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Heaven is Behind Closed Eyelids

Wish you were here

By Dominic Casey-LeePublished about a month ago 5 min read
Runner-up in 3:00 AM Challenge
Heaven is Behind Closed Eyelids
Photo by Lin Dai on Unsplash

I don’t know where she goes, but it’s always the same. One moment she’s there, holding my hand, caressing my brow, kissing my cheek. Eyes like a summer sky crinkle in the corners as she graces me with that lopsided smile, the one that says, I love you, you big silly man, as she wipes away my tears born from thinking myself into a vortex that drags me into the murky depths of my own mind.

And then she’s gone, just like that. Without a trace, except for the lingering touch of her fingers on my cheek, and the tears that remain, following the well-worn valleys that crease my face.

My days usually progress in a semi-conscious haze after that. On autopilot I make coffee, knocking out the puck and rinsing the basket, running the shot and steaming the milk, then trying, still in vain, to draw a flower in the froth—I never could pick up her artistic flair, no matter how many times I watched over her shoulder, blowing a stream of air into her ear or kissing her neck or prodding her gently in the side to try and throw her off, never with any success. Even when she did shiver or flinch her hands remained steady, or she improvised a fresh masterpiece. I look down at my attempt. I guess it kind of looks like a flower, at least how they look to me when I’m viewing one at twenty feet without my glasses on.

I sit down on the porch and sip my coffee, but not before taking a deep breath through my nose over the steaming cup. The scent of it always reminds me of her, from the coffee scrub she used to clear her pores to the way it never left her hands, or the shirts she wore to work. Wakefulness starts to creep in now, and I can feel the salty crust of the dried tears on my cheeks. I always forget to wipe them away, because in the dreams, she does it for me.

As I approach the dregs of my coffee, a shrill and shaky rendition of the Top Gun theme reaches my ears. By this time the sun has well and truly crested the horizon, and its light has woken our little friend, who is requesting his freedom for the day’s activities, ready to wreak havoc about the house. He never did listen to either of us, except to learn Top Gun—I blame her for his lacklustre rendition; while her hand could depict any image more faithfully than a photograph, she never could carry a tune.

Draining my cup I slowly rise and enter the sunroom, lift the night sheet from our friend’s cage and open the door. He hops gratefully onto my proffered hand, then takes off immediately once out of the cage, shrieking his delight at being free as he circles the high-ceilinged room with rapidly-beating wings. I used to watch him fly, but his circling makes me dizzy now, so I just stand and wait for him to finish his morning exercise. After a minute or two, Barber the cockatiel alights on my shoulder, whistles a quick greeting tune, and promptly begins to preen my scruffy beard with his beak. I reply to his greeting with a whistle of my own—in tune—and turn to take my cup back to the kitchen.

Barber takes my mind off her while I wash my cup and prepare my breakfast, parading around the kitchen bench singing snippets of songs we used to play. We learned long ago to never leave glass out on the bench, or else a glittering disaster was guaranteed, to the gleeful tones of our devilish friend—why are birds so destructive? But he does like to play with shiny things, so I leave a teaspoon for him to fling about the place as I pour my eggs into the pan. He struts about after the spoon, his little sulphur crest flattening in concentration as he stoops to pick it up, then flicks up with pride as he tosses his victim away. This time it falls onto the floor, and his crest remains erect in alarm at the disappearance of his toy. He shrieks his discontent, so I slowly crouch to retrieve the spoon, it’s good exercise for my ageing knees.

As soon as I serve my breakfast Barber is at the table too. I long since gave up eating with knife and fork when he’s about, so I spread the eggs evenly on my sourdough toast (with caraway seed crust, the light liquorice flavour another reminder of her) so that I can eat with one hand and fend off the bird with the other. No matter what I put in front of him, he always wants to eat what I’m eating, just like a dog.

The rest of the morning passes in a tedium of household chores, broken only by the occasional racquet of Barber getting into my pen holder and strewing them everywhere while I check my emails and update my blog; the one thing I’ve managed to train him out of is tearing the keys off my keyboard. I did it by tapping him sharply on the beak with a pen every time he set foot on my laptop, perhaps that’s why he takes such violent vengeance on those inky offenders. It’s vacuum day, and Barber is still terrified of that noisy beast, so he takes refuge on my shoulder, hiding under the curtain of my thinning grey hair, which I still wear long, since she always hated when I got a haircut.

Tuesdays are for tai-chi, so before lunch I go into the garden and do a routine of the slow-moving martial art. No longer am I nervous about letting Barber fly freely in the outside air; when she first departed I couldn’t let him out of my sight for fear the last living reminder of her presence might leave me too, but I’ve learned to trust him as I did her. No matter how long he leaves my sight, he always returns before I go back inside.

I never was one for the afternoon siesta, and to be honest I still don’t find myself tired, so often I’ll have a red wine in an effort to make me sleepy. Ever since she’s been gone I need that second sight of her to keep me going in the afternoon. I eat my salad, sharing some lettuce and tomatoes with Barber before we both go to bed. He nestles in my shoulder as I slip into those waking dreams, where she returns to me and tells me everything will be alright. We will all be together again soon.

Love

About the Creator

Dominic Casey-Lee

Ecclectic, erotic, enigmatic. Exploring the mysteries of our existence through words, and hopefully providing some entertainment along the way.

Here you'll find excerpts from my fantasy project, stories, poems and general rambling.

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Reader insights

Outstanding

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Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  1. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (4)

  • D.K. Shepard15 days ago

    This is such a memorable story with a compelling narrative voice and a cockatiel for good measure! Congrats!

  • Congratulations 🤩… a poignantly beautiful story… lightened with the cute little friend: “As soon as I serve my breakfast Barber is at the table too. I long since gave up eating with knife and fork when he’s about, so I spread the eggs evenly on my sourdough toast (with caraway seed crust, the light liquorice flavour another reminder of her) so that I can eat with one hand and fend off the bird with the other. No matter what I put in front of him, he always wants to eat what I’m eating, just like a dog.”✅

  • Wooohooooo congratulations on your win! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Christy Munson16 days ago

    You're storytelling is a meaty thud to the gut in all the ways writing can. You grab and hold my attention and make me trail behind your every word, sinking in and knowing, only too well. Masterful writing! Congratulations on your richly deserved placement in the 3 AM Challenge!!! 🥳 🤩 😎

Dominic Casey-LeeWritten by Dominic Casey-Lee

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