THE POSTPONEMENT OF GRIEF
The woman behind the counter practices
her pleasant demeanour on me. Her stapled smile
shows a set of perfected teeth. I take a snapshot
of hers and pin it on my face,
while handing her my boarding pass
and passport. She flips it to the last page.
A faint trace of recognition presents itself on her face:
my passport has not expired, and
I am found matching my own image on it.
At the boarding terminal, surrounded by duty-
free shops, I wait duty-bound for the journey.
My flight: a Boeing 737 to India. Stopover: London.
In 15 hours, I will have shed my first tear
for my father. But first I have to locate my seat.
That is, go past the smiling cabin crew; go smiling past
the cabin crew. I hang my snapshot ready.
I have chosen an aisle seat. No blue horizon to look through,
just a blacker one to stare into. Beside me,
an Indian woman is reading Grief Is the Thing
with Feathers. The flight takes wings.
To my left, a child cries. The take-off pulls the plug
from under our feet. I succumb
to my sleep, waking up only when my meal arrives.
Asian veg. A bowl of rice, a bun, a square of jam,
an orphaned orange-slice and a mug of warm tea. I smile.
The airhostess believes me and goes on to believe
other passengers. For the moment all I have
is a fruit bowl of reactions to choose from –
reactions to suit the moods of people, who are
like me, busy emptying their bowls. Marmalades
and mashed potatoes… I eat, masticating
my grief along with a broccoli floret.