Untitled II

I painted a portrait over you. I sketched trust into your eyes and lust into your lips. I unclenched your jaw and drew speech bubbles filled with the most interesting conversation. I made you slightly taller and  I didn’t like your jumper so I coloured it in green. I changed all the music in your playlist and I drew an outline of my favourite book into the crook of your arm.

I kept going. I filled in your background with a candlelit party scene filled with wine and people dancing. I added my friends laughing at your wit and winking approval at me.  I scribbled two plane tickets to Paris and a red rose into your jacket pocket. I sketched your arm around my waist and my head on your shoulder. And I imagined my future and your future being the same future.

The portrait is everything I ever wanted, until it falls to the floor, and there you are, standing still, looking the other way.

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Sometimes a whole journey can go by in a blur because I’m sitting in the seat opposite staring at myself. Or jumping in behind other people’s eyes to see my face looking back.. What I look like, if my shoulders are straight, what effect a flick of the hair will have, if my face is the right combination of placid and contemplative (yet approachable). I fly up over the street and look down at my head. I check all around to see if people are looking. I am air and my body is something I occasionally occupy for kicks, to make a joke and glow happily when people laugh.

Other times I stick in my headphones and turn the music up really loud because then I am hyper aware of my self. I blink slowly and my eyes become more focused, I jam my hands down into the bottoms of my pockets and pull my self closer to the ground. Then I feel like I’m not walking on the footpath, but in it. I am solid, I am held by gravity and defying it with every step. I block out all the world and pull my arms in close to my sides and revel in delicious solitude.

There’s nothing left. I take a deep breath, plunge my hands down again and they come up empty. Not even a mangy gasping sound, not an iota or a syllable of a word.

Recurring

I’m here again.

Standing on the threshold of the door hanging off its hinge, emptiness in front of me and more heartbeatingly frighteningly behind. I lean on the jamb and press my forehead to my hand, cold with sweat and expectation. Specks of dust float silently shining white in the light of the broken window. Time has not moved for an age. Nothing lives in this place.

Barefooted step forward and I feel the ends of ancient nails against my sole, catching toenail on edge of board I wince. Out of the corner of my eye I see a fireplace yawning black darkness and an empty chair. There’s another door across the room and something is both drawing me towards it and telling me not to go, not to make that mistake again, but I look down and my hand is on the doorknob turning.

 

Untitled

There is a version of me that only you know about. That moment in that secret hour where it’s just you, me and the moon, I am free.

All daytime is outward-looking placidity, waiting, quiet. All night time is ours. Heavy lids and limbs, that old hole in my heart filled for a while with the vision of infinite hope, of possibility, of joy. Cold feet in the nook, holding hands. Happiness beams sunshine into this dark room. Eyes close slowly and soul lifts upwards to receive a dream, perhaps.

I wake in the dark and my hand is empty.

Sorting

On the day of the Death of the Year I have a ritual.

Kettle on, door closed, radio off. I empty my pockets out on to the table. Pebbles of all shapes and sizes scatter everywhere and I quickly scramble to stop them falling on the floor. Time to get sorting. The ritual is always the same so I know the best way to begin is to stretch my arms across the table through the stony sea and split them into two halves. Task divided, I begin. The first few take no considering, I grab them and drop them into the bucket beside me on the floor. These are older ones, stones I’d mostly forgotten about until they are there in front of me, sitting dull and mute on the tabletop. A wince as I think I should’ve done this ages ago but I shake it off and carry on. Never an easy task.

The job begins to get a little more difficult. Decisions don’t come easily when the stones that are left become curious, shining strangely. They talk to me in whispers and hums, pleading, cajoling. Touching them brings shivers, comfort almost. I pick one up and look into it. It is solid, black, an eye – not mine – reflecting back at me from infinite depth. I know I shouldn’t keep it as my heart begins to ache in that old familiar way but I have to. Just for a little while longer. Don’t let me go

Another. As I hold it in a clenched fist I can see the tears, hear the conversation again, the confusion and anger at words said and unsaid. And the silence that followed. I open my hand. This one is fighting hard to stay, vibrating in my palm. I turn it and feel pain and relief at the clink as it hits the bucket.

Things I did, things I didn’t do, opportunities wasted, friendships lost, chances unrecognised, calls ignored. All lie waiting on the table crying for attention. The stubborn pile I am left with is thankfully small. I fill a little bag and can sense their relief at escaping the cull. These will continue into the dawn of the brand New Year and beyond, perhaps next time I will let them go. I finish and leave the room, bag in pocket and bucket on the floor. Heartaching wailing silenced by closed door, they will die soon as I have stopped feeding them.

I carry regrets like stones in my pockets. On this, the Death of the Year, I get to drop some, which is nice.

I am the Spy in the Sky

I am the spy in the sky. I fly silently high.

I see you far below, making yet another mistake. I follow your path into your next bad decision and am amused at the state you are about to find yourself in. That’s going to hurt. I’d like to linger and see this one out but am distracted by a bright confusion a little way away. Now here is one I’ve seen before – how funny that you think you are unique. You are all the same. I fly onwards and upwards into the clouds where it’s warm on my back, and quietly separate from the endless noise below.

Time for a game. I dive earthwards and grab the end of a string, spin in an over and backwards loop. Now he is being dragged towards her, in an uncontrollable motion he thinks is love, while she has her back turned in an incompatible chapter. How awkward. I’d smile if I could.

I make the rules. Not you. I’ve overheard you calling me Fate, a coin toss, a roll of the dice, chance. Be mildly comforted by giving me a name. It won’t help. If only you would look up – I’m right here all of the time, swooping through your thoughts, casting shadows over your happiness. That niggle you sometimes feel in your stomach? That’s me, pulling you whatever way gives the most entertaining consequence. Last week I whispered the answer into the ear of a boy who wasn’t ready to hear it, and with the flap of a wing caused the traffic jam that made her too late to say goodbye.

If you would only look up you would realise that ultimately, none of this means anything, that you are not in charge.

I am the spy in the sky. I am the answer to why.

Cathy

She looks at the world through glass eyes. Her painted mouth, always perfect, carries determination and a smile reveals (also perfect) teeth and no happiness. She is beautiful.

When she cries her tears roll down the inside of her cheeks into her hollow chest, empty save for a papier maché heart which long ago stopped being capable of love. Real love anyway. Certainly, she can’t remember ever feeling friendship. She is constantly amused by how people seem to need each other, and occasionally her. She can’t recall a time when she needed anybody. After all, relying on others means one is weak, doesn’t it? In her own way though, she does need people, as objects to dance and perform for her amusement.

Her movements are deliberate. Her long limbs creak, her hands clench into fists. Her head slowly turns to face the sunlight, a flicker of some warm feeling quickly quelled. She sits up on the shelf looking down at the world around her, dividing time with long, slow blinks.

There is no chance, no accident, nothing that she can’t predict. There is no failure either. One time another joined her on the shelf. The next day, they found it on the floor, smashed into a million pieces.

Cathy always wins.

Within

I first saw her, standing at the traffic light at the end of my road. She smiled and waved to me. She was beautiful, the sun shining from behind her making a golden glow of hair halo around her bright face. She winked at me and I felt a happy glow in my chest.

The next time, she was sitting in the seat opposite me, trying to catch my attention for the entire train journey. Her expressions mirrored mine, I tried to focus on the article I was reading but gave up after a few minutes and stared right back.

Another time, I was rushing through the park late for work, and she was lying in the sun, head in hands, looking up at the sky. Completely alone, peaceful.

I was having a black day, wet-eyed, heavy hearted and consumed. I heard a knock on the door, opened it to find her standing there crying. She took my hand and told me everything would be OK.

The last time I saw her, she was walking ten steps ahead of me, hands in pockets, head bobbing to a favourite tune, eyes on the rooflines of the buildings along the street. She turned down a side street and I quickened my pace.

When I got to the turn the laneway was empty.

I realised then that she was me. She was the perfect version of me. I think I lost her. 

Advice to my 22 year old self

1. In ten years time, you still won’t know what you’re doing, or have discovered the “trick” to living happily. Stop trying to find it.

2. You will still have all of the friends you have now, and will pick up many more along the way. You will never be alone. 

3. The only competition you’re having is with yourself. Stop it. You ARE good enough.

4. Call your parents for a chat occasionally. They’ve sacrificed a lot for you and they’re not going to be around forever.

5. Worrying about what others think of you is futile. Chances are, they’re not thinking of you at all.

6. You have no control over whether people like you or not. If you are sure you’re being the best version of yourself possible, that’s all that matters.

7. Nobody has a perfect life. It is a completely unattainable goal.

8. Accept advice graciously, even if it’s not asked for.

9. Tell him.

10. The worst that can happen sometimes happens. You will be able to deal with it.

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