The Shape of Your Head by Slawka G. Scarso

There’s a gap in my memory of that morning, and it ends in front of our house not long after sunrise. I have no recollection of being on the 486 bus, nor do I remember walking from the bus stop to our road. Sometimes I wonder if I took a cab, which would make sense, given the situation. But I do recall the sunlight casting a heavenly glow on the front garden and the fading grey walls of our house.

How appropriate, I remember thinking. And then I imagined you complaining it was too much of a cliché.

I went inside, left keys and bag on the side table by the entrance. I took off my shoes and got into my purple slippers – I still have those, hidden somewhere, by the way. I made tea, and felt ashamed by how good it tasted, how warm it made me feel.

The house was silent. I could hear the grandfather’s clock ticking upstairs. I walked into the sitting room, that is to say your bedroom until the previous night. I remember the smell of wood polish and antiseptics. It made me gag: I rushed to the windows, I opened them wide. A fresh breeze flooded the room.

I tidied up the books, stashed in neat piles on the coffee table, and put them back on the bookshelves. I collected the water jug, the bowl with the unfinished soup. The spoon had fallen under the sofa at some point the previous night. I collected the towels, still damp with your sweat, and pulled out the sheets from the hospital bed. Those were ours, the nurses would not want them back. Besides, you had rarely used that bed. You preferred the sofa, said it was more comfortable. I never quite believed you.

Soon people would start to call, I knew. Voice would spread fast. Neighbours would drop by, bringing food, offering help and anecdotes, saying you’d be missed.

I sat on the sofa, and looked at the pillow. It still had the shape of your head. It looked solid, carved, but in soft feathers and delicate cotton threads. I lifted it up, slipping my arms under it as if there was a jewel cradled on top. With careful steps, I walked up the stairs and into the bedroom. I left it on your side of the bed.

I wondered how long it could stay like that, if I left it untouched. Perhaps long after your scent had faded from every sweater forgotten at the back of the wardrobe. Perhaps long enough so I could accept you no longer being there. Till then, I imagined myself waking up in the mornings to come, and pretend you had just left the room.

Slawka G. Scarso has published several books on wine and works as a copywriter and translator. Her short fiction has appeared in Mslexia, Ellipsis Zine, Spelk, Constellate Magazine and Flash Frontier. She lives between Rome and Geneva with her husband and her Labrador, Tessa. @nanopausa