TE21 Serbian Moments

Kristina Dimitrova

The Smile

dressing table - deodorant, nail kit, half-used powder. The bedside table - medicines, massage appliances, tissues, some tinctures. And a face cream tub in which something watery is sloshing around. I opened it. There were dentures in the water inside. The teeth, their colour, their arrangement - they seemed strangely familiar. A part of a familiar face. Familiar words had gone through them. Probably encouraged by my efforts to put things into some sort of order, my brother was tidying up the living room. “What, did you find dentures?” He came over to the bedroom. “So I must have forgotten them. I had to pick her clothes for the funeral, I even remembered the shoes but I forgot the dentures. That’s why mum looked so weird. I knew I would forget something!” To my surprise, his voice cracked and he started sobbing. He turned to thewindow. Hewas crying, unable to stopandwiping his face with the sleeve of his jumper. Crying is contagious. I went to him and hugged him as if to console him and now we were both weeping. We were grown up and crying. We were little again and crying. We were alone in the world. We were free. We were forever locked into our shared past. “Since when does mum wear dentures?” I shouted.

“No, I won’t.”

“Then have a look around the house, check out mum’s things and take what you like. I started tidying up but I didn’t get far.” You could tell. Wardrobes full of clothes, drawers full of unwanted items kept just in case they were needed again. I took some of the empty boxes from the corner of the living room and started packing. Dresses - formal, casual, for around the house, cut according to the different sizes my mother’s body had gone through. Medium size, sharp weight gain, skinny, exhausted little figure. Coats collected over the years - not just one for every season but for every slight variation in temperature within the season. Some of those coats I had known since I was a child. I was going through stuff and putting it away. It’s hard to put away the things of the dead. They’ve saved their owner’s preferences, their image, their smell. Combs preserve the hairs, lipstick preserves the saliva. If you somehow managed to put all of those things together, in the void, shaped by them, the image of the deceased would appear, almost alive. There is something really uncomfortable in this. As if a person leaves this world twice - the first time death takes them by force, the second time their loved ones throw them out voluntarily through objects. The shoe rack - slippers, boots, ankle-boots, sandals, all of them deformed by my mother’s feet. I touched them before taking them out. I was trying to touch the absence inside. The



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