When I was young, I ate dirt. I would secret it in my mouth like sugar. My mother, when she caught me, wiped my face with a pressed napkin and made me brush away the dirt that had wedged between my teeth. ‘Not enough fibre, hey?’ She would make me eat porridge after she caught me. And wholemeal bread, although it was more expensive than white. I still ate dirt though. I just waited until dusk when the dirt and shadows merged and all around me the night moved with insects and breezes through the rows of my father’s crops. It was the grit of it. The solidness. With dirt in my mouth, I felt grounded. I felt full.
I am older now. Spiders watch me, their eyes like precious stones cast among gravel. I take care not to tread on them. I weave, starting when they skitter away from me. My feet. The crunch of gravel.
I sit down in the paddock that is closest to the house and stare into the night. The world is clearer here. More pure. In the paddock, surrounded by strings of barbed wire, the world is symmetrical and compartmentalised.
Grief washes inward. Within the paddock, it has walls. Limits. I can feel its corners, grip onto them. In the paddock, my hands are hard with dirt. Choked backwards, forwards. Away from the moment where I am, where I sit and breathe. Where I sit and watch the angular shape of my daughter’s horse, tripping uncertainly towards me.
Two nights ago, my husband’s tears spilled and became long and flat with mucus. He clawed at his face, tried to rip away the grief from his skin. Poor thing. He had not realised that it is in our bones, not our surfaces. Our grief is in our marrow, the colour of our eyes. Our grief is the tremor of our heart muscles. There is no removing it.
He had a gun. The one possession left to him in his father’s will. Its shadow split the verandah in two. He does not like it inside. Does not like the heaviness it brings. The solemnity. It was slippery in his hands, blurry in his eyes. The gravel scorched my feet as I ran after him, his name in my ears (my voice).
The angular shape was moving towards my husband, stark against the frosted look of the grass. ‘Don’t!’ I cried.
Strange. That is the word for the way life is now. In my paddock, curled around my square of grief, the world is ripe with strangeness. Mia drops her head to my shoulder. She does not touch me, but breathes the smell of grass and horse sweetness over me. The smell I dreamt when I was child. The smell my child dreamt too, her horse dozing outside the house in the moonlight.
But my child is gone. And I don’t know what to do with the creature that killed her.