Instead of speaking she breathes across the skin of her coffee. Whispers, the words unwanted to an empty chair across and closes her eyes, sips her drink, when nothing is said in return and blots a last goodbye on a napkin from the counter.
One sip to poison a prince, his teeth sunk into forbidden fruit, while one-true-love stands waiting, patient, the perfect good girl all fairy-tales and smiles, alone. Drinks her own potion, steps free of skin crafted from paperbound volumes brittle with age. Breathes. Finally. Screams.
Almost indistinct, her watermark. Yet when I looked beneath your words I saw only her instead of you.
Little girls are taught that boys being boys, will torment to show their love. Big girls will claim that love makes up for bruises, broken bones and split lips. I am lucky not to have known that sort of that love. I’ve never been struck by someone claiming their heart beats for me while echoing the beating with their fists. When it happens to a man they are reduced to the weaker sex, because it’s bad enough when a woman doesn’t have the balls to leave. Without experiencing the same thing I can’t say for certain, but I’ve carried enough fear with me to understand what it is to cling to the things we know. Privileged, is a tricky word to stick when most of us hide the things dragging us down.
Someone once told me life is like driving with one headlight busted. You can’t see much but you can see enough to stay on the road. It sounded too close to destiny wrapped up as a given for those with cars or perhaps even torchlight to stumble on by. In the moment before the train do you ever wonder… a side effect of an anxious mind designed to keep you from harm by popping ideas in your head with enough force to flinch. But it’s all unreal until enough breath is breathed to put steel into the words the ideas that dance like paper on a line in our heads. New cars have automatic lights. They come on when night falls without the need of human intervention. My car is still old, growing older, it comes with a choice to make.
The slow, relaxed kisses, often led to something else less slow, less relaxed, less clothed more time consuming, all consuming. While the sharp, sweet pecks always on the way past like commas in conversation, were the pauses for breath anchoring us to each other.
His mother is an echo in the tread of his soles, smaller her steps swallowed up by the forward march of man up and carry on. She sees her own father in the square set shoulders, spine now a rod to be turned into a weapon when sadness finally stews into anger. He will tell people how he’s never hit a woman, because that is the same as respect. His mother raised him better than to paint a girl’s skin with fists, so he’ll call it love when he uses words to do the same where it’s invisible, and call it consent when he talks the ‘no’ away to a half yes. When the glasshouse eventually does break, he’ll pretend away the damage. Not realizing that you can’t until the last pane shatters. Bravery mutates into desperation, shame, escape. Nothing else seems to fit when the world is framed that way.
My father had a VCR tape of One Man and His Dog that we could never get to play properly. It’s probably still in the bottom of the cupboard, with the Disney films and MotoGPs that never quite make it across the living room anymore. Some people have got rid of their VCR players these days. There’s nowhere else for them to go but the bottom of a plastic bin so they stay in the dark with the dust and the spiders. That is the way things move on. In October I re-learnt how to be by myself. Sort of. Just me and the dog, and the crunch of autumn on farm tracks. Even the walkers seemed to be absent or perhaps I had fallen out of step with the world. Found the time of day when no one ventured further than their front-door or garden gate. I’d found a time when all of it, all of the emptiness was mine for a while. So I let it swallow me, completely, for as long as …
‘We should really address the elephant in the room.’ Those were the words you tossed out over coffee, like spare change or old candy wrappers, bits of pieces you were bored with carrying around and deposited on my living room table between the books and the plant pots. There didn’t seem to be much point explaining, your elephant wasn’t in this room, or hadn’t been until you kicked up dust clouds into a grey silhouettes. I kept my silence on the matter, much like you had kept yours until now, too cautious about the fall out, about how you might have to hold me together when all the pieces broke apart and ran for the corners in the skirting, white mice abandoning ship at the first sign of storms. I let you think you were the only one holding out a hand, while you explained why I was sad and how it could all be fixed if I tired hard enough and put in the work. You can learn how to listen to the some …
She makes babies clothes for the sleeping children. Started with her own, but just kept going… That’s why she walks the fence line. Knuckle bones pressed white against paper skin. Twisting wool loose. Gathering the lost.