A breeze blows still, cooler and sharper than summer’s soft sigh, an edged whisper stealing beneath my ill-advised layers of silk. I should wear a sweater, perhaps. It’s almost time, but I cling to the dying summer as a drowning man cradles the last hopeful flotsam to his chest. It’s not enough, in the end. But it will do for now.
Vibrant spring greens gave way to lively grass greens. Varied hues fade in sunlight that promises much from behind a window, but delivers less than wanted in reality. Here and there, wine red blushes leaves while others flicker orange and yellow, a final bonfire of colour to warm the season’s end. The green of life retreats to its source. We know the dark is coming.
Not today though. Today energetic clouds bustle in cool blue. Scarlet fruits bob and sway. Nature keeps her promises in generous bounty. And in the imperceptibly shrinking day another voice hides. Now you see me, then you won’t. But the world turns, and brings another, harsher time. Gather in while you may.
Hey, we’re off to the pub. Coming? Sure. Why not.
Football scores. Office politics. The girl in the corner wearing blue.
Nothing to say. Sips a beer. No response to desperate glances.
Must be getting home or there’ll be hell to pay, right? Right.
He is at work. Friday comes.
TGIF, am I right? Right.
She’s got my weekend booked up, shopping and a BBQ, groan. You? Nothing much.
Three beers and Netflix. Pizza delivery. Quiet bed.
He is at work. Monday comes.
So busy this weekend, didn’t have a minute to myself. How about you? Oh, you know. Quiet.
You’re lucky, time to yourself. Yes. Lucky me.
Friday can’t come quick enough, am I right? Right.
He is quiet. No trouble. No drama.
No sun. Engulfed by eternal cloud, muffled, numb.
Rain drips icy fingers down his neck, freezing his bones.
Invisible, lost, a lone wolf.
Teeth ripping at his own heart.
A final scream, choked. Unheard.
None to sing his elegy.
Tell me a story. Give me tales of a thousand nights, warm scented breeze on my skin, sand in my shoes. Take me to the farthest pole, blue-green fire dancing in the sky, breath clouding in crisp night air.
Tell me a story. Let me taste salt sea tang while sun beats down on wooden decks. Show me dolphins, flying fish, whales breaching white-topped waves. Let me glimpse bright eyed merpeople watching deep under the surface, waiting.
Tell me a story. Carry me on red and silver rockets to vast silent space stations where the stars never go out. Show me galaxies born from cosmic dust. Bring whispers from strange aliens and stranger, once-human creatures.
Tell me a story. Lead me up the mountain, rocks skittering away under exhausted feet, lungs screaming for oxygen. Describe that joyful promised land seen only from the summit, take me there on wings of faith.
Expand my horizons. Play my emotions. Cloak mindless chatter, soothe unthinking wounds, only with words. Let me shed this skin, be someone else, somewhere else, sometime else. Give me distance, just for a while. Let me lose and maybe find myself.
He tasted her mind and realised he was starving – unknown
Dancing girls twirl bright and golden, limbs lustred to slip through the hands in a whisper of scented oils. A brilliant array, spread out to tempt a prince mired in jaded expectation. Perfect sweetmeats, empty glossy promises on the lips.
Bright. Gold. Red. Gone.
She is silent, an insubstantial shadow in the light of her better favoured sisters. Eyes lowered, plain garbed, unremarkable, she vanishes behind another dream confected in jewelled feathers.
He rises, leaves the orgy of consumption behind him, seeks her in the forgotten labyrinth of the palace. His hand stays her flight. Understood.
And so to a perfumed chamber. Purple and maroon, silk and velvet, secrets and lies.
Apparently submissive, her hand slips into a pocket. But when she raises her head, fire blazes defiance from her eyes. He steps back, hand on sword.
I do not refuse my esteemed prince, asking only that I might read to him first.
She opens the small volume, gold letters glowing on its spine.
And the universe cracks open and explodes before him. Questions, answers, songs for eternal ages, ancient wisdom and otherworldly beauty. His desert heart blooms, cool rivers quench parched lips. Her voice swathes him in clouds and galaxies and everything that has not yet come to be. Time sits at her feet and listens.
The prince savours thoughts, feasts on ideas, nourishes his soul, gobbling all. The moon sets; she does not stop reading. He is drunk on limerence, enthralled by wonder.
He wakes alone, faint afterglow of her words in his ear. How could this lyrical banquet leave him so hollow with longing? He did not know true hunger till he tasted her mind.
He had not understood.
A lifetime might not be enough. He searches still, for his hidden spirit with the phoenix burning in her eyes and dragon flames dancing on her tongue.
“Depression is being color blind and constantly told how colorful the world is.”
— Atticus, Love Her Wild
This is a good day.
Hardly a cloud to mar a sweep of sky blue, warm winds sigh against my skin and tug at my sails. Hardly a shadow, with the sun near its zenith. Up here in the wide above, birds call and all is bright. The sea glitters blue and silver, reflecting sunbeams. Anything is possible. Viewed through the positivity telescope, the horizon beckons.
Plenty of steel blue sky, but more grey clouds now, not yet weeping fat raindrops. Time to batten the hatches and haul in my sails against gusting winds and imminent storms. Water shivers in the air, cool against skin goosebumped despite my thin coat of hope. The sun hides. It is still there, I think.
Days go by.
I crouch in my frail boat, tossed on angry swell, shipping cold uncaring wet. The sky touches the sea and all is grey, colour washed away. Torn clouds shed raindrops to mingle with tears on my chilly face. And when the giant wave finally snatches me into pitiless ocean, I am not surprised. It was always coming.
I drift endlessly. No map or compass, no lifebelt. Helpless to fight the long slow slide, sinking deeper into the blue, I lose the last vestiges of light. Down, and down. Eyes blinded, nothing to see. Marble skin, numb to feeling. I could shout at the void, but there will be no reply. The blue darkens still more. It is the black shadow that has chased me every day of my journey.
Swallowed in nothingness, I lie resigned on unyielding ocean floor, a certainty of sorts.
Help isn’t coming.
first published in The Creative Cafe on Medium, 8 November 2017
We take our son down to the beach, enduring sighs and cries and stops for water and wee-wee shortly after and kicking the back of my seat and then we arrive, unload the car, careful with that and don’t forget the sunscreen, before trudging down the path down the steps round to the left, find a place among the rocks and did you remember his hat,
let’s set up here and wait, you need sunscreen and okay off you go but stay where I can see you, the sun nicely warm but it still can burn even through clouds, there’s a doggy but don’t touch he may not be friendly, glad you brought the chairs even though they’re heavy and a pain because I don’t fancy sitting on this sand, it gets everywhere,
there are a few clouds scudding along and that means it’s time, get out the kite and assemble it while he helps, no don’t put that pole in there, okay you can hold it but we have to finish it first, the doggy can’t help, we can have a snack after, sandwiches and juice in the cool box, okay have a little drink first while I fix the tails, and then off we go to the hard flat sand, not a bad day at all for a kite, come with me, hold it tight, run out the line, Daddy will let you have a turn in a minute, wait,
hold it up and when the wind is right just toss it into the air and there it goes, bright fluttering rainbow and long tails, he laughs and points and claps his hands, forgets to beg for a go just yet, and we are three in a big wide world, checking the weather, holding the line, one grounding him, one holding him and then giving him the right push at the right moment so he can catch the breeze and fly high above the mundane earth, looking back at where he came from, looking towards the sky’s blue horizon
Why do we talk of feeling blue? Depression is not blue. It is impenetrable fog grey, the ghosts of ships unseen on a black tide, the lighthouse beam obscured by solid clouds that touch an angry sea. It is thick and puckered scars that yield only to the sharpest, deepest cut. A slash of knives draws no pain from this unfeeling carapace. Far below, if you bridge that distance, oily dark blood oozes, curdled with loss and longing.
None of it is blue.
Walk on muffled leaden boots, here in the below. Strain my ears, hear no sound. Eardrums burst from the pressure, under the sea, bottom of the Marianas trench. Deeper yet, in the Laurentian abyss of my soul. I gazed into the void, but it did not gaze back. It too has forsaken me. Weighted like an old style diver, I wade through the sea of futility. Up above, water sparkles Caribbean blue, gold sun shines in a brilliant azure sky, birds sing. Down below, impenetrable dark and blind monsters. Nothing to see.
It feels like home.
Push past doubt, anxiety, fear. Now we reach the bone, skin nibbled and hanging in tatters, only a flash of white beneath grey and rotting flesh. Eaten alive but already dead, the marrow leached away, colours bleached away. What’s on the other side none know but me. My pulse thickens and slows, matching the absent drumbeat of null.
It is calling me.
I have forgotten my life topside, in this my true reality. When will my heart beat its last, when will I join? Let the nothing take me, let the absence consume me, let me be assimilated and so vanish, zero sum.
Big girl now, so you don’t. Your tea party will not come to pass, so get up, get out and get on. There’s gold in those distant towers, creep in, sit quiet, be good. Rapunzel got her prince, but you cannot, must not, let down your hair, no. Don’t spread too wide. Fold those gauzy violet wings neat. Pack them in a shiny carapace without markings, and lower your eyes.
Big girl now, so you don’t. It’s a paradox all right, this flipped and contrary view. You’ll get used to it, or maybe not. Don’t talk back. A smile pays rent on the space you occupy. See, you exist in the moment of a careless glance. Grow curves (no edges) smooth and pleasing to the hand. But beware the wrong places. A magic trick; more presence, and you are invisible. Now they see her, now they don’t.
Big girl now, so you don’t. It’s good to share, yes, even that. Everything. Your one possession, boundaries breached, legs parted for him. Not too many, just enough to bag your prize. It is what we have done, always and forever. You must prove you’re worthy, grown in a different way. Mouth shut, eyes open, the cuckoo housed. The enemy is within the walls.
Big girl now, so you don’t. There are always jobs to do, babies to soothe, egos to cradle, wounds to bind. Your blood ebbs and flows, and the clock ticks on, and life is a seething ocean, testing defences and opening cracks. Peer over land’s end at the rocks where sirens beckon. Their invitations whisper at the edge of hearing, snatched away on the wind.
Big girl now, so you don’t. You are the battered headland assailed by storms; the lighthouse dark and empty. It is another day, and you have forgotten how the sun warmed your skin. This world is forever grey. This heart is forever patched and broken. No matter how much you wish to sink, the world is built upon your back. When the cliff itself despairs, there is no place to jump. Offer shelter, promise safety, stand firm and carry on. They need you.
It was child’s play then; it’s woman’s work now. It’s a man’s world still, and it’s time to find your place. You’re a big girl, so hush now.
Here, a bright feather of iridescent purple and blue, plucked from the bird of happiness as it flew by. I fashioned a quill, dipped in black ink drawn from a pale, eyeless octopus that, shunning light, knew only deep sunless despair. And with these, I write a song for you.
Here, a dark mysterious shell, some glittering grains of sand, pulled from the farthest shores of imagination. I searched after lightning struck and used sea glass to bottle tamed fragments of raging sea. And with these, I carry the storm home for you.
Here, a smooth jawbone and a horn, ripped from some ancient creature now extinct. Elbow deep in blood I dug through rotting meat and guts, and boiled the bones white. I strung sharp teeth on sinews and scraped the hide clean. And with these, I make necklaces and furs for you.
Here, a fine pattern hinting at past violence and pain. The icy burn of a Judas kiss, a red-hot blade slipped into my heart both left their names behind. Fresh scalpels carved embedded bullets and forgotten shrapnel from my flesh. I cried healing tears till wounds were mere memory, scars written on my skin. And with these, I trace forgiveness for you.
Here, a brimming cup of clear water. I stumbled among rocks, scrabbled in the earth with ragged hands, searching for the source. I toiled endlessly, shaping the clay, firing each hard-won vessel in the furnace, though so many lay broken on the midden of experience. And with these, I bring refreshment for you.
Here, a monarch butterfly caught in amber. I chased many joys but captured only one, sacrificed to preservation that more might see it close. I dissected and catalogued the pieces, then remade them into a lesser whole. Deathless yet not alive, its colours are held where a tree wept, hardened by time. And with these, I offer possibility for you.
Here, a hoard of objects orbiting my gravity. A lock of hair, a puff of breath, a glistening tear. A heartbeat, a ruby blood drop, a remembered sunrise. A sea-worn stone, an autumn leaf, a stolen kiss. All these I have collected, sewn into a Frankenstein quilt with hopeful stitches. And with this patched creation, I offer my love to you.
First published 15th April 2017 in The Creative Cafe on Medium, and winner of the creative challenge