Around this time last year I was struggling to write words, a pretty foreign concept when I usually struggle to stem them. This was a blank page mocking me with its over-bright pixels, white, empty. I couldn’t even scroll to lessen the amount of white at the bottom of the page – a habit I fall into whenever I’m feeling threatened by my own work. What I did have was a picture of a painting, a painting done by an amazing local artist to which it was my job to attach words for the purpose of an exhibition.
This long unusual piece of art was challenging me, as the whole idea was challenging me to decide what sort of writer I was. Fantasy author, for sure, but was there more to me than that? Now as I was hunting around for old work for the purpose of a throwback thursday, thinking I might find some interesting way in which my writing has matured, I came across the piece I eventually wrote in a flurry of spewed emotion. So read on for a taste of something a bit different. I’m still not 100% sure I like it, but the artist liked it very much and the exhibition was a success, so that’s a win. For me it’s a win to put myself out of my comfort zone in the first place!
In Air I Drown
He breaks me. Every word another cut. Every snarl another bruise upon the flesh of life. I used to think that life was a journey, a path from one garden to the next, from the daisies of childhood into the prickly thorns and passions of the adolescent rose garden. Adulthood a sunny moor. Old age, a misty vista scented with lavender like the soap in my grandmother’s bathroom.
When did I change? When did that journey become a trial, a struggle to walk another step? Now with every gasping breath I drown in air.
He turns away. He always does. Tears fall from the crinkled corners of his eyes, but they are not tears for me.
I think of the gardens. Daisies, wild and yellow, scattered through the soft grass, dancing and bobbing their little heads so happily. Perhaps it was a dream. Perhaps the grass was scratchy and the sky grey, the echo of a scream on the breeze that wafted cigarette smoke past my nose, acrid and stale. Perceptions.
“That’s a big word,” he would jeer. “Did you learn that at your fancy school?”
Yes, I think now, as I stare at the scratchy beard piercing his pale skin. I did.
That was in the rose garden. A strange place full of odd pitfalls it was, where one day a rose would bloom, its red petals plump and fragrant, only for it to wither at a touch and turn to thorns. That was when the questions changed. I stopped asking why the grass was green and started asking what was wrong with me. I don’t look like the girl on the cover of the magazine. She has blonde hair and long legs, hairless, spotless, smooth, her glossy grin seeming to mock me with her superiority. If that is what a girl is supposed to look like, am I a Martian? Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. It’s a load of bullshit, but sometimes I wonder. Mars was the god of war.
He is yelling through the tears. Spit flies from his lips, that pale skin reddened and blotchy. I don’t hear the words, not the words he is saying. They are always the same ones. Should not. Will not. It is all my fault. His face is so red. Does a demon live beneath that skin?
“Do you think you’re better than me?”
He says those words a lot. My sunny moor is filled with weeds. Blackened bracken rises from the ground like twisting hands, grasping, desperate. It catches at my legs. I fall. I bruise. Every part of me aches, but the pain in limb is nothing to the pain in my heart. He has blocked out the sun. Seething, fists gripped into tight punches, I might never see the misty vista scented with lavender.
My grandmother had smiled.
“Yeah? You think you’re better than me?”
Yes. The thought slips out. Even in my head it’s dangerous and my eyes dart to those crushing fists. Yes.
“Just ‘cos of your rich family and your fancy house?”
No. You taught me to be worthless. But I don’t want to die. I want to see the sun again.
He is clutching his hair as though I am driving him mad. Perhaps he is mad. In the morning he will be different. The words will change. There will be love amid the blame, his fingers capable of a gentle touch as they ghost across darkening bruises and broken skin.
“Don’t leave,” he will beg. But I’ve listened to that voice too many times. I don’t want to drown gasping my daily breath. I want to see the sun again. “Stay.”
No. I will not let you break me.