Thursday, 26 January 2017

Haunted

I watched her sleep, her lips slightly agape snoring gently. There was no one in the bed beside her. She slept soundly, she always did. I knew this because I had watched her so many times. I moved between the rooms in the dark. The children were sleeping in the same bed despite each having their own, they did this quite often, they craved the company. One murmured words and the other snapped breaths like his mother. I could have woke them. I had managed to push things from the shelves before. It took great concentration but I could do it. They would then know that I was there, watching. Could I speak to them, could I be heard. I don’t know. I had tried but the best I had managed was a flinch of recognition. The effort had been exhausting so I just focused on pushing things from the shelves. I moved down the staircase to the kitchen. A half empty bottle of wine sat on the worktop beside a single glass. I remembered the taste. I could drink once. I liked to drink but only now could I taste it. I had memories of taste. I couldn’t be sure how accurate they were but they were good and good is often as good as it gets.
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I watched the clock, willing the hands to move until the sun rose and the house was filled with life again. Showers, coffee, cigarettes, sleepy eyes and toast then quiet again. The door slammed behind them. I watched. I loved to watch them in the morning but I hated the sound of the door. Sometimes I would go to other places. Its not true that we disappear during the daytime. We are always here and sometimes I would see others like me but we never spoke. We couldn’t, shouldn’t share our thoughts, it was like a rule. We exchanged nods and sometimes a raised fist but never talked. It wouldn’t be right, we each knew but a problem shared is not halved, it’s doubled and there are too many. Far too many.
I liked to visit the school, watch the children play. I would even enter the classrooms and follow the lessons, I always knew the answers. It was mostly useless shit but education is very important, at least I liked to believe that.
I visited houses with women cleaning and talking for hours on the phone, saying nothing. Sometimes lovers would visit. The door closed after a quick check of the corridor. I watched the urgency, the need. I followed them to the bedroom. Like the wine, I can still taste it. I look down at my fading body and leave.
I visit many places during the day but there is only one house where I spend my nights. I tried to be somewhere else but somehow I needed to be there. The snoring woman, the child snatching at air.
I sat watching the TV with the woman. I didn’t sit too close. My presence made her shiver.
Before she slept she prepared snacks for the children. A sandwich, some nuts, some fruit and placed them in plastic boxes labelled with their names. I knew that they would dump them in the bin at school and buy sweets. I had watched them. She prepared them with love and I couldn’t tell her the truth if I wanted to. She folded their clothes and placed them at the foot of each bed then undressed. She looked good. I could taste her but reaching out made her recoil and rub the goosebumps away. I watched her sleep then took the space beside her. Closing my eyes is futile, sleep doesn’t come for me. It is just an unnecessary memory.
The alarm clock squawks the beginning of a new day. I remember how I hated it, wrenching me from sleep. Bed was an asylum of warmth. Now it means I have more than the darkness for company. She makes coffee and smokes before waking the children. They complain and wrap deeper into the covers but she continues to coax them downstairs with promises of warm milk and sweet bread. I watch.
That day I choose to stay in the house. I have no need to see others like me. I have no need to see the children learn and play. I have no desire to watch the women with their lovers. When they go they leave the TV on to play, for me? Maybe.
It’s snowing outside and I can see the cold but then again, I never did feel it.
I watch the non-stop news channel and wonder at the scale of pain in this world. There only seem to be two stories, people dying and people making money. I always used to think there was more. Guess I had it wrong.
When they come back, the children run to their games and tablets and the woman to her cigarettes. Sometimes she drinks, today must have been a good day. The table is soon laid with warm plates of nutritious food. She summons the children to eat. She repeats this a number of times before they disconnect grudgingly. I remember, I drank in the same way. They push the food around the plate pointing out all the ingredients they don’t like. She has prepared and cooked a meal I wish I could taste, not remember but really taste. The ungrateful bastards. One of the plates falls to the floor. It breaks into a thousand shards in sauce. The woman leads the barefoot children around the opposite side of the table to safety and takes them a plate of biscuits before setting to the mess on the floor. I try to help but I can’t. She looks tired. The children play.
After she puts the children to bed, I sit with her on the sofa. She is wrapped in a fleece blanket and I dare to get closer. I can see her breath.
I spend the night watching her sleep.
The next day repeats the last.
I watch her sleep.
I watch the children but mostly I watch the woman sleep.
The alarm squawks.
I stay in the house and wait. The news channel repeats the same stories with different protagonists. I choose to believe that I am being informed, keeping up with current affairs. The door slams then opens, the days pass. Warm days replace the cold and I consider venturing out. I consider it but I don’t. Neither do the children or the woman. Not apart from routine. The routine is good. The routine is safe, no surprises.
I try to move through the door but I get stuck halfway, better to stay. I enjoy the memories of my jaunts. When the family return I take a place at the table. I watch them eat. I sit there while the children do their homework trying to move the pencil to the answer. At bedtime, I sit with the children while they read and giggle before falling asleep. I wait for the woman to go to bed.
Sleep takes her quickly. I will her to stay awake but my will is faded. I reach for her but my grasp is hollow. I move closer but she shivers and wraps herself tighter in the duvet.
I am standing over the bed, bottles are falling from the shelves bouncing silently on the soft rug below. I look at the door but it snags on the rug. A word comes from deep inside me. I bring it up careful that it doesn’t slip between my fingers. I feel my diaphragm move. A plastic bottle hits the wardrobe, moisturiser leaks down the melamine door. The word comes, growing, achieving mass. I feel the ceiling getting closer. I don’t recognise the word. The bulbs in the light above the bed begin to glow. Faintly but it is me doing it. I am making light. I am making light in the darkness. The word forms. The lights flicker then glow harder. The word splits into two. The woman stirs and mumbles something. A name, my name. I can’t be sure but I am. I try to hear it. My words fall back. I can’t concentrate on them both. I regain my grip on the words, they are sharp and heavy and now ready, ready to be heard. A drawer opens and underwear spews to the floor. My head is a ball of pain. The words. The door tugs against the rug. “SEEE MEE!” She sits upright her eyes still closed but she is looking where I am. I swell, my shoulders reach the walls. She is looking where I am. I summon the words again but they, as I, are spent. There is no place for me here. As she slumps back into the pillow, back into slumber.

This is the third part of my Love and Marriage Trilogy a dark and harrowing study of what it means to survive the til death doing us part. 


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