You could ask my father what it’s like to heave a tangle of swollen limbs uphill in his arms. You could ask him how you carry a child’s wheelchair, still occupied and squirming. You could ask about the muscles burning in the back of legs and the shoulders and the wrists. You could.
You could ask him to tell you how slowly I walk, how my feet got stuck in mud pools often, how I complained at carrying myself so far whilst he carried himself and her. You could, but don’t. I am ashamed to hear of it.
You could ask my sister why she laughed so hard when a sprite of wind stole a handful of crisps from her packet and threw them up into the air. You could ask her what she saw in that potato confetti as it soared over the cliff edge and tumbled into the sea. You could ask her why it took her so long to realise that they were gone. Why it took so long to realise that crisps dashed on rock blades can’t be fisted into wet mouths and tasted. Their salt dissolves into the ocean and is forgotten. You could ask her why she cried until I gave her my crisps as well.
You could ask my mother, if you had no conscience about such things, who emptied the bag? Who tipped out the bag, or box, or bowl, and made my once-laughing sister one with the soundscape. You could ask her if the remains of a body flicked into her eyes, and if that’s why she wept. You could ask her.
You could ask me why I laid pinecones and primroses, and why that hectic bluff calls me back each year in April. You could ask me why I talk to myself and inhale so deeply, watch the sea so intently, touch the trees so mindfully. You could ask me.
You could ask how it feels to grow new skin, cut new teeth, curl new smiles without her. You could ask us how we stay a family, without her. You could ask, but we wouldn’t know.