Advice: Get the Farewell Right | Edward Mc Whinney
was supposed to be the happiest day of the year. That’s what they all
said at work; Andy boy, this is it, the best day of the year. The place was
all abuzz with it. I got in the car and drove off. As I reversed out of the
car park for the last time, I saw my face in the side-view mirror and yes it’s
true, it had a coffin-lid mouth on it again. When I got back to town I parked
near the river and the way I walked around was this; slowly, mechanically, I
could add melancholically, the pit of my stomach churning. Are you gone forever,
it said? A gull screeched over the turgid waters of the Lee, are you gone forever?
I went into Waterstones and looked for the poetry section, had to ask an assistant.
Excuse me, where’s the poetry section? Then I looked through books by
the sad poets, you might even add, by the melancholy poets. You’re not
dead after all, I read, and you’re not in China. It was the same old story.
Who among us is unique? If ever I see you again, I’ll probably have only
one leg or lung or be urinating through a tube. That’s why I read the
great poets. They’ve all been there. I didn’t buy any books because
I was meeting Bill Lamb. And if he saw them, poetry books, if he poked his nose
into the bag as he would, how would I explain them away? It was supposed to
be the happiest day of the year. I didn’t want to ruin it. That’s
a laugh, with my coffin-lid mouth, I felt about as happy as a stuffed weasel.
And Bill is cute, a right cute hoor, as they say, he’d figure it out.
Poetry, he’d say, I have you. I know. As I walked along looking in all
the faces, unavoidable, given the volumes of them, of all degrees of interest,
I had not one iota of hope that your face would be among them and yet an obsessive
feeling kept churning in me like a bad poem, so you’re not dead after
all and you’re not in China, though you may as well be because last Wednesday
when I saw you for the last time, and how radiant you were, what a mess I made
of the farewell. Unfortunately, I met you in an awkward location, right there
alongside the fax machine that never stops, and by a serious twist of fate,
I was momentarily struck dumb as it were, well no, not dumb, dumb would have
been better, instead I said all the wrong things, how maddening. I’m bleeding.
My brain is hanging out of my sock. There’s a cat chewing it like it’s
a fish head that’s fallen out of a bin down a ratty alleyway. I got the
farewell all wrong. I poured buckets of ice on your radiance. I took the wind
out of your sails. And you know final farewells must be managed right for otherwise
you have eternity to fall into the abyss, pondering on every spiral what an
idiot you are, a langer. It could have been different, could have been more
appropriate, the right word, I might have taken you gently by the elbow and
said; come over here out of the way, I want to tell you what you really mean
to me and that this is not the end but a beginning… I managed it all wrong.
When I met Bill, first he said, putting on a bit of a belly there Andy boy, then he said he couldn’t hang around too long as he had to go down the country for a funeral. That was a relief as I felt like telling Bill straight out about everything, which wouldn’t have been a very wise move, all things considered, the nuances, complications, misunderstandings, misinterpretations, the dogs, the cat chewing the brain, the tabloid mentality on our streets. Anyway, Andy boy, it’s the best day of the year, how does it feel, all targets successfully met and all that? How does it feel? Time to give yourself a pat on the back, eh? I thought it felt like there was a cat chewing my brain and that my brain was down in my sock but I said, it feels great Bill. Then Bill tapped me on the belly and said, watch that Andy boy, get it down. Then I said that I was going away for awhile. Going away? Yes, I’ve decided, I’m packing it all up and I’m heading off. Bill’s jaw dropped down. Where? Oh, I’m not sure, I’ll drop you a card. I’m flabbergasted, said Bill. Then he took me by the hand and shook it vigorously, said, he’d better get going, a colleague’s mother had died down the country. So to conclude, and to reiterate, here’s my advice, if there’s anything like a final farewell coming your way, you better get it right or else she may as well be dead, in China or gone to the Moon.
The next day my journey began.