The nights are the hardest

I have nightmares. Or at least, I call them nightmares. They don’t necessarily happen at night, or even when I am asleep. But they keep happening.

She’s at my dinner table. She’s washing dishes at my sink.

There was a point where I didn’t recognise her anymore. And rather than watch her drift away, I chose to leave. I believe some people are capable of holding onto something until it turns to dust in front of them. I cannot imagine ever holding her in my arms and seeing nothing in her eyes.

She’s behind the counter at the supermarket. She’s a nurse on the cancer ward.

At first, she would hold onto me so tightly that when they prized her away, she’d take my sleeve with her. My hair. One time, my skin.

She’s wiping down the table next to me. She’s giggling into a phone.

When she came back, she tore at the scar. Punishment for letting her go. Her rage was just as intense as her sadness, and though she was making my suffer, I knew that she was suffering too.

She’s pushing a child in a pram. She’s ringing the bell on her bike.

To have that go away. To disappear completely. To see that bright spark turn to a dim flicker, a shadow of itself-

She’s pouring over my hand. She’s slamming the door in my face.

I packed a bag and left. She didn’t come after me. I thought it would be easy. Easier.

But I keep having these nightmares.

I’m driving back to my house. She’s in the middle of the street. I know she’s not real so I keep driving. But she doesn’t move. Just looks at me. Looks so sad. So I stop the car. I get out. She’s covered in flowers. As I approach her, she falls back. Lies prone, flowered arms crossed over her chest. I kneel over her. I see that she’s not sad. She’s dead. Her black eyes are grey. Staring.

The flowers are wreathes around her naked, decomposing body. Her stomach is bloating, bloating- the skin splits. 

Fingers reach out. An arm. I recognise a scar that stretches from the elbow to the wrist.

I’m climbing out of her. A version of me that I do not want, cannot meet right now. 

I run back to car. It won’t start. He’s ambling towards me, damp. Naked. 

I slam my head against the window. Over and over until my surroundings fragment, fall apart. When I am back in this time, this world, blood drips from a cut on my forehead.

I wonder if she still suffers like I suffer.

Procrastination

The library is almost empty. The lights to the left of me have long since gone out. To the right of me sits the only other person here, quietly turning over the pages of an old almanac. She has hair the colour of straw gently brushing her shoulders. She has a navy back pack unzipped, tipped over, spilling its contents into the aisle next to her. She has one of those fair-isle jumpers on, of blue and white and pink.

Very distracting.

Whenever I turn to stretch my neck, I get swept up in the print. It’s just a series of triangles and squares and arrows. What are you trying to tell me woollen jumper, I think, what is this code?

And then I catch myself.

I bow my head and hope that it helps me concentrate. Head down, pen firmly in hand, sheet of blank paper beckoning words, and images and ideas…I could almost fall asleep. The temperature is suitable. The radiator, below, warms my feet. The partially open window, above, ushers in a gentle breeze that could close my eyelids. It does close my eyelids. Once, twice. A third time. The sound of my pen falling from my hand wakes me.

I sit bolt upright.

My reflection looks guilty in the window opposite. It is late now. The sky is an awkward shade of blue, ushering in the night, and the moon peeks in from the other side of the building. Outside lights start to dwindle from the surrounding buildings. Doors open and close for the last time. Headlights roll down the street.