Why I’d Make A Terrible Undercover Cop

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“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer … and everything collapses. ”

― Colette

I’d make a terrible undercover cop or spy I realized last week. Over on MI6’s (the British equivalent to the CIA) website, they lure you in with the promise that they will “test your ability to maintain a simple cover story”. So I was walking in my local supermarket and I saw a dad doing a food shop with his daughter. She must have been at college because he was insisting on all manner of superfoods, and she was insisting on all manner of junk foods. They had a rhythm that I couldn’t take my eyes off, and I proceeded to follow them round the aisles mesmerized. I’m not usually one to follow in hot – or in this case slow – pursuit, nor am I unaware that 6ft human beings are conspicuous, but it was better than saying: “My name is Kayla Hannah Jacobs. I live just down the road. I sometimes wish I was a vegetarian and I’m absolutely petrified of pigeons.” As an aside, let’s hope I didn’t freak them out or seem .. creepy?

This is all to say that the faint undertone of grief that catches at the back of your throat hit me immediately, and is still lingering in a way that perfume clings to scarves, hair and skin. My dad and I used to shop together gleefully because of our mutual love for food and cooking. We would spend hours in aisles the way one can spend hours going back and forth from a work of art. I miss being in a supermarket with him so much that the juxtaposition of detectable lingering and longing is still a shock because I always forget what grief smells like.

I was surprised at the sheer fact of my dad’s absence seemed a bit too .. fresh? In the way perfume can seem when newly sprayed and not yet marinated into flesh. It’s hard not to love someone who’s always on your side isn’t it? That’s a dad, that was my dad, that was the dad I saw at the supermarket. I blush when I think about it, the gulf between what my heart and my head think, what we’re capable of imagining versus actual reality. I’d like to think my dad is with me always, but at that moment when I felt achey like I haven’t felt in a while, I thought on how great of him it would be if he decided to haunt me. Especially at Wholefoods.

A sensory experience is lonely if you’re missing the very person you want to share it with and will never be able to. I carried on walking those aisles (don’t worry, I stopped the ‘observation’ at some point) in a heightened state, yearning for emotional connection with my dad, but also laughing a bit at some memories piercing through the lump in my throat. Ooooh the brain is a seductive beast, because really I just have a simple longing to see my dad again and navigate our way around the world as we used to. As I thought on him more, the nostalgia for the days gone by when so much still lay ahead made my skin tingle so much that I needed to go home and shower off the scent accumulating – I’d call it ‘Wistfully Ravenous’, but I’m not sure it would be an olfactory blockbuster.

The by-product of the permanence of reality is ardor, and the joyful synonyms of that five letter word are numerous. Particularly: passion, zeal, fire and jazz. On a whim when I got home I read a few chapters of The Book Thief and happed upon these raw lines:

“Often I wish this would all be over, Liesel, but then somehow you do something like walk down the basement steps with a snowman in your hands.”

It would be breathtaking not to feel so violated by my own emotions, but I must admit, a maelstrom of grief can be an acute image-maker for easing me back into my body, my skin, my mind and my heart.

 

source: Wolfgang Tillmans|alexquisite


5 replies on “Why I’d Make A Terrible Undercover Cop

  • Tara

    Beautiful my dear…you really beautifully encapsulated so many emotions especially loneliness at the grocery store.

    Hope you’ve had such an amazing time and I see you in NY next week

    Xoxo

    Reply
  • Leslie Back

    Kayla you never cease to amaze. I love your ode to your father and I love your words. ‘Because I always forget what grief smells like’ stopped me in my tracks. So good to have your back. Thought that you may have strayed from your curation.

    Reply
  • SHADI

    I actually know exactly what you mean and feel – not my father by someone else who was like a mother to me. But I know I wouldn’t have been able to put it into words like you have so beautifully, light and flowy but strong at the same time (hope that makes senses you are the writer not me ) Lovely K – thank you for sharing xxx

    Reply

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