusted steel pushes towards the horizon, burnt tracks against umber stone.
Dedicated to my childhood friend Hilary Taylor, who sadly passed away in August 2020, aged 44. And to my father, Ray Rogers, passed away at Ballarat Hospital with my mother by his side, April 2020.