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 moon underwater

imageWe sit opposite one another, each wrapped up in our own silence – yours hot, mine cold – juggling problems that refuse to be solved without the aid of phone calls, lawyers and threats. You are angry and your breath is red.

I’m angry too, but the weather has twisted my emotions so that my words are like water, hard to understand. Inside, bad things grow: a tree without roots, a plant with black leaves, strange-shaped flowers.

I listen to my body and it tells me it hurts, but with everything that is happening, I haven’t the will to care or the energy to do anything about it if I did.

Time extends. Days repeat. Hours drag. Mornings are difficult.

I get up. I go out. I walk until my feet ache and my legs collapse. If I’m lucky, I find somewhere to stop, but the closer it gets to Christmas, the harder it gets.

I break and I mend, over and over; and somewhere in amongst it all, I grow strong. Not physically, like Helen of Troy or Boudicca, but mentally like Sylvia Path and Anne Frank. And as my body bends – accommodating each trial, each tribulation, each trauma; each difficulty, burden and disaster; misfortune, misery and curse: climbing mountain and crossing ocean, traversing path and scaling tree – my mind repairs, reinforcing my character.

With this newfound strength, I begin to explore – finding comfort in strange places; only it’s fragile and cannot be relied upon. Monday’s bolt-hole rejects me on Wednesday. Tuesday’s womb is Friday’s cell. There are people everywhere, always, in festive jumpers and hats. Men parade as reindeer, women as elves. I can’t move for Santa’s and snowmen. They eat and drink, talk and shout.

Meanwhile, in the background there is a list: a house that needs repairing, a mortgage that needs paying, tenants to be sought and secured. And that’s on top of a contract that needs reversing, money reimbursing and a new apartment found. Plus, the few items of furniture we bought last weekend – in excitement, in hope, in anticipation… need returning to whence they came, if indeed they can go back; and our suitcases – half-full, half-empty; half-broken (one) – need to be repacked. After that: clients, courses, workshops, groups, jobs, opportunities, friends, etc. It’s a lot, so I try not to think about it.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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