(H)Ours – a prose poem
We tell the time by when our pills come, in their little plastic shot glasses, sitting on a chair in the meds room (they come and get you).
Mornings I have one and a half,
Evenings I have five.
Both times with half a plastic tumbler of water poured from that looming plastic jug. If I get up during the day, or during the night, to be part of the stretched long straightjacket hours of boredom, I get one or two more, little white Tick Tacks of solace. I stare at the wall, waiting for dawn, waiting for dusk, waiting to be saved, watching the shadows shortening or lengthening, watching the seasons change; I imagine a minute hand struggling around a clock face. I wear my quilt like it’s a force field, like I’m frigid, stuck in here like a bug in amber. Have I been here forever? Will I be here forever? We tell the time by when our pills come
One and a half and it’s morning,
Five and it’s night.
Everyone’s Boyfriend is in a Band – 120 word story for my profile on http://betterwrite.com
“You have to come and meet my mate’s boyfriend – he’s in a band, and they’re going to be massive!”
“We’re 16, Lucy – everyone’s boyfriend is in a band,” Alice muttered, but she trailed behind her only friend at college, to the common room.
Through the cigarette fog, and the crowd, Alice saw a lanky, blond lad, drumming a beat with his fingers, on his Coke can. He was laughing. Alice wished she was dead.
“Hi!” said James, “Want an autograph, before I’m famous?!”
He high-fived Alice, then grabbed her hand and shook it.
A drop of blood trickled down Alice’s arm, out from her jumper, and splashed onto James’ white trainers.
“Oh my God,” he whispered, “You do it too.”
Emma’s Letter – for Mirium Drori’s Letters From Elsewhere Blog
My son, Richard. I don’t even know who you are. Or who you will become. You’re just a name and a parasite at the moment. You battered me from the inside, and now you demand me without end.
I do love your dad, but we couldn’t have been together – not in this town. The old gossips would have called him a cradle-snatcher if they knew who he was. I can’t even tell you. Sorry, but it’s not worth the hassle. And that’s the reason I didn’t shove a knitting needle up me and destroy you – because I love your dad, and you are a piece of him. He’s a good man, and if you turn out to be even half the man he is, I’ll be proud.
I’m sure I’ll know, even when I’m gone. Because I won’t be here to see it. I can’t do this. I’ve tried to stop the drink and everything, but I can’t do it. I can’t live with that woman and be sober. I mean your Nan. I can’t live with her judging me and everything I do; with you screaming blue murder all day. Why do you have to cry so much? Can you sense how shit I am?
You ripped my body apart when you came into the world, and now you are ripping up my mind. You make me think about the future, you make me dependent on that woman, you make me miss my dad, but more than that, you made me lose the only man I’ve ever loved; the only person who’s ever loved me.
And in spite of all this, I’m worried about you. I feel responsible for you. I’m trying not to let in the fact that I might actually love you; that I could teach you about the stars and the Universe and Nature, that I could teach you to count to ten, ride a bike – you might even get the chance to go to uni. But I won’t let that in. I couldn’t even choose you your own name; you got my dad’s. I couldn’t look after you, anyway – I’m a shit mum. I could barely even get you out of me. I feel bad, leaving you with my fucking mother – she’s been shit with me – but she does better than I do. She likes you more than she likes me, anyway. I can’t think. You’ve lost me my love.
He understood me. He knew my dad. You’ve got good genes on your dad’s side. You’ll be okay.
But it’s too late for me. I’m going to meet my dad now. Hopefully. ‘Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again’, they say. They’re wrong about the parting bit.
I’ve lost faith. Good luck, Richard. I hope you find something that makes sense. I can’t do this anymore.
Your mum, Emma.
Debbie’s Diary, 1998 – from Carrie-Anne Schless’ Another Woman’s Diary blog.
Every year since I was about nine years old, I’ve asked for a special notebook – a pretty, hardbacked one – for Christmas . Every year I’ve pretended to myself and everyone else that this is the start of my career as a poet; every year, I’ve ended up using it as nothing more than a diary – means of venting, of speculating, of making sense of my life. I am nearly sixty, and I am still doing it.
When I was young, I’d write in my diary extensively, every day before I went to bed. After Steve and I got married there was a hiatus, understandably, as I got used to a new routine; I had to do it sneakily when he wasn’t around, and as there was nowhere else private to hide things anymore, I took to keeping my beautiful notebooks in my handbag.
Then I had the children. My diaries were reduced to notes jotted in cheap flip-over notepads that I kept in the zipped compartment of my handbag. When our eldest, Tim, was twelve, he started stealing cigarettes from my bag. Not knowing how to handle that, I pretended not to notice, hoping that one day the phase would be over. Except that as he got older and discovered alcohol, the odd five pound note would disappear, too. In the early hours of one Sunday morning when he was about nineteen, I heard him crashing about in the kitchen, clearly very drunk, and when I came downstairs to make an attempt at confronting him, he stood as tall as he could without swaying, looked me in the eye with venom and demanded to know who Simeon was.
That put an end to my diary writing for a few years, although I couldn’t bring myself to destroy all the old ones languishing in the attic. But now I desperately need an outlet, and since Simeon relocated to France, there is no-one I can talk to. It’s funny how, over the years, your husband goes from being your soulmate and the one you share everything with, the one who comforts you when you’re crying and tells you everything is going to be alright, to being almost like your boss in the business of keeping the family and home running. Steve and I talk – well, argue – about money, about how to handle the children, about the laundry drying on the rack in the front room all the time. We do this in what we hope are whispers when Tim and Cathy aren’t around, but the tension that our silence creates when they are around renders this redundant. Steve has no idea how much I smoke. I will hide this notebook in middle of my pile of spare work tights, and that will be something else that I keep from him.
And finally I get round to saying what I wanted to say in the first place. I am a terrible mother. I have failed my children. When I discovered I was pregnant with Tim, I vowed to do a better job of raising him than my parents had done of raising me. Every new parent makes this vow, I am sure. I have tried, and continue to try, so very hard every day; on the inside, I feel like running away. My – our – outwardly successful eldest child, Tim, is a kleptomaniac; and there is something very wrong with Cathy. She remains deeply unhappy, no matter what we do. On the surface she appears to just be a little nervy, but my motherly instincts force me to acknowledge that it is much more than that. This is not just a teenage phase. I have no idea what to do.
Everyday is exhausting. I feel like I am constantly walking on broken glass, pretending that my feet aren’t cut and bleeding and painful – in fact that I am – that we are – gliding through a blue sky on fluffy clouds. Steve’s always making snide comments about my smoking, but those five minutes in the garden are the only peace I get – there is no way on God’s green earth I’m going to be able to give up. Often, when I’m driving to work, I have to force myself to not just turn off and head up the motorway; when I arrive outside the office I always have to redo my make up and have another cigarette. Today when I got to work there were loads of cars parked along the street for some reason, and I had to leave my car right at the end of the road, near the rec. I was early and it was sunny, so I got out of the car and went and sat on one of the benches usually occupied by groups of young mums. I lit my cigarette and smoked it slowly. Then I left the rec and walked down the hill, into the council estate. I bought another packet of cigarettes from the corner shop, went into the disgusting phone box with the smashed door, phoned work and told them I was ill and couldn’t come in. I returned to my car and sat there until I knew Steve and Tim would have started work before I drove home.
Cathy keeps the door to her bedroom closed. I know she cleans in there, because I hear her hoovering sometimes and I keep finding dusters in the washing basket. She’s a teenage girl – she’ll be off to university soon – and I have to trust her and let her deal with things, but when I noticed that the Yellow Pages wasn’t where I left it, and that, when I eventually found it, the corner of the page for the locksmiths was turned down, I knew I had to have a look in her bedroom. The irony wasn’t lost on me.
When I got home I put the kettle on and walked up stairs while I waited for it to boil. I stood outside Cathy’s room and hesitated. Then I threw open the door.
I shoved my fists into my mouth and tried to stifle a scream. What she’d stuck all over her bedroom walls – just the state of the room – although there wasn’t a speck of dust, an empty mug, or a screwed up bit of paper anywhere and it smelt of Impulse – I don’t know who to call – the doctor, the hospital, the police – so I’m sitting on the patio with a cigarette and a cup of coffee, writing this. I don’t know what to do. I don’t have the strength to do what I know I need to do. I probably won’t do anything other than pray and try to remember to keep smiling. I need another cigarette.