Dead People

When Eurydice’s musician husband Orpheus jumps (or did he?) from a pleasure boat into Sydney Harbour and drowns, her first reaction is ‘But he can swim!’ Why would a man who passionately loved his wife, who was not – despite the rumours – depressed, who was at the peak of his career, voluntarily slip into those murky depths? But then, as the mystery of his senseless death sinks in, Eurydice’s life becomes a search for a reason – and for Orpheus.

This is an excerpt from the second draft of my cheerful new novel, the working title of which is Dead People. I’m hoping that by the time I come to publish it I have a better one, so suggestions appreciated!

What is it like, being dead?

You say, it’s like this…

But you answer in a language that I don’t understand. Curling around my cheek in the whisper of air from the open window, hanging close in the hot darkness, moonlit drops of poison on the flowers of the old white oleander, distant traffic, the smell of night, sheets damp against my useless nakedness…

All I want is to be with you…

If I could dissolve into the walls, the mattress, the floor, I would. I’d be a part of all this…extraneous stuff, this other world, containing you, excluding me, from which my skin keeps me. I’d be with you, if I dared.

If wishes were horses, I’d ride, begging. Black horses, naturally, with wings like clouds and eyes of cold crystal, leaping the Styx, storming the ramparts of the dead.

You died a month ago. You slipped into the water and you sank, and no one noticed until an hour or more later; they thought you were with a woman. The woman thought you were in the bathroom, snorting something. Everyone thought you must be somewhere. On the boat, on the earth. And all the time you were nowhere, which I think should have a capital N, Nowhere, so that it sounds like a place that you could be. That I could find you.

I met the woman, you know. Her name is Marianne. She has long fairish hair, of a colour that I find hard to describe, because it has no real colour – straightened, with a straightener. A flat tanned space for a face, pale blue eyes, pale lipstick. Not your type, I would’ve thought.

“He seemed depressed, but I didn’t think he’d…”

“Depressed?”

You didn’t seem depressed to me. If you had, maybe I could’ve got myself ready for it, for something.

“Sad,” she amends.

But then, in this country anything serious is sad. You probably talked to her about art and existence and suffering and she thought, lighten up dude. It’s a party – it’s your party – and here I am showing you my cleavage all alone in the lights of the bridge and you want to talk about death, what’s wrong with you? Only the fact that you’re famous, my love, kept her there listening; that’s what I think.

5 Comments

  1. “And all the time you were nowhere, which I think should have a capital N, Nowhere, so that it sounds like a place that you could be.”

    Took me too long to respond to this. Lazy, I guess. But I just read it again. Damn, you’re good.

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