One Reply to “1.23.2014 Journal Prompt”

  1. He feels her standing near. Shadow-near sometimes, or crouched in the dark of corners of rooms, or lurking just behind shut doors. He hears her scold-words against him, muttered under her breath when his back is turned. And her sighs cutting like knives and all to make him smaller than he is. And in the bed – their bed once and their bed still – he suffers her heavy breath and he cannot sleep but turns fitfully in the suffocating dark.

    Three years since she was laid in the cold dark earth. Hadn’t he seen it with his own eyes and minister intoning his ‘dust to dust’ speech over the grave and prayers for her rest and eternal sleep? There’s a weighted stone at her head with her name inscribed there, and flowers that were used to be her favourites laid at her feet. Surely she must be at rest.

    He speaks with Dr Shieldwell sometimes. Dr Jennifer Shieldwell. Jenny – a slip of a girl even now. And he’d watched her growing up, playing as a child in the street, running from imagined dragons or mice, and the clack clack of her mother’s shoes loose on her feet, and kissing boys for dares and then kissing for real. Become a doctor now, and he tells her what’s what and she nods and smiles and writes things down in his notes and she tells him it is all in his head. She writes him a prescription for pills to help him sleep, but they are no help – what can a slip of a girl know, he thinks.

    And so he lies awake some nights and he listens to his wife’s breathing and he whispers stories to lull her into sleep, stories of first words and first touch and first kiss – and by degrees he woos her again to softness and then to dreaming sleep.

    And, when the day creeps up on the back of night, looks over the shoulders, and lights up his room, he rises and dresses. He has not slept, so his movements are slow and heavy and dreamlike. He dresses as though for an occasion, as though he has a place of importance to go. Shirt, and tie neatly knotted, and suit trousers pressed with creases sharp as paper cuts, and shoes that have a glassy shine to them.

    In the kitchen he makes a pot of tea and he sets the table for two – two place mats, two plates, two knives and two spoons, two cups. He pours her tea, black, and his own with milk and two sugars, two now where it used to be one.

    ‘Where is it you are off to today?’ she says. He hears the stone in her words and the broken glass. It is not really a question she asks, but is an accusation she makes. She thinks there is a woman he meets and that is why he is dressed so smart.

    He drinks his tea and gives no answer to her question except to say, ‘Be still now.’ And there, just for a brief moment, she is gone and the house holds its breath and he blinks and keeps his eyes closed to prolong the stillness. He breathes deep.

    He adjusts the collar of his shirt in the mirror, checks his pockets for change and pulls on his suit jacket, Then, just before leaving the house, he switches on the radio so she will have company.

    Outside he turns left or turns right. It does not matter which. He walks till his feet hurt in his shoes and there’s a bus-stop near. He catches the first bus that comes and he does not know where he is going. He buys a ticket from the driver and he says to the man behind the wheel that he wants to go as far as the bus goes.

    The sound of the bus and the soft jingle of the bell and the uneven movement, like swaying, like a cradle rocked or like dancing in the arms of his mother, and he always slips into sleep and he rests.

    When he wakes he is a long way from home and he is by himself. The bus driver is shaking his arm and the driver says ‘This is as far as we go, mate.’ He rubs the sleep from his eyes and he cocks his head on one side, like a bird, and he listens. Then he smiles and he tells the driver it is far enough.

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