There’s a hollow in me; an absence. Like a piece of furniture missing from a room I haven’t been in for years. I enter knowing something’s changed and I can’t say what. There’s just the feeling. Hollow.
I feel dirty on the inside. I scrub the outside; wet hair, towel and soap, and a sterile ghost in a steamed up mirror, staring back forlorn, looking drawn like a wake: ‘what happened?’. ‘Why me?’. In the condensation I take a clean finger and draw a face with no mouth. Because no voice can reach me.
I put two fingers down my throat, and only tears came out. I’m empty, save a tremour, clinking like crystal in a four-point-two. If I could run away I would, but I’m stuck like chewing gum on a heel. Instead, I feel my clothes rough as sandpaper on another’s skin and wonder if it’s me inside them.
They took a favourite book, a dream I dreamt, a hope I’d held like a bird, a secret and an innocence I’d barely tasted. They left a pile of rocks behind, a litany of twisted words, a lie upon a dread upon an unmade bed, an ugliness that wasn’t mine: all held junk, dumped, netted in an ocean’s belly.
Slow motion, glass slipping from a hand, 9/11 falling man, the fragments scatter into darkened corners of a mind, darkness, musty as an attic. Inside my head, on a shelf near the front, above my eyes, is a weight; a sackful of dead kittens that keeps the crisp ochre and azure blue of autumn at a distance; vague; surreal like someone else’s life. Nothing is vivid, except the cinematographic flicker of a past replayed against my better nature, my worst fears. A yellow-edged page paper cuts each time I thumb the horror to reach the end; the end beyond my reach.
When I took my anger and forged it into a sword, and a shield I learned to use as armour, instead of using my ribs and spleen to keep the fires burning. When I lit a lamp again that rid me of a shadow that was never mine. And when the dumpster truck came by and cleared my street of trash bags, cat and dog shit and burned out cars. When I learned to use my teeth to bite down hard on anything except my tongue. When I stood up straight again, and taught myself how to raise my fists at the right time, under the right noses. When I fixed and painted up my fence and garden gate to say I’m home, and keep the riff-raff out. When I resolved to only eating food when hungry, not poison on a tin plate slid under the door by some old empty fucker. When I learned to heed the signs like radar warnings. When my child came home, after all these years, and I held her in my arms. When I let the sun come up without the ache of loss and mourning for a life I never lived.
I see that now is all I have; the vibrant moment of my life, unfolding like a wing; passing like a breeze. And all the life I need to live again, and love, and breathe out words of who I truly am; to walk, feel and smile without another’s shame upon me. And stand firm on ground reserved for me, and take this one and only space in all the world and call it simply mine and here and now and good enough. Today I let the past be in its place, and gone from here forever.
Photo: ‘Caroline, after a pose used by Degas’. Charcoal on paper, by the author
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