The things that stare at me

Huddled amongst dust bunnies and cobwebs, I claw at the things that stare at me and shy away from those that bite. It’s cold and I wish that there were others: spirits, perhaps; and fairies and angels. But the part of me that believed, that believes, is struggling to reach out, bereft of clarity and energy. Behind closed eyes lights dance, colours come and go and I know it won’t be long now until I am ready.

The days pass and October dwindles. Soon it will be November and then the end – of fast, of angry, of sad, of lonely, of cold and damp and grey and black… of disrespected and disconnected and struggling to keep up… of tension tight in my neck and belly and not being able to relax… of constant traffic and constant people always rushing past… of feet above and feet below never letting up… of grimy windows and oily floors, slamming doors… of pushing and shoving and phones that swallow, umbrellas in the way… and tomorrow a carbon copy of today.

The page grows heavy, the uncomfortable inside climbing out. A hand finds my arm, a head my neck, thighs grip my abdomen and press. The baby in my belly complains. As usual it is unhappy.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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A fog shroud

I’m so tired I can’t think and speaking is laborious. Navigating my way around town is challenging: my legs dragging hard against my feet, my inner compass spinning; everything the wrong way around. It’s not just the landscape that’s different: the streets themselves have changed, shifting before my eyes.

Trying to walk to Regent Street, I end up on Shaftesbury Avenue: China Town dead ahead, Compton Street behind. Spinning…, turning…, I attempt to reacquaint myself, calling on instincts that have fled. Eventually, accepting futility, I slip into a café. People huddle together, hunched over tables that are too small for adults; sipping tepid drinks that cost twice what they should, what they do outside of London. Noses glowing, eyes streaming: they are full of germs.

I wait in-line and order a latte. Cold and flat (I don’t get this obsession with luke-warm coffee, especially in winter), we’re a perfect match. Shedding my coat, I take out my iPad. My only friend, it’s screen offers me access to a world I no longer inhabit and may never visit again. This is sad: the leaving and the isolation. Lowering my head, I try to fight the loneliness.

Do I miss it: the place, the climate, the lifestyle, the people? I’m not sure. Bits and pieces, yes. But the entirety? My emotions are so tangled, my body so tired: I can’t tell left from right, right from wrong.

Forward-facing, fast-pacing: backwards has become a blur, a sinking horizon concealed beneath a fog shroud.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Uphill crumbling

image1.
Dead on my feet,
can’t speak:
uphill crumbling.

Dragging my toes,
dabbing my nose;
slipping, stumbling.

2.
Confused,
stressed;
under-dressed.

Eyes weeping,
difficulty sleeping.

Feeling cold,
growing old.

3.
A sprained ankle,
a twisted wrist;

falling

arse over tit:
“shit!”

4.
Admin,
paperwork:

d
r
o
w
n
i
n
g.

5.
Email,
phone:

LEAVE ME ALONE!

6.
Peace is golden.
Children should be invisible.
Why..?

7.
Trying,
failing.

Making,
breaking.

Far too strong,
always wrong;
never good enough.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Tiny pleasures, snatched

imageYour coat, my scarf, thermal underwear. A hot bath, central heating, a down duvet. Blankets, socks, water bottles – worn in bed, never shed. A stranger’s shoulders, a child’s hand, a dog’s torso: tiny pleasures, snatched.

A cup of tea, a park bench, afternoon sunshine. Mulled wine, an open fire, pine logs. Shops, galleries, theatres, cafés. Museums, markets, buskers, bands. People, places. Arms, legs. Bags, umbrellas. Taxis, cars. Constant motion: the lo-comotion – only without Jason and Kyle.

You, me; us, them. Up, down; right, wrong. Left bereft: heart aching. Confused. Bruised.

Try hard: fail heavy. Fight for: come up against. Never-ending; constant bending: always. Bitten. Shy.

World: oyster. House: cave. Some day…

Returning backwards; landing sideways: upside down.

Your face: Billy. Mine: Peep. Lost… sheep without a shepherd, people without a God, a leader without a clan.

Stoop, whisper, tiptoe. Fold into, close off, shut down. Attempting invisible: achieving sunshine, only hostile and hot.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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The question she was chewing on these days

imageTrying to keep the peace in a turbulent household is a full-time job, especially when surrounded by eggshells. One forgets how many landmines can be hidden beneath the floors, knives concealed underneath the smooth veneer of carpets and rugs; how much, in treading onto and then later exploding (albeit, by accident), they hurt. Having navigated a relatively uneventful path for a hand-span of days – commendable, given the circumstances – it was inevitable she would eventually slip up. That it had taken so long and gone so smoothly up until this point was what surprised her. At the end of the day, it all came down to leopards and dogs. You couldn’t repaint the sitting room, just because you didn’t like the colour. Nor could you rearrange the make-up of the stew, just because you were now a vegetarian. People were who they were. They looked and acted a certain way. After a lifetime of operating as such, they weren’t about to change for you or anyone else. And besides… life was a series of challenges, most irksome when you were already struggling. It stood to reason that there were additional bumps.

It had been a difficult summer: hard on the body, worse on the mind. There had been decisions, sacrifices, tests… They had had to prove they wanted it, and how much. Cross bridges. Climb mountains. There was loss, and cost. And it carried on costing. Even now – here, on the other side; standing, walking, running; somewhere in the middle of where they used to be and where they wanted to be eventually, where they were trying to get to when they figured it all out – they were hitting walls and coming up against barriers. If there was a God – a matter that, lately, had come up for dispute – he had a wicked sense of humour. Each morning as she walked across the bridge, the one just shy of Charring Cross, the one on the Embankment; passing the bible bashers with their books on Christianity and their poster asking: “does Satan exist?”, she had to wonder. Either she was being tested for something bigger, better, beautiful… that would eventually become clear – like daylight, sunshine; something she suddenly didn’t have much of. Or she was being sabotaged and thwarted by a tyrant. For now, she had no alternative but to go with the punches. But that didn’t mean she had to like it or pretend that it didn’t hurt. Her back ached, her feet throbbed, her shoulders screamed continuously. And as for her head and stomach… it was best not to go there. She was managing in much the same way as she always did: reverting to the tried and tested, resorting to medicating in imaginative and stereotypical ways. But it was a short-term fix. Sooner or later the facade would crack, causing her to crumble. There was only so long things like thoughts and feelings could be suppressed. Her backpack was heavy. Her suitcase dragged. It was high-time she unpacked.

A wet November morning, the edge of winter. A small cafe in a suburban town. Having been soaked by the rain as she attempted to save her dignity from foul things in the kitchen, she was hunched over and shivering, cursing her mediterranean excuse of a coat. While it might serve adequately in climates used to providing: it offered little by way of protection from the elements right now. Once it dropped below 18 degrees, it was basically useless: more frivolous accessory than practical attire. Why she had brought it in the first place, escaped her. Something to do with a cute shop, a bad day and someone owing her a gift. In that sense, it had served its purpose, removing a thorn that might otherwise have festered, dragging out the matter, causing yet more pain.

But what about the coat of now? How was she supposed to navigate the mean-time: the time in the middle, the time with its own agenda?

As she bit back the tears, cursing her skin for being so thin, her heart so pathetically fragile, she was involuntarily rewound, returning kicking and screaming to where it had all begun, the reasons for the adventure rising from the grave to press against her eyelids. She had fled, running away from it all, taking her almost entirely broken and still breaking as far away as she could. It had been an act of self-preservation. That it hadn’t entirely worked out, that it had tested her in new and unanticipated ways, was something she had then had to accommodate. But she had borne it all without complaint or hesitation, resuming vertical, relocating upright, glueing back together and replacing her cracked and chipped. Was there no end to the assault? Everywhere she went, every path she took, there seemed to be a new monster. What was that all about? And did it happen to everyone or just to her? That was the question she was chewing on these days.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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One step far away

imageShe’d been there for seven days and so far she’d survived. Done better, in fact, than she had imagined when envisaging it in advance from one step far away. Given the circumstances, the disruption, the different location and altered routine – a routine she stuck to, swore by and depended upon as if her life were a cup made out of the finest bone china, her routine an armoured tank to huddle inside – she was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps things wouldn’t be so bad after all, or not nearly so bad, anyway? And anything not so bad after all or not nearly so bad anyway, was good in her books. If she was going to be bold: perhaps even better? Her doom and gloom predictions were bleak, end of the worldy, of the cut her down and slice her apart variety. She had thoroughly expected to be lying in a heap by now, catching boot heels and trainer soles and fending off umbrellas. To be upright, standing, walking even, was a miracle she couldn’t help thanking the constellations for. Maybe the misfortune that had dogged her ever since her real life dog had died had realised it was time it departed, making way in its absence for another breed of fortune to arrive; one that was bright, shiny and pleasant, a joy to have around? Maybe her dreams would come true, allowing along the way her wants, needs, hopes and goals to be both met and realised?

Ok, so it was still winter and wet, dark and cold most of the time. But it was also unseasonably mild, given that by now it would usually be freezing and the rain, although persistent, was at least intermittent and light. For England, that was unusual.

It was also unusual for her to be feeling so chirpy at this time of year and so excited about the future. She had energy and enthusiasm to spare. By all accounts, she should really be holed up inside, hiding behind the walls of an apartment or snuggled beneath the folds of a duvet, curtains drawn, lights low, music bleating softly… She hadn’t realised how much she had missed her former life – her friends, her family, her country – until she had come home from being away for a while.

Maybe in order to appreciate what you have and know what it is it does for you, you have to journey outside, venturing beyond what feels comfortable and safe to then realise in coming back that it was enough in the first place?

by Rebecca L. Atherton

imageTo keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter, send me your email address.

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