I smashed her old sugar bowl in a violent rage. It was made of clay or china or some other pottery, I don’t know, but I do know that when I returned to the scene a few days later there seemed to be more fragments of the bowl scattered about the place than granules of sugar. Of course she refused to clean it up herself, knowing that I’d be back eventually. A few weeks later I smashed a pasta bowl and she phoned the police but that’s a different story for a different time.
She bought a new sugar bowl from Poundland. It’s not really bowl-shaped, more like a jar, but it’s made of clear glass and has a silver lid and she put granulated sugar in it. I wonder if she knows that staying with her was so unbearable to me and so detrimental to my mental state that I felt I had to go home with strange men purely so that I could have somewhere to sleep that wasn’t under the same roof as her. But I got tired of the men and depression was trying to kill me so I ended up back at her place under the deluded premise that parents are supposed to look after their children when they’re sick.
Anyway, I like having a coffee and a cigarette first thing in the morning before I read the newspaper and discover what fresh hell occurred in the world while I was busy being dead-drunk or sparko off too many sleeping pills. So in the morning I’d make a coffee. Waiting for the kettle to boil and concentrating on not vomiting last night’s wine, I put the instant coffee in the mug, get the milk from the fridge, grab the sugar bowl, scoop up one spoon of demerara (this was before I quit sugar) and wonder how I am still alive. And all those mornings that I grabbed that sugar bowl, at least once a day, sometimes two or three times a day depending on the workload:hangover ratio, I never imagined in a million years that one day, a day that was to arrive sooner than I would’ve anticipated, that fucking sugar bowl would house your cremated remains.
I’m looking at it now as I type this. I can see you. Okay, right, basically, this is what happened to you: your undertaker pal Barry gave us your ashes in an ugly plastic maroon container with a gold dove embossed on it and a white label on the top with your name printed on it. “Herein lies the cremated remains of The Late Mr ….” which was silly because you were never late for anything, you were always early.
The ugly container stayed at your ex-wife’s house. I don’t know why. I knew you didn’t want to be there. Brother knew you didn’t want to be there. I’m sure even mother knew that you didn’t want to be there. But for some reason that’s just the way it was. I was too angry about the whole situation to argue. I knew I’d say something unforgivable to her. God knows how I managed to bite my tongue but I did.
Then a few days later I went to her place to see the kids and the cat. I was looking for the cat. The cat hides in the wardrobe. I opened the wardrobe and saw the cat and next to the cat was the fucking sugar bowl with about half of you inside of it. Needless to say, I hit the fucking roof.
Why on earth has she taken you hostage, transferred you to the sugar bowl and hidden you in her fucking wardrobe with the cat? I was fuming. I still am. I told her that the last place on earth you’d want to be is with her. Which is the truth. I told her to pour you back into the ugly maroon container. She promised she would. I believed her. She must’ve realised how stupid it all was.
We took the ugly maroon container down to Cornwall to put you in the ground. I said to mother, You better have poured my dad back into this fucking container otherwise you’re going to go to hell. I will also have you arrested under the 2008 Cremation Act for preventing lawful burial. I will take you to fucking court to get my dad back where he belongs, and you know that I’m being serious. I will not hesitate to fight you on this. She promised she’d put you back. I felt better once she’d promised that. Like, okay, finally all of you is going to be laid to rest, just like you wanted.
We tipped you out of the ugly maroon container and into a hemp and banana leaf basket urn with a lid. I was relieved to know that we put you exactly where you wanted to be, like now you could rest easy. You were safe and peaceful and exactly where you wanted to be. Now we could begin our grieving properly.
Several months later I visited mother in her new room in a shared flat. She had some of my mail from the old place that I needed to collect. I wanted to see the cat but I couldn’t because she’d fucking lost the cat, left the front door open, in a new area, on a main road. We couldn’t find the cat. Then she found the cat the next day but gave the cat to a stranger. I’ve never seen the cat again.
I was fuming about the cat. I was so angry at her I had tears in my eyes. Then I saw you on her shelf in that fucking sugar bowl. I went ape-shit. THE LAST PLACE ON EARTH THAT YOU’D EVER WANT TO END UP IS WITH HER. I reiterated this. I was furious. I thought you were safe and peaceful where you wanted to be. But no, half of you was in a fucking sugar bowl in a box-room with your ex-wife.
She had abducted you. Kidnapped you. Taken you hostage. I was completely devastated. I thought you were at rest in your hometown. I thought we’d fulfilled your wishes. I felt proud that we’d done exactly what you wanted. I thought you were 300 miles away. But all this time you’ve been down the road in a place that you would never ever want to be. WHY IS SHE HANGING ON TO YOU, SHE COULDN’T STAND YOU WHEN YOU WERE ALIVE SO WHY THE FUCK IS SHE SO KEEN TO HAVE YOU WHEN YOU’RE DEAD? Like, what am I supposed to do now, do I take up the stone, dig up the urn, pour the other half of you in, relay the stone? How much is that gonna cost? It’s like exhuming a body, disturbing the dead for an autopsy and then reburying them. Twice the pain.
Twas absolutely fucking insane. I told your friends about it and they couldn’t believe it, they were incredulous at the audacity of it, they knew it wasn’t right. I knew that you didn’t want to be there. You told me that I had to get your ashes off her. It was like the final task, the last thing you’d ever ask of me. So I did. I turned up without warning in the middle of the night when she was asleep so I caught her unawares, said to her, I’m here to collect my dad, and rescued you from her clutches before she had a chance to swap your ashes for burnt paper or grit or sand or whatever the fuck else.
So I’ve got you now. And there you sit on my windowsill by my books and my ashtray and my notebooks and my goddess statue. And even though it’s almost a year since you left us I’ve definitely worked out what I’m going to do with you, with this half of you, and I’m going to do it just before the date that marks a year since you’ve gone. I’ve been in limbo before and it’s not nice, it’s uncomfortable. I refuse to let you remain in limbo. You need to be where you need to be. It’s not the cemetery but it’s just as good. I know you’ll approve. I’ll let you know when it’s done. And after it’s done I’m sure you will find a way to let me know that you’re finally resting in peace, in your hometown, in paradise, in anywhere other than your ex-wife’s sugar bowl.