Man is harder than rock and more fragile than an egg. (Yugoslav Proverb)

Isme thinks she will always have her brother, she can't imagine him not being there. Then suddenly, he isn't and yet he is. The horror comes not from his going, but the manner of his going. The hit and run wasn't a hit of run, and she need's Rob's help to prove this, even if he is dead.


3. Bitter Earth


O poor mortals, how ye make this earth bitter for each other.  ~Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, vol. I, book II, chapter 1


I wake up to a familiar smell; the smell of Sunday nights, the connection to a clean tingling after the bubble bath, the scent of fresh washed hair. I’m home. I think it’s the weekend but there’s a nagging feeling that something needs doing, something’s big happened.

Smoke curling over my finger.

A voice bouncing off the curved tin walls.



Not dead.

Still here.

I scream.

A woman comes rushing it, big, a frizz of greying hair.

“Where’s mum?”

“She’s with your dad, sorting out a few things at the hospital. They’ll be gone a few days. I’m here to sort you out.”

I know. A small part of me wants to not believe, despite the lack of any other explanation. Deep down though, the rawness, like someone dragged me over rocks, hurts so much I know it can only be true.

A small sob escapes, like a hiccup turned bad. Mary strokes my forehead and leans in for a hug. It’s oppressive, and strangles me.

“No!”  I yell, shying away, rolling off my bed and throwing on my school uniform.

“Isme, you need to rest,” the tones are gentle but full of warning.

“No, I can’t stay here!” I roar. There’s no way I can stay and sit in the shroud of my own misery.

Throwing stuff in my bag, fixing my tie, not bothering to brush my hair. No mirror needed to tell me I looked a mess.


Waiting for the bus, I can feel the stares of my fellow class mates. I don’t think it’s the fact that I look like I’ve spent a night on the streets. It’s the fact they know and they’re making it awkward because they don’t know how to respond. A few sympathetic smiles, a few nods of acknowledgement. Their fake compassion makes me sick. They know I suffer but they don’t care because it hasn’t happened to them and they are okay. Maybe school was a bad idea. The bus turns into the lane and I get on in an automatic motion of limbs. Too late to change my mind now.

I sit down and stare out of the window, watching the coloured streaks of the world blur past. Nothing is solid, just liquid streams. It leads me to think of Rob. He’s no substance yet he’s so colourful, so vividly real.                                                                                           


Heading to my form room, I make my way down the narrow corridors, head low, ignoring everyone except two boys whose loud laughs and crude language make me look up. Bad timing. They sneer at me and brush past me, too close for comfort. They seem to recognise me. I don’t know them. Oh wait. That squashed nose, that buck teeth grin, one small and lanky, the other rotund. They’re in my brother’s year.

“Ed and Nate.”           

Rob is standing next to me, looking at them with a strange expression on his face. It’s subtle but it’s definitely there. Something to do with those two boys. I know it.                                 

“Rob, Ed and Nate. What did they do?” He’s staring at me, raising a question with his face but not saying anything. I clench my fist.

“Tell me,” I place emphasis on the tell, hoping my tone will lure the truth out of him.                       

“I can’t say, I can help but I can’t give you the answer.”

“Ed and Nate,” I say to myself, turning to look at their retreating figures. “What,” I turn to Rob and he’s gone. I punch the wall. Why does he keep doing this? This ambiguous presence is both comforting and irritating beyond belief.


My friends and classmates are stiflingly kind but if I sit back, make it known I don’t want to talk, they’ll get the hint. I find the place I want to be by sitting back and listening to the teachers, to the pupils, to the life all around me. It makes me realise the world goes on and on. Stop all the clocks. Cut off the telephone. It’s true what Auden says. You think everything stops but only if you believe it does. I don’t want to find myself in the moment Auden’s in.


At lunch, I’m sitting with my friends when a boy walks past. It’s Rob’s best friend. The one whose party he went to. His shoulders are hunched, head bowed. I get up and run over to him. He starts as I tap him on the shoulder then relaxes. The light in his eyes softens as he sees a fellow human suffering.                                                                 

“What happened at that party?,” I blurt out, not bothering to offer condolences. “Tell me about and Rob.” He looks at me like’s I’m crazy, the same looks I had when I was talking to Rob in the hall.”                                                                                 

He freezes.

Is Oscar responsible?

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