Tokida walks in the direction he knows he has to go. His legs pull him one way and one way only. The pinnacle of the triangle, this is an equilateral, perfect and horrifying, and yet one side is slipping, sloping in the middle, where she used to hold up the middle. Like Atlas. Bearing the weight of his side, and hers. The weight of the whole triangle. Shaped like the roof of their house. His house. He had to remember that it was his now and only his.
First he’d remove the books from the shelves, or would he leave them there? What colour should he paint the living room? Then he stops dead, his hands on his collar, ready to turn it against the cold.
But he’d arrived. He was here.
Parkway Road mortuary.
He walks through the gray doors. Inside is a small, neat reception area, with a fish tank in one wall. One of the fish is dead. You’d think that in place like this, Mr. Tokida thinks, they’d remove the dead fish from the tank.
“Can I help you?” asks the man, barely more than a boy. His father probably ran the mortuary. Death is always a family business. Nepotism and tragedy, they go well together. Could turn it into a play, Tokida thinks.
“Sir?” asks the boy.
“One of the fish – it’s dead.”
“Ha. Yes. Not exactly dead.”
Tokida cocks his head.
The boy says, “It’s not a real fish.”
“Why?” asks Tokida, looking again at the golden fish, on it’s side at the top of the tank.
“For the children, sir.”
The boy waits for an answer and, as Tokida says nothing, asks, again, “Can I help you?”
“Yes, yes, I’m here to see someone.”
The boy produces a large file from under the desk. Tokida notices for the first time that there is no computer on the desk and that the lobby smells faintly of freshly laundered clothes, like lavender.
“Name?” the boy looks up at the teacher.
“To – Tokida.”
One finger on the desk, like the strong arm of a triangle, pushing down on an invisible button, and then the file, which the boy scans with his other hand, licking his finger and turning over the pages, over and over, the finger dries on the page and he moistens it again with his tongue. A physicality to it, his connection to the dead. Intimate and wet. More real than tapping away at a keyboard, a sallow glow from the screen on his face.
How many dead?
Tubes full of corpses.
Carrots in the fridge.
“Takida?” asks the boy, looking up sharply.
“Tok. Tokida. T-o-k-i-”
The moist finger finds her name there, recently scrawled in his childish hand with his red pen, yes, that pen there, the one in a mug on his desk, lonely, alone, waiting for a phone call, the pen of the dead, the deceased, the expired.
“No,” says the boy. He looks troubled.
“There’s no Tokida here.”
“There must be. I was told that -”
The boy turned the file towards Tokida. Resting a hand on the desk, Tokida leans forwards and peers into the tome. Takida. Tostig. Trevor. All these names are of dead people, and she is not there.
There’s space for her, right there. In the box it should say, detailed in red letters, forty-wife, wife, teacher. Teacher. Teacher. Teacher?
Tokida looks at his watch.
Bus journey from school to mortuary, twenty minutes, maybe twenty-five.
Crying in the sink, ten minutes, maybe fifteen.
That means they came and told him about her death at — when had it been? Two something? He hadn’t thought to look – but that means, why had she, why was she driving, it didn’t make sense, the two didn’t add up, why was she in her car when she was meant to be at school, in her classroom, this means that, that maybe there’d been a mistake, a miscalculation, a flaw – maybe, maybe –
“Sir?” asks the boy.
Tokida looks at him. “Sorry. Wrong place.”
Need to catch up? You can read part three of this story here.