Up for sale again

Your old house is up for sale again. I walked past it yesterday.

I wondered about the people who were selling up. About what had happened in their lives. Were they happily moving on, trading up, finding a better view? It isn’t hard to find a better view than the one your old house has. A short shrubby garden out front. At the rear, tram lines beyond a back garden full of secrets, overgrown with a mossy lawn. I remember it. I remember summers when it was neat. I remember you, sitting on your back doorstep, watching the flying ants. I remember dripping condensation from a glass onto the back of your neck.

The house is empty now. The owners have already gone. No curtains at the windows. No furniture in the rooms. Different wallpaper to when you were there. Different carpet.

I walked past and I stopped to look at this house where you once lived. I looked, and felt regret.

Regrets fade, just like bruises. The words we spoke are echoes in a distant past. Even memories fade and alter. Did I ever really lift the hair from your neck and kiss you? Were we ever really there?


In response to a Past Postcards tweet.

The last of the tourists

Do you wish you were here? Exchanging a walk on part in a war for a lead role in a cage? Who said that? A singer, perhaps.

We are the last of the tourists. Outside is desolation, a ravaged planet that used to sustain life until we visited the fuck out of it and installed our dysfunction as the norm. We are the last to bear witness, staring through tempered glass at the untempered ravening hordes. We share a bucket of popcorn, munching as we observe. It’s a kind of reality tv writ large. Plato would have loved it.

Do you wish you were here? A tourist in your own land? You were lost years ago. Swollen and bloated, a dead goldfish floating in a bowl. We threw you out without regret, although it’s fair to say that I miss you now. That I wish you could see this. Our fears come true.

The citizens chafed impatiently at the least touch of authority and ceased to care even for the laws.

Good old Plato. He knew. Society had to fall, like the Goddess of Democracy in that Chinese square. It seems so long ago that we had hope to shatter.


In response to a Past Postcards tweetWish You Were Here by Pink Floyd and elements of Plato.

To my little bit of wouldn’t I just

He had an interesting way with words. An interesting way with an opening gambit. Cocksure of himself and his ribald banter. He was like a throwback to a 1970s smut merchant off the telly.

And therein lay the rub.

Every time a letter or a card arrived, every time she had to read the lines he’d written, every time she cringed inside.

“To my little bit of wouldn’t I just.”

Royal blue ink on pale blue paper. Quink on Basildon Bond. He must have stockpiled, because where do you buy Quink ink and Basildon Bond paper these days?

Just as Proust had his madeleine to send him spinning off into a distant past, she had this pale blue paper and the royal blue cursive of his confident hand.

Their hands are always confident, these men who take and take and take. His hand certainly was, with the black hairs on the fat, stubby fingers. No elegant hand, that one. A sausage meat hand. She could picture that hand gripping the pen, just as she could picture it lying across her thigh or her belly.

Wouldn’t he just, indeed? Wasn’t she such a little bit? Would he ever let her be?


In response to a Past Postcards tweet.

Apron

The knives were sharpened. Not out yet. Still in their canvas roll, tied tight around with cord. Sharp, though. Ready.

The kitchen was clean. Wiped down. All surfaces disinfected. Not that it mattered. This butchering job wasn’t about food. Nobody was going to dine on the fillets and cuts I’d be preparing tonight.

I waited. The tungsten bulbs cast a harsh light across the blond wood surfaces and white tiled walls. A clean kitchen is my favourite workspace. Clinical. Sterile. Calm.

I waited. Time passed. I leant against a work bench, my arms folded, the roll of knives on another work bench before me. I mentally prepared, deciding on which knife for which cut.

On arrival, she was drugged but still conscious. She was gagged but not blindfolded. Her eyes cast around the room, the tops flattened like a cat under threat. They looked squared off, like a character in an anime film. I liked that.

With the first cut, she flinched, but then she realised that her body was numb. She was still after that. Fatally so, eventually.

When I’d done, I had to wipe my hands on the legs of my jeans.

I forgot to bring an apron.


In response to a Past Postcards tweet.

Orangery

I sheltered in the Orangery.

Neither wind nor rain could stop what I’d begun.

She was everything. My desire to possess her, all consuming.

Wife to another, I cared not for convention or the opinion of others. She was everything.

The turn of her head. Her profile in the half light through a window. The way her eyes reflected the light. The coils of her chestnut brown hair. The way I would unfasten the parade of buttons at the back of her dress, given the opportunity.

I sheltered in the Orangery and tried to control my breathing.

The click of a door catch. The creak of the hinge. The stiffening of the hairs on the back of my neck as I anticipated her approach. I knew it was she. I sensed her scent on the air.

She walked slowly, trailing her hands across the leaves of exotic plants. I heard her footsteps bringing her closer. I pictured her eyes, now grey, now green, now blue, always frank, and suddenly she was upon me.

I rose from the wooden seat on which I effected my repose.

“Mrs Grey,” I began, but her mouth found mine, hot and urgent, and I ceased.


In response to a Past Postcards tweet.

Off the earth

She lies in bed in this cathedral of a room. High ceilinged with roof lights letting in the sun. White walled, wood floored, the archetype of boutique living. She lies in bed and listens to the distant sound of surf crashing on the shore.

Shoreline noises aside, there is perfect silence. No traffic, no tv, no tinny music playing from anyone’s phone. This is off the earth.

Behind the whitewashed croft, a cliff. The land falls sheer away to the sea. At the foot of that cliff, the surf booms. Last night she stood at the edge and watched the foamy sea, wrapping solitude around herself like a shawl.

She knows she has run away. She knows and doesn’t care. She has run away from things legally binding. She has run from her moral obligations. She has run to the end of that major island and taken a boat to land on this minor one.

In this cathedral of a room, on this altar of a bed, she sacrifices the last vestige of her complicity. She takes the bottle from the bedside cabinet, the strap from the drawer. She pushes the needle into the vein and falls off the earth.


Inspired by a PastPostcards tweet.

Even Dorothy and her friend have gone

I don’t like skiing. That’s the thing. I have a pathological fear of broken bones. When he invited me, I said no. I said, “I have a pathological fear of broken bones.” He laughed and told me, “That doesn’t exist.” But it does. I can still hear the splintering crack of a schoolmate’s leg breaking when she fell from the top of the climbing rope in PE.

He persuaded me. He always persuades me. Now here I am, sleeping in a chalet by night, wearing salopettes by day. Resolutely not skiing.

My lack of interest in his favourite winter pastime has encouraged new friendships. In the chalet next to ours are two women. Dorothy, one of them is called. We socialise almost every night, but I can’t recall the name of Dorothy’s friend. She’s the quiet type. Dorothy is louder.

She doesn’t say much, the friend. She watches. Her face is mostly eyes, with a wry little mouth that doesn’t speak. I catch her staring sometimes. At me. At him. Mostly him. We have nothing in common.

He’s out on a double black diamond today. Even Dorothy and her friend have gone.

Or perhaps only Dorothy’s friend went with him.


Written in response to a Past Postcards tweet