I think about what kind of gift I would give her if I dared. An image comes into my mind of a glossy paperback with a rough stick wedged through it. Not placed inside but stuck through the cover and the pages, piercing them, almost sewn in like thread, right across the middle in a vertical line. Impossible, the inexplicable violence of it completely at odds with what it means about us, her, my feelings towards her, and yet it feels like the only right answer. Earthy, and all that mothers. Who’s to answer for our such wild notions? I picture her taking it from me, looking at it seriously, and at me, eyes asking, This Is For Me, From You, This Is The Answer? I almost nod, she almost reciprocates, taking the book. The air between us presses like a vacuum, compressing us into a still scene, each part of my intention crumbled like charcoal and dried into paint. She does not touch the stick, but we both feel it as if it were caught through our bodies. We are both here, but are we ready?
She could have lost it on purpose, of course. That’s what he liked to remind her. It was a possibility. Well, she would prove him wrong, and never find the damn thing. Someone else would have to find it for her, because she had already checked everywhere, and exhausted all the possibilities she could imagine. The answer was external, it had to be, she huffed. She was clearly the victim of some mean, contained conspiracy, designed to teach her a lesson. That was not unheard of. That was a possibility, she aired. The suggestion seemed to bounce off his arrogance-coated ear and crack dully on the kitchen tiles.
My dad sits opposite me, scratch-and-scrawling in his brand new sketchbook. Glasses on string balanced low on his nose, head shifting regimentally between the page and his subject.
He draws my sleeping brother – to my right, on the sofa. Loafing.
Family gathered and now not knowing what to do with themselves, baited breath…
… Shrugging shoulders, moving on the balls of our feet, shifting in our seats, offering constant sweets and treats. Thankful. Peaceful.
That’s what gets me, what lets it in, it’s the peace. Lets in the Thought. This unwarranted time off from the world outside, from everything, it lets it all in. Suddenly we’re weak, aching, clogged, hardly able to perform perfunctory functions. Useless blobs, heaving and sighing.
I watch my dad and think about things outside here, back in my reality. We each have our own, to which we will return at the end of the week.
I think about depression, and the long-term things one needs to think about if one is to accept life as a long-term Thing. If one is to join the game, become a member of mature, fulfilled, healthy adult life. Depression in me, and in my partner, and how we deal with those. How we are only just getting to know one another. How we have a whole stretch of wonderful honeymoon life together lying before us. Wonderful, delicious, making me hungry and satisfied all at once. Like standing in a warm wind.
It’s easy in this cosy house to grow nostalgic, romantic, and expect everything to always be alright. Things will be smooth, and we’ll always be together, and everything will be easy. In this cosy house with the wind outside. Untouchable.
“There must be something on the telly.” People make their assertions about what they’d like not to miss; I stay silent, although really, I am desperate to catch Doctor Who. Surely they know. Surely I shouldn’t have to say. Too embarrassing, and I could never find the words, despite having heard them just now from others’ mouths. Too silly and selfish. Better to wait, and catch up on my own later, in my own reality.
To my left, on the other sofa; ‘Aunt’ Vera and my grandma, both engrossed in reading, except of course when there is a chance of engagement with the whole family – a loud noise, a squeal of delight from my baby brother, the offer of cake…
… Everyone seems serene, I think, even me, despite my sudden restlessness with this peace. Inside we must be crawling with anxiety to be normal, or rather to be individual, and yet we all seem at ease.
One more day of full-fat eating and resting tomorrow, before we go back.
Each to our own reality.
A group of men are chasing a little girl down a street. It is night.
They are fast. They are frantic.
She is small.
She turns and blows a cloud of bubbles which
stretch and push into the markings of a cheetah
formidable muscle forming around them
not solidifying but preserving their energy
for the moment they will need so strike.
This is a an undeveloped short story containing strong language and domestic abuse.
MaRa was the problem. Ma was ok, and Ra was better, but MaRa wasn’t very nice. Big H was warm like sleep The Day. Ra put it like that. Ra liked it like that. Red came up when Ma came in. Ma came in and flung. Something changed in the still of Ra’s shoulders. Big H shrunk. Wasn’t warm anymore. Ma was the doing one. Ma did. Ra never did anything. Anything Bad. But Ma said he did. So he did. Ma put down orange crinkly things and she stared and she went and she flung. Ra shivered and put me away.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Like Tuesday. I’m just fucking hot in here. Did you ever think about that? Why don’t you put some more layers on or something? Selfish bastard. I come home to the muggy stuff you’ve created and all I want is some fresh fucking air.
“The house is freezing.”
“They’re my fucking windows, so I’ll open them if I want.”
“Yes that’s mature isn’t it, your windows. I’ll just cut out all the door handles shall I and put them under my half of the bed in shoeboxes labelled Rob.”
“Oh fuck off Rob, they’d be our windows if you lifted a fucking finger and maybe, God forbid, ventured outdoors once a month. I’ve just been round Sainsbury’s three fucking times because I didn’t have anyone to help!”
“Mel if you even believed that was what you wanted you’d have made fucking sure I did it because you know that’s how it works.”
“I’m sorry, what the fuck? Of course it’s what I want, I want you to stop being a lazy fucking arse and get out of my fucking space.”
“My fucking space.”
“Don’t swear around the baby.”
“Whatever, Rob. Whatever.”
Ma is very loud. This makes Ra sad. Ma gets loud and Ra gets quiet.
But I won’t give up on you because you see me. You really see me. You know everything about me from the inside out and you’ve done it, learnt it, elevated it higher than I ever believed in even myself and shown me just how well it all works, how much it’s worth, how much more it has an excuse to be here. It. Me. How much more I have an excuse to be here. And I know you know this because you do it again. Over and over, you’re always here, you keep reminding me in Our Way just how much we love each other, just how much we care. And you’re crying again. Again? Whoever else in the whole big wide fucking world gets to see a grown man cry more than once? This isn’t normal. This is as good as it gets. This is fucking enlightenment. And somehow it makes me feel like more of a woman.
Yeah. Swish your hair. My spirit will seep down my face, like always, like Tuesday, and you’ll feel more of a woman.
I’m not comfortable with this. This is my boundary. Fair enough. So we know. Take each moment as it comes. So I get up and take it with me, into the bedroom. Bed room. Room for beds. I carry it. It lets me. I put it down. It’s all about the yellow today, Mel made sure of that. She absolutely takes the fucking cake sometimes. Yellow has to be the most clinically irritating colour of our time. Our time? All time. But I wasn’t there for all time. So our time. Yellow babygrow. Even the words are made of bile.
It looks at me and away and at me. It’s not tiny, like she’d say. It’s small, yeah, but it’s there. It’s there enough for you to see it. There enough to be. People exaggerate about babies.
I take the softest thing I can find. Soft but smooth, I won’t shove a toy in its face. Hairs in its mouth. That’s just unpleasant. Pillows are cliché but hey, so are we. I push softly. Softly and not for long. It lets me. It loves me, I think.
Ra is strong. Gods sit under the Cloudy Big, and smile, and do nothing, because Ra is doing Grace.
For a moment I think of that; whether it can hear in the same way we can, whether it can see any of what’s happening in front of it or whether it sees in black and white like a dog. But only for a moment. It’s ok. It has its bears and elephants and a nice big window to look out of.
I pull off and it’s ok. Quiet, but it’s ok. Quiet is graceful anyway.
I put it away with its first smile on its face.
Ra thinks quiet is best. Ra makes me quiet sometimes and then Ma is very quiet and then MaRa is loud, he says, when I’m too quiet to hear. I’m not supposed to hear.
He came back in to me after the usual seven minutes. Sat down, sad face, quiet hands. Same old foreplay.
All the stillness and subtlety available on some higher plane in our imagination. The romantic ideal world. It doesn’t deserve this stunted attempt at withholding everything from her but what she chooses to take that I play out in order to be a ‘good’ human being. God forbid we play the innocent and get it right. She’s whet from this look though. Something’s been done right. Chemistry is clumsy, it seems. But it’s good enough for us. We chase and hide and back and forth and come and cry. I pull off, and it’s all ok.
A part of her, at least, became conscious again. Thankfully, not any part of her that could suffer from pain or sickness; a graceful mercy by the universe. That is to say that she, the ‘she’ that she was now, could still house those feelings; or rather, provide them with temporary shelter. But they would no longer damage her, fill her, consume her. No, she could never again be consumed.
Instead she was suspended, supported. Cushioned and floating. Her skin was now translucent, freely giving and receiving all matter around it, without either control or injury, in contrast to her cautious life before. She watched as pink and purple lava flowed in, around, and out of her body. Fluid jellied shapes continued their steady journeys like working ants, without awaiting her permission. Nothing was considered, it simply was happening.
She titled her head upwards, slowly, as if on the edge of a bath. Comfortable enough not to be moved by anything she saw, but curious enough to look. She watched her hair swim after the previous moment’s urge of her neck. Everything was happening at a speed that meant you could continue acting in the present, while still watching the recent past happening at your side. Living, breathing nostalgia.
She felt nothing of the previous night, though. Nothing of the alcohol, the exhaustion, of the drugs that she had been unaware she was putting into herself. The giant had found her, filled her, and finally, consumed her.
She was now a part of him, and instead of all these muscle memories fizzing inside her, they passed idly through and around her, swimming with those jellied shapes, as if forming a jigsaw of a time past. Except that they were not building anything.
The giant had not accounted for this, and he was not built for such things. His chest was cavernous, but it would never be strong enough to house what he had put there. He was full, cramped, heavy, his body strapped into a thick decline.
Trapped inside him, the girl was freer than she had ever been. She was now nothing more than a sentient membrane of a soul, but she was there, and one day, she would finally consume him.
The teapig has evolved to understand her position in the office. It is a position of tea-maker, but not tea-drinker. She knows how to create the perfect medicine for every situation. Monday Morning, Broken Heart, Last Minute Late Finish Disappointment.
Her name is Mills.
She passes unnoticed behind desks that are taller than her stout mass unfit for digesting the refined delights that that which she creates has to offer.
Greg-in-booth-29 is the only person there who feels a pang of conscience at his lack of attempts to socialise with her. The rest of them are indifferent.
Except for Annie.
Ever since Mills set trot in the office, Annie has been watching her. She leans over from her booth to breathe through the hairs on Mills’ back, rustling the fibres of her self-consciousness like the wind pushes dry leaves from their settlements. On one occasion, she held Mills’ gaze as she poured one of the teapig’s cups of perfection very steadily onto the carpet. No one else bore witness to the incident, but the stain remains, undiscussed, but scuffed at by the feet and furrowed brows of all who pass.
Annie has been known to move booths.
Mills has accepted Annie’s alpha status over her and the other females in the office, if there are any. All that can be seen on the route to the kitchen is mostly the tips of black shiny shoes and sparse bits of hair from men’s heads poking out from the booth boards. Sometimes a pair of glasses will also emerge, and then snap back out of sight.
Where others plug in ipods or swing pens through their fingers, Mills needs no distraction from the miniature boredoms occurring on small routine commutes. She is aware of her surroundings, of her connection to the universe, and the acute tragedy of everything. She made this decision herself, long ago, and, as she concocts her perfect medicines, she knows that she is truly living life to the full.