My hairline is cold with sweat. I feel the nape of my neck peeling away from the pillow as I roll onto my side, prompting a solitary bead to travel across the skin behind my ear. It settles for a moment before running its course along my trembling jawline.
I had another one. This time I was sat right there on the floor, everything seemingly normal, yet normal seemed so far from reach. The mould was still thriving in every corner, the cobwebs still clinging to the highest point of the roof. But everything was sepia-toned and distant, like an old, grainy movie. I was cross-legged, my mirror looming in front of me, the bare plaster behind it an empty reminder of everything I’d left behind. No photographs adorn these walls; the paintings we’d fallen in love with on our honeymoon are held hostage in his mother’s garage. Continue reading “Teeth”
I watched her jiggle from foot to foot as her hands elaborately told her story. Every now and then she would reach onto her tiptoes and plant a quick kiss on his face. His hands, large and sun kissed, never left her waist as he gazed into her eyes, smiling slightly at her as she threw her had back with laughter. The small, pink suitcase beside him had begun to roll closer to the platform doors, but instead of breaking their connection and tugging it back he simply side-stepped closer to the case each time, guiding her gently with his hands. She didn’t seem to notice. I stopped a meter or so behind her, letting my rucksack slip from my shoulder so I could place it securely between my feet and rub my stiff neck. Her thick accent and shield of dark hair blocked most of her words, but as she finished her story I watched her slide her hands around his neck and cock her head to the side. Whatever she said must have tickled him, because his face broke into a large grin before softening as his bright eyes poured over her face once more.
‘So did you kiss him?’ he asked.
‘Yep,’ she nodded enthusiastically, then leant into his body and rested her face against his neck. What? There I was, thinking I was witnessing a romantic display of affection from a couple that had missed each other, but perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps they were one of those newfangled ‘open relationship’ supporters? He buried his face into her hair and closed his eyes, taking a deep breath of her scent and stroking the small of her back. His eyes opened and he watched the floor over her shoulder.
‘Did you do it out of spite?’
‘Yes, I think I did,’ she replied matter-of-factly, nodding against his skin.
The air around us began to rumble as a warm gust of wind whipped my fringe from my face, snapping me out of my curious trance. The tube flew into the station and settled with a sigh before the doors slid open and the couple dawdled inside, oblivious to the queue of commuters they were blocking, their arms still wrapped around each other’s torsos. I settled five seats away from them and watched their reflections in the window opposite as they leaned into each other to share a lingering kiss. The growling of the tube soon drowned out all audible conversation so I continued to read the man’s facial expressions. Not once did he tear his gaze from hers. Another kiss. She held fast onto his knee and continued to talk, pausing every now and then to bring a hand to his face or stroke behind his ear. Kiss number three. He shook his head slowly as she continued. Was she apologising? Explaining? Number four. She didn’t look like she was. His face was soft and his eyes adoring, but the shine in them dulled ever so slightly whenever his smile slipped. He held the nape of her neck with his left hand and let his thumb trace up and down her skin as he listened intently. She flashed her white teeth at him in a large grin as she gabbled her penultimate sentence. Five. He tugged her close. Six. The women opposite began to share inquisitive glances; either they could hear the exchange clearer than I could, or they were dismayed by the publication of the couple’s affection. Seven. Eight. She held her phone to his face and flicked through some pictures with her thumb. He feigned interest, yet his smile didn’t reach his eyes.
Is it the heels over my head
or the hammering of my heart
that’s keeping me awake tonight?
I begin to yearn and wonder
cry and pry
deep into the depths of
a troubled mind;
Why can’t I be the rock in the river
that’s standing strong when
the world around is shifting?
‘There’s T-shirts! We get T-shirts!’ Kaitlyn’s excitable squeals rose above the chatter as we emptied the contents of the box onto our assigned table. She held the emerald T to her front, admiring the stitching of the golden logo on the chest. University of Winchester Foundation Music, with a shining treble-clef and the words MUSIC MAKER on the back, in the same shimmering thread.
‘Oh, it’s gorgeous. We’ll take it in turns to change, I’ll be back in a minute.’ And with that, she flew out the door, practically tugging off her clothing as she went.
Kaitlyn and I had both been asked to represent FM at the Applicant’s Open Day that Saturday morning, and had arranged to meet at reception to retrieve the box of leaflets and instructions for the day. I arrived at six minutes to nine, bleary eyed and yawning, expecting to have a couple of minutes to grab a cup of strong tea from the machines; living in student digs means being kept up until 2am by the flat upstairs playing beer-pong or deciding to hoover their room above your head in the early hours of the morning. To my surprise, Kaitlyn bounded towards me with the box already clutched in her hands and a large grey bag, much like one that carries golf clubs, slung over her shoulder.
‘Are you excited?’
‘I am. Come on, you can carry this.’ Continue reading “Mother Knows Best”
When I was younger, my favourite toy was a cardboard box. If I was faced with a Barbie, a remote controlled car, a bear and a box, I’d choose the box. I once made a cash machine with individual cardboard debit cards for each member of my family, their little faces painstakingly biro-d on as if they were also ID cards. I made paper bank notes and advice slips, which read somewhere along the lines of ‘eat more greens’ and ‘trim your toenails’.
I would slip my cardboard creation over my head and sit inside with a torch and all my paper ready. Each slot I’d cut had a post-it on the inside telling me which one needed money, an advice slip or a returned card pushed through. I’d wait for my mum’s card to be slid into the wonkily cut line marked
INSERT CARD HERE
My tiny robotic voice would ask for a pin and my mum would make beep boop noises as she tapped four numbers onto my carefully drawn pin pad. When my dad said he didn’t want an advice slip, my robot voice replied ‘No daddy, you have to take an advice slip!’ He laughed when I pushed trim your beard through the gap.
Another time I made an oven. I didn’t need no Eazy-Bake, I had my cardboard box. There was a car and a boat, a television and a laptop, complete with a cardboard mouse on a string and little paper screens that I would interchange, depending on whether I was playing ‘important business lady’ or ‘kid on Miniclip’.
Here I am, 21 years old and stood in my kitchen, confronted with a cardboard box. My initial thought was to flatten it, crush it down into the recycling bin and wait for the bin-men to decide its destiny. But before I’d pulled the tape from the first seam, I stopped. I remembered my ATM and my oven with its opening door and extractor fan. I smiled at the creative I used to be.
So, here I am now, 21 years old and sat on my kitchen floor with a cardboard guitar in my lap, smiling at the creative that I have grown into.