1.11.2014 Journal Prompt

Image from Labor Day
Image from Labor Day

January 11, 2014: Sometimes, when he held me…

2 Replies to “1.11.2014 Journal Prompt”

  1. Sometimes things change and looking back you can’t recall when or how it happened. Like when we was kids and we used to sleep under cold white sheets and grey scratch blankets edged in red woolen stitches as big as a child would sew. And the sheets and blankets with all the corners sharp as knives and everything tucked in tight as a fist-grip so that in sleep it was as though you was being held, always. And there was a comfort in that, I think, even when mam and dad was arguing downstairs and the sound of them throwing word-punches at each other came to us through the floor and we slipped further down the bed, moving like snakes move, till the sheet and blanket covered our heads, and we was in our own suffocating world.

    Once, our Billy crept from his bed and he lay across the opening of mine, sealing the envelope shut, and no matter which way I turned I was trapped and panic stole my voice and my breath and I think maybe I fainted. Billy thought I was pretending at first and then he thought he’d killed me. And I heard his voice coming to me through a black fog, all hissing whisper and plea, and he was praying to God for me to breathe, and so I did.

    But somewhere there was a change and duvets we slept under, filled with feathers and air, and nothing tucked in and the feeling of being held was missing. I don’t recall the day or even the year, but it changed, and sometimes I miss those sheets and blankets and lying in the grip of sleep.

    And it’s something the same with Ken. Married to him now for nearly ten years and it’s different now from how it used to be and I look back trying to discover when that happened and how. Used to be we was always touching each other, kissing and stroking and holding hands. And I’d catch him looking at me across a wide space and he’d be smiling and missing me near him. And when he was near he’d be whispering that he thought I was the most beautiful girl in the room, in any room. And we was always laughing. And it’s not like that now, not like that at all.

    I know it’s unrealistic to expect different, but I thought all that would last a lot longer than it did. I see kids doing the same on the street some days and I shake my head and scoff, knowing that kid-time is different from real time and soon enough it’s over. But looking back I don’t know the day or the month or the year when it changed with me and Ken. I just know that it’s different now.

    Like mam and da, our words are punches some days, or spiteful nips. And when he touches me, it’s like wasp stings on my skin or nettle rash. And his looks, if he looks at all, are sharp as thrown stones. And he holds me sometimes, his arm heavy across my neck, and I feel again the breathless panic of being trapped as a child, and I hear the hissing whisper of Billy’s voice and his pleading prayer for me to breathe, but Billy has been dead for three years now and so I know the voice I hear is really mine.

  2. Days can be long sometimes, which speaks to the elasticity of time. Do what you enjoy, my father taught me, and enjoy what you do. They are not the same thing. I offer them up here as maxims for life. And I do as my father taught me. But still, sometimes, days can be long.

    When a child you have nursed one day stands almost as tall as you do and you can feel each day that he is a little further from you and suddenly the phone rings and it is not good news. He is in the hospital and they tell you that you must come now. And you drop everything and all the street lights are against you and you stop when you want to go.

    Then, sitting beside his bed, and somewhere the sun still moves across the sky – except it is not the sun that is moving but us – and I hold his unresponsive hand and wait for him to open his eyes, and I measure my day in his every shallow breath – then the day, that day, may be counted long. But he wakes at last and he is soon better and soon careless again of the near to death that he had been, and I hold my breath every time the phone rings.

    And your boss at work speaks to you in confidence one early morning, by the coffee machine, talking in whispers and her voice broken, and she says that she must have an operation and they will take away one of her breasts. She says, imagine that, and I think of Saint Agatha and a cake the Italians make and it is breast shaped with a cherry for a nipple. And she is crying and asking me what her husband will make of it, and I know her husband and he’s fucking a girl in accounts, and so I lie and say he will understand. And every time I catch her gaze I smile and I am not sure how convincing that smile can be, and that day seems long.

    And the day your father dies and you know he is dying and you expect it will be this day and so you call before going to work just to tell him you love him. And the phone rings for the longest time, and you wonder if it is too early or too late. And his second wife answers and she says he is sleeping and she will pass on your love and you say you will call again at the end of the day. And I did call and he was dead by then, and that was a long day also.

    But if you are lucky, there’s a home to return to at the end of each long day, and food for the table and a soft bed to lay down in. And luckier still if that bed is shared. His name is Lou and when he holds me, his arms folded about me, I feel like a child again, safe and sound, and loved, not ever wanting to break from that embrace and wishing all of time could stop in that joyful moment.

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