She huffs with her eyes closed. The light is too low and I can barely make out her features.
I don't want to go to bed yet so I just stand there, clenching and unclenching my fists.
I don't want to sleep unresolved.
“Please,” I say, “don't do this.”
“I just want to talk. Please, talk to me.”
She tilts her head but keeps her eyes shut. I know she's listening. Little huff-huff breaths like butterfly wings.
“I feel like you’re slipping away from me.”
One long breath.
“Maybe we just need a little time away. We need a holiday.”
She turns to the wall, like she's considering. Huff-huffing.
“Remember when we were so poor we couldn't afford a holiday abroad so we went to that caravan in the middle of nowhere? I remember trying to read by a gas lamp, trying to convince you we were having fun. We read old magazines; talked about horoscopes to the sound of the rain.”
I can see the very corners of her mouth engage. Like she's trying so hard to stay mad, but she can't help herself.
I've been drinking and I might be slurring my words but she doesn't say anything.
“Remember that farmer? The one with the lazy-eye and the shotgun? How he said if we needed anything we could just knock?”
We never did.
“We needed milk but we wouldn’t ask for any. Instead, we would just wait for the water to boil in a pan and make tea without it.”
All the cups were chipped.
“You cut your hand trying to pick up a broken wine glass. Wrapping your hand in a towel, you said that sometimes it’s good to feel pain, you remember you exist. But you don’t really exist. There is no definitive you, just electrochemical impulses. Just calcium and iron and magnesium and water. So much water.”
When someone you love is in pain, you just want to gather them up in your arms but when you try to hold them, it's like they're your guts and they’re spilling out and you can't put them back. The shape is all wrong and they’re too slick. You just end up clawing at them, dragging at them with fingers and nails. You realise you've hung onto them far too long and too tight and you’ve worn them out.
A life loved away.
I say, “Nothing lasts forever.”
I lie beside her with my phone in my hand. The screen is too bright for the room. I have to squint to see the buttons.
“Nine, nine, nine,” they say, “What's your emergency?”
It’s like I can hear my own words spoken by somebody else. My voice is lovely and low and detached.
There are questions, I give answers.
“I'm so sorry,” they say.
They say, “If you want, I can stay on the line until someone else is there.”
They say, “Is there anything else I can do?”
I take a breath. For both of us.
“Bring her back.” I say.
I like this one a lot.
'kin hell, mate.