A drowned rat

imageYou know the phrase: “the best laid plans?” Well, today is a bit like that: high expectations, no air. I guess I should have known, what with it starting on a deprivation of sleep. My partner snoring and coughing, my dog snorting and shuffling, trying to get comfortable but for some reason failing to do so: I rested not a jot. Watching the clock, I forced sheep over fences and pushed cows into pens; only my cattle were words and my constructions lines. I’m not sure how much I wrote or if it was any good. Not that it matters… I can’t remember any of it.

At 10am, I chose to vacate my flat, ignorant to the day’s disposition and my very-soon-to-be-entrenched response. It was quiet out. Wet too… and grey, with very little light. I acknowledged the temperature and the lack of pedestrian traffic, went to a new place, sat by a fire, drank hot coffee and wrote. Admiring the walls – metal moulds shaped like hearts, houses, eggs, hens – I snapped and posted until my enthusiasm was satisfied. In the space that opened up, I then transcribed, starting with my most recent diary.

At 11.30am, I made my first mistake, packing up and leaving instead of deciding to stay. Wandering the streets; window shopping, popping in to talk to shop assistants when the mood took me, loneliness descending like a cloud: I carried my sorrow until, heavy, I had to put it down. Then, leaving it in a doorway, I went to find a length of yarn to tie around its neck and subsequently dragged it behind me, where it became increasingly irate.

It’s now 4pm and I have only just sat. My hair is flat, my coat is wet and my nose won’t stop running. Sitting on an uncomfortable chair – wooden, slatted; what is it about London these days and the obsession with impractical chairs: doesn’t anyone realise they are totally unholistic? – I’m self-medicating with my keyboard and tea. By no means perfect: it works for now. And even if everything I am writing is a miserable waste of time, at least I feel semi-productive.

Time lags. Light fades. Background chatter rises. I want to get off, but there’s nowhere to go.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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The Clucking of Hens

“There is no point in trying to suppress the babble of words and ideas that goes on in most adult brains. So if it won’t stop, let it go on as it will, and listen to it as if it were the sound of traffic or the clucking of hens.” Alan Watts

It’s my last day. My flight leaves tomorrow. I’m packed, the boxes have gone, the dog has been to the vets for pre-flight jabs. And I’ve tidied, washed, ironed and cleaned, to the extent that the house feels empty. I am no longer here.

I am lying in bed beneath a blanket writing by candlelight. In the main room, a fire burns. Outside, its raining. It has been for hours. The shift I had hoped to avoid caught me unawares, materialising without warning. It’s winter now, properly; not sometimes or some days… Still, at least I will be better prepared when I land, which is something.

I’m not sure how I feel, as I’m doing my best to avoid thinking and feeling is strictly banned. I’m scared that if I pause for long enough for it to sink in, the everything that’s happening around me (which is pretty scary and big) will rise up causing me to drown. I have a tendency to suffer from overwhelm at the best of times.

To keep the monster at bay, I drink lots of camomile tea and dose up on sedatives – all herbal, mind. I move a lot, too – all nervous energy atop impatient feet.

Looking after my dog is helping; tending her agitation, aiding my own dis-ease. What she is suffering is bad enough: she sees boxes, cases; knows something is happening to her environment, chipping away at it, but she can’t quite explain what it is. Is mummy leaving? Is daddy going on a trip? Has she done something to anger or upset? Why are things disappearing: her blanket, her bowl, her bed? I know where she is. Being in limbo is uncomfortable.

I wish I knew what was on the other side, whether I will love or loathe it. I wish I knew how long it will take, the exact length of this interlude. I wish I could have a guarantee that if I hate it, if I am unhappy, I don’t have to stay that long. I wish someone could promise me that the temperature will be favourable, that there won’t be much rain and that the sun will always shine. I wish there were answers. In their absence, I have no idea where I am, how I feel, what is happening. Like my dog, I am confused.

I reach out my hand to those around me, looking to them for comfort, only to realise too late that they are only interested in subtracting. I lend my shoulders, my arms, my breasts… while my heart endures a battering. I need to widen my circuit, balancing the flow between to and from.

Tired, drained, I shrink back, taking refuge in the one place only I can find. It’s quiet and dark. Even in a busy cafe, nothing reaches in. Safe within the void, held by the flow, I find comfort. For now, it works.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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