Eleanor St Clair.
When I told her, she crawled into a ball and cried for him. Big, ugly, compassionate tears that washed blotches onto her cheeks and dripped onto the floors. She cried for a boy that never existed at all, for me.
We don’t really talk. I mean, we used to talk about big things, world events, politics, what’s for dinner. But we never really talked. Nowadays, even big conversation has gone. We don’t really see each other. We look around each other, as if by not looking we won’t feel. But we always feel.
I am looking at the dinner I cooked now, trying to decide if I should put it in the fridge or just chuck it away. I would put in the fridge, but I think that might just be putting off the inevitable. I scrape the salmon into the cat’s dish where it’s given a look of disdain by the cat and scrape the rest into the compost bin. I skirt around the bawling mess on the floor and walk into the lounge where I flick the TV channel over to the news.
When the news is over I turn off the lights and go upstairs to my room.
I wrap myself up in my blankets and wish I was anywhere but here. The ghosts come out once the lights go out, when I close my eyes.
In the darkness of my bedroom it is easy to imagine that I belong to another inside. A normal inside.
When an hour has passed and I still haven’t heard her talk to me, I grab a blanket from my bed and walk downstairs. I don’t have to look far. She is still lying on the tiles, still crying and now she is shivering pathetically. I wrap the blanket around her and lift her head onto my lap. I’m not sure why I am being nice to her; there must be some undercurrent of guilt. She doesn’t deserve it. This is all her fault.
She feels things. More than most people feel them.
She wasn’t always like this. I remember her being happy and fun. It started when he left us.
I said:- You don’t have anything. You’re not sick. You think so.
I lift her head from my lap and lay it back on the floor and leave her. The mood can last for days. She had been so good tonight. I told her. I don’t know why I did it. I feel this anger at having to deal with everything every day and not being able to express any of my emotions. My smiles. Her tears. Her thoughts. My words. I carry the pain like a talisman.
The next morning, she is still on the floor. The blanket has fallen off in the night so I pull it back up before looking at her. She looks old. I leave my handbag in the kitchen and go back upstairs. When I get down, I lift her head and place a pillow under it. Better. I find a brioche in a sealed pack and put it where she can see it, before tossing my bag over my shoulder and leaving. I doubt she will eat it, but I have done my best. Her pain is not my pain.
This piece was written using two ideas from the original pieces, both carrying pain as a talisman against the outside world and the denial of sickness, being told there is nothing wrong with you.