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We bought the table for £5.
We had little money to furnish a house so when Laura and I went to Ikea the first place we went to was damaged goods.

It was Laura’s tip for finding bargains, a warehouse of lucky dip.
Here is a pile of boxes without names, with lost numbers and unmarked.

Tagless and stacked leaning against each other.

A man in a high visibility vest wrinkled his nose and wrote a price on one of the boxes. The £5 table has been in our kitchen ever since.

February and I put the bulky cardboard box on the table at about eight thirty in the evening.

Next to it I put a plain wooden box, about four and a half inches long by three and a half inches deep.

I have a small roll of linen cloth, from the Gambia, a hand woven strip four inches wide which once served as a belt for a young girl.

Papers to clear out of the way.
A slow drift of them appears every morning, creeping through the breakfast dishes, Child Tax Benefit, Tax Credit, Trust Fund, Car Insurance, NHS Appointment, School Term dates, Personal Protection Insurance forms, Car Insurance, House insurance, Boiler manual, Council Tax, Pension Plan, Electricity Statement, Pension Report, Mobile Phone Bill, Land Line phone Bill, Bank Statement, each sheet of paper insisting that it is too important to throw away but with filing cabinets full, drawers scrunched to the brim and cupboards packed with a sliding mass of paper, paper, paper I am lost for space.

It’s a paper pincer movement.

The second wave is a mass of paintings and pictures. Felt tip and crayon coloured card, egg boxes taped together and covered in plastic bottle tops.

Toilet rolls glued over with hard pasta shapes and daubed with uneven colour.

This surge of recycled rubbish, the remains of play dates, play groups, nurseries and well meaning activity afternoons, has filled the void under the stairs, pushed onto shelves around the house, replaced whatever had been on the mantle piece and rests in boxes and bags and behind sofa and bed.
This is a passive aggressive war of emotional attachment against practical living space.

The kitchen table is the front line.

I need a quick solution and grab two large Hessian shopping bags.
All printed papers in one, all painted, crayoned creations in the other.

I begin carefully trying to sort and order.

The Clock.
The time.
I have been doing this for half an hour.

Taking too long.

Taking too long.

I really need to get some sleep myself.

They wake early.
I need to get this done.
I end as I always do, cramming and stuffing the bags.
The children’s art bag is too small. I don’t have time. They will live temporarily beside the washing machine, pouring multi coloured and glittery cardboard across the floor.
They will still be there in four months time.

The breakfast dishes.
Bowls, plates, cups and spoons.
I start to run the tap.

I look at the clock.

Not enough time.

Everything into the sink to soak.

Tomorrow I will have to slide my hand into the greasy cold water to pull the plug and re-fill the bowl.

Wipe the table down.

It looks great.

I resent tonight.

I feel the emotion start to boil up and I squash it down deep.

The Cardboard box.

Someone has done a really good job of taping it up.
I look for scissors but they can’t get a purchase on the brown parcel tape.
I have a little knife I used to use at work.
Cutting through the tape, I push the blade into the cardboard.
The knife twists just enough to scare me.
Slow down.

Don’t cut yourself.

Take your time.
I look at the clock again.
Carefully following the contours of the box lid I cut through the layers of tape.
Inside the cardboard box is a wooden box.
Its sides are flush to the inside of the cardboard. There is just enough room to slide my hands down inside either end. I wriggle my fingers in and try to get purchase on the shiny handles at either end of the box. Now I have my hands wedged inside the cardboard box.
I stand there for a moment.
I give it a shake.
Nothing.
I catch my reflection in the window; standing in the middle of the kitchen, box on hands.
I look like a fool.

Don’t go backwards.

Go forwards.

I climb up onto the table, both hands wedged inside the cardboard box.
I kneel on the table, jam the cardboard box between my knees and slide the wooden box out.

The surface of the wooden box is veneer. From eight feet away it would look lovely. Up close you can see the plastic of the wood grain and the handles are just horrible cheap mouldings.

I decide now is the time for a gin and tonic.
Half Gin, half tonic, large glass, I am in no mood to mess around.
I don’t have time to enjoy this.
This is functional.
I need to press on.

I can deal with what is inside this box.

I take hold of ether side of the lid.
I take a breath.
I lift and….…the whole box lifts off the table.

I give it a gentle shake but it is stuck fast.
I try to prise the lid up with my fingers.
I try to slide the blade of the knife between the lid and the box.
There is no way into the box.
I climb back on to the table and holding the box between my knees I heave at the lid. Nothing.
My reflection in the window makes me stop and I have a sip of my drink.
Go forwards, keep going forwards.
I climb back off the table and turn the box upside down.
Four screws holding a wooden plate.
The lid is as fake as the wood veneer it is made of.
The screwdriver I find is too small.
Much digging and much swearing and I find a box of assorted screwdrivers.

This is taking to long.
Frustration, time, sleeplessness are all pressing against my brain and it all pushes up through me in a spout of fury and tears and outrage and just stops in my clamped shut mouth, escaping as a hiss through my teeth.
I need some sleep.

I undo the screws.
I used to use a screwdriver every day at work. Smooth, slow twists with gradually reduced tension until they spin up out of the wood and you catch them in your fingertips just before they topple over and then on to the next.
One, two, three, four.
I almost enjoy that bit.

Inside a plastic bag, heat sealed shut.
I pull out the bag, it is clear and in it I can see a plastic tub with a screw lid, like a large vitamin jar. It has a wide neck, just big enough to fit an object about the size of your fist inside.

I was not expecting this.
It’s getting late.

Should I clear back the table for breakfast or press on?

Gin and Tonic.
Press on.
I try to cut through the bag with my small knife but after some effort settle on the scissors.

The tub is wrapped round with yellow and black tape and for the first time I see the ‘Hazardous Material’ signs.
It is cold to the touch.
The lid is stuck round with layers and layers of hazard tape.
I get a slightly bigger knife and gently cut round the tape.
The lid works loose and I can unscrew it.

Inside the tub is another bag just like the last.
I take a breath.
Gin and Tonic.
I breathe.
I take hold of the bag and begin to pull it from the tub.

Nothing, it won’t come out.

I tease the corner of the bag out, I tug, I pull. It is stuck fast.

My reflux rage smashes upwards from the base of my stomach and breaks across the back of my eyeballs like a firework flash of emotion but I don’t have time to let it out.

Clock.
Gin and Tonic.
Move forward.

I get a really big knife down from the rack and use it’s serrated edge to chop the top off the tub.

It’s cold inside the tub.

I pull out the bag.

Cutting the plastic bag open I find another plastic bag inside.

This one is bound tight round with Hazard tape and there is a label, telling me it contains material hazardous to human health.
The ugly plastic parcel fits gracelessly inside the palm of one hand.
I take a sip from my glass with the other hand and then begin nipping the tape away with the scissors.
Gently as I can.
It’s late and I really do need some sleep.
The bag finally opens enough to reach in and take out the contents.
Frozen solid and wrapped in a bandage.

My heart has begun to sound across my chest but I have a strange detachment settling over my brain.
My hands look like someone else’s.
I really do feel this is happening to someone else.
This can’t be me.
This can’t be us.

The fabric wrapping is itself frozen round the object inside.

I half fill a glass bowl with luke warm water.

My jaw involuntarily and suddenly snaps shut, just catching the corner of my tongue.
Bleeding in my mouth.

I still hold on to the object but it is so cold, aching the fingers of my left hand.

I will not put this down.

The fingers on my left hand scream with fire when they go into the warm water but I don’t really have time for any of that.

Gently washing, gently pulling, I ease the bandages away until all the wrappings are gone.

It’s just smaller than my fist.

Under the wrappings there is an oblong, blue identification tab.
I hate it.
Turning my hand round I can see another, a yellow circular identification tab.
I don’t want to know what they say.

I need pliers to clip them off.
Now.

I have pliers.

Somewhere I have pliers.

The plastic tags and their awful metal rings rattle on to the table.

There.

Seven months after the cremation and funeral, four months after the autopsy report.

They had asked if I wanted the ‘remaining material’ from the autopsy ‘disposed of’.

Did I want them to ‘dispose of the remaining material’?

No.

I did not want the remaining material disposed of.

I wanted her home.

I am holding my wife’s heart in my hand.

I take the roll of Gambian linen and place Laura’s heart in the first fold.
This will be the last time I see her.
I remember the first time we met, framed in the doorway with the light behind her.
I remember our first kiss in London, sitting on the step of a building in Dean Street.
Very slowly I touch my lips to my wife for the last time in a cottage in Redruth.
Cold.

I roll Laura’s heart in the cloth and place it in the small wooden box, sparing the last of the roll to wrap around the box and it’s most precious contents and I tie it shut.

Then I clear away the knives, the bags, the screwdrivers, the tape, the pliers, the cardboard, the scissors, the plastic tub and give the table a wipe down.

It’s a big day tomorrow, a day of family and ceremony and rain and cliffs and old friends and wind and sea and tears, a day of saying goodbye all over again.
A day of knowing my wife will be near.

No time to relax.

Too late.

I need to get some sleep.

They will be up soon.

Two small bowls, two small cups with lids, two small spoons, three boxes of cereal, a chair with a cushion and a high chair.

It will be cold in the morning.

Two blankets to wrap round them at breakfast.

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