At the moment I am slowly working on my dissertation for my Creative Writing MA. I am playing around with different images and have ended up with quite a few pieces of writing that I am proud of but that won’t end up in my final dissertation. I thought it would be nice to share some of these on here, because too many pieces of writing don’t see the light of day because they don’t quite fit!
I hope you enjoy!
Take The Water
Here and Now
The examiner doesn’t look surprised, over his moustache and crinkly eyes. He hands me a piece of paper and I watch my hand shake as it reaches out to take hold of the thing I promised myself I would one day have, but none of them believed I would. Dad said I didn’t have enough time, but nothing except time stretches out in front of me, around me, on top of me, sinking into my bones. It took a lot of persuading for them to allow me to learn and I knew when they agreed, they were only letting me because they didn’t believe I would do it. They didn’t believe I would pass the test.
And now here I am. Clutching a piece of paper that means I’m legal, I can drive wherever I like, I can be free to run away, along the roads and into the horizon, disappearing into the distance, never to return. If only I could escape the heaviness.
My brother waits for me, leaning against his car wearing a leather jacket and dark sunglasses, his mouth curling up at the edges.
“Well then?” He asks and I reach out and catch hold of the car keys and move round to the driver’s side. I throw the paper onto the seat as he climbs in beside me.
“You’re not insured yet, kid.” He warns. “You have to ring and tell them you’ve passed.”
But it’s too late, we’re moving.
I can hear the car waking up, the wheels spinning on gravel, catching up tiny stones and churning them out in a wave that flies almost as high as the wheels, scuffing the paint work and making my brother wince.
He sighs, sinking down into his seat, accepting what’s happening, letting go. I lock the doors and turn up the radio, not caring that it’s his music, rock that is usually too loud for my ears. I sing along, knowing the lyrics as well as I do my own music, the wheels catch hold of the air and pull us forward until we’re gliding.
“They’ll take the license right back off you.”
I am heading away from the city, away from the places we know so well they fall through our eyes and out the back of our minds. Nothing to see here. Nothing new, nothing interesting, nothing to live for.
The car meets the highway and it’s moving faster than I’ve ever driven before, promises of Past Plus flitting away into a memory lost long ago. We’re heading for the water, for the sea, for the edges of the island that’s supposed to be so small but for so long has felt too big to conquer. I don’t know how long it is supposed to take, how long it does take, I just feel the car edging forward as though it too is anticipating the smell of salt and the breeze whipping away at its skin, making it feel alive, making it feel right now.
Adam has his phone in his hands but he doesn’t call Mum or Dad, he doesn’t text. He swings the phone around and around between thumb and forefinger, his mouth a thin line that I keep catching sight of when I check my mirrors. His eyes have disappeared behind the glare of his glasses and there’s nothing to see or understand or ask.
I park us up on a cliff, as close to the barrier as I can get without making him flinch. I sit back, turn off the engine but leave the music playing, the thud of drums and a bass push through the body of the car in waves, rushing through our seats and meeting the back of our heads. Making me nod slightly, unaware if I’m in time or not. Beside me his hands are fists on his knees, his phone thrown onto the dashboard as he waits.
“They’ll not believe it.” I say, with a smile that feels out of place.
“I said you could do it.” He says wisely.
And then his door is open and he’s out at the edge, barrier pushing into his jean clad knees and his glasses ripped off so he can see the real colour, the shades of blue and grey that swirl away with the tide heading out to the horizon, retreating from the sand below.
I follow him, taking the key with me but leaving the door open. Down below a dog barks and races and a child squeals and laughs and the waves crash and break up the manmade cacophony and bring another force into it, something otherworldly, something we can almost touch and taste.
Something here and now.
Hot and Cold
If I’m wearing a jumper and coat, I end up with a mound of layers beside me as I wait and the radiators pound heat into the air. Mum will follow me around with a pile of shorn wool over her arm so that they do not interfere with the blood pressure cuff or tourniquet. If we pass anyone else my age in the narrow corridors, the mothers exchange sympathetic looks and smile at the pile of clothes on each other’s arms. Their jobs as carriers, listeners and advice givers cemented in those stacks of warmth for cold bones.
But when I am in the fine cotton of a gown, bow tied tightly at the back of my neck for modesty and just to feel the reassurance of Mum’s touch, I will be freezing. My whole body shivers and aches with the cold, goose bumps racing along my skin as my shoulders hunch. I don’t believe them as they say I have a temperature and refuse my request for extra blankets. Teeth chattering, lips blue, wishing for sleep but told to stay awake, listening to Mum’s voice as she talks about something every day, run of the mill, outside of the window, outside of the carpark and the hurried steps and the soft soled nurse’s shoes and the beep of monitors and sting of needles.
A Shared Expression
I am lying in the back garden, under a blanket, my eyes closed to soak the light into my eyelids and focus in on the kiss of warmth along my forehead. I have a stack of books beside me but I am too tired to read. In come my brother and sister and their friends, trooping through the house and into the garden with their noise and adventure, collapsing into plastic garden furniture and snapping open cans of pop. My brother hands me one, ready opened and I take a grateful slurp with a smile.
“What you reading?” Asks one of them and I show them the cover, the picture of an island surrounded by ocean.
And we all sit for a while imagining it, jumping into white waves, listening to foreign languages and distant voices curling out into salt spray warmed so quickly it vanishes before it’s had a chance to land on your clothes.
I see the look my brother and sister give me.
They’re twins, interconnected by their time in the womb together as though those nine months lasted far longer than their nineteen years. Their friends are the same. They like the same music, heavy and loud unlike the girlish pop I listen to through guilty headphones, aware I have no taste. Their expressions are also shared and I see the way their eyes flicker down my body curled into its seat and then rise to meet each other, the flicker between the brow, the shared idea.
It’s a stuffy little room, the doctor is wearing pale chinos and a crumpled shirt – my Mum will mention that later, asking why his wife doesn’t know how to iron shirts properly, Dad’s shirts are a point of pride for her. He sits back in his seat as he reads my notes, one leg stretched out over the other, foot dancing to a beat me and Mum can’t hear. He seems to want to take up as much room as possible. The sight of his grey socks and brown shoes makes me mistrust him and then Mum asks.
“Is she ok to travel?”
My doctor purses his lips, looks at me with a quick appraising glance that jumps down then back up as though the answer will be tattooed on my skin, inked along my collarbone perhaps, along either arm or twisted amongst the wool of the jumper that is sitting too close to my skin, making me itch.
“I think it would be wise to wait.” Each word sounds heavy, weighed out from his tongue as he leans over my notes, he doesn’t see me though he’s staring straight at my breast bone.
The room begins to shake, the floor has a tremor. The walls begin to break away, splintering outwards at the edges until beams of light shoot into the room.
I shake my head, “I’m not cancelling.”
The doctor is disapproving and he looks at Mum again as we pretend I am still a child, “It’s best to wait. That’s my advice.”
Mum nods, fidgets with the coats in her lap, her face is reddening and she wilts. Curled inside of his pupils is disapproval, as though it is her fault. He turns the same look on me, telling me, without saying it aloud, that if I go I’m bringing whatever happens, and whatever has happened, on myself.
He asks if I understand and I don’t reply. I’m watching the cracks at the edges of the room open up. Light curling into the room, sounds too, waves breaking, rushing. After a while he goes down the list of medications, making sure nothing has changed as though he is suspicious I might have tampered, played around with the dosages for my own amusement.
Finally, he nods, shakes my hand and then Mum and I stand and follow the wave of his arm out into some hospital corridor.
Perhaps I should watch a film or read a book or go and climb into Eleanor’s bed and listen to her talk in her sleep, anything to distract me from the way that my eyes won’t close. I’ve picked a hole in the seam of my pyjama top and it’s stretching wider and wider, but it doesn’t help. I’ve tried concentrating on my breathing, counting down from a hundred and then a thousand and still. I’m awake.
My door creaks and I look over. Slowly it peels open and there is Eleanor and behind her Adam.
“Come on.” She whispers with a smile.
I don’t ask, I just step out of the bed. I pull on jeans and a jumper while they keep watch.
“What about stuff?”
Eleanor holds a finger over her lips and shakes her head, handing me a backpack with another quick flash of teeth.
I follow her out of the room and we creep down the stairs. Eleanor helps me find my shoes while Adam does something in the kitchen. We pat the dog on the head and beg him to keep quiet then we slip out into the porch, careful with the door, careful with the keys, careful with the pavement and the car and the belt and then careful until we reach the end of our road.
We are silent as Eleanor drives us to the airport, as though none of us believes it, as though we are all sleep walking. We are silent, afraid, but there is no remorse between us.
This was just the start of a larger piece, but the idea has changed and become something new. But I hope that you enjoyed the feel of the piece, let me know what you think in the comments below!
“Why do you wear your watch?” Asks Eleanor, all wide eyed boldness, unflinching and boyish and tough, so we are all supposed to be tough too. Straight to the point, on the nose, bulls eye.
“What?” I stall for time and try not to hear the ticking at my wrist. My eyes flicker over the sofa, they sit at either end. Book ends. A pair. Me in the armchair.
“Well if you’re not going out.” She shrugs and Adam flinches and gives her the look – that twin look – that tells me they’ve discussed this and he told her not to ask, but she has and now he’s flinching like he’s watching her fail her driving test.
“I like it.” I shrug and try not to blush in my own living room. I want to retreat back to my bedroom but at the same time I’m choking, suffocating in the confined space.
“But do you ever use-”
“Eleanor.” Groans Adam and she pauses and I wonder for the millionth time this life, if they can read each other’s thoughts, if I’m just the other person in the room while they’re taking a call to each other.
“I just like wearing it.” I shrug and stand, go upstairs.
I sit on the edge of my bed and try not to look in the mirror where each morning I sit and get ready. I brush through my hair, pat on moisturiser and lip balm, pluck my eyebrows, conceal dark circles, thicken my lashes and put on my watch and the little gold studs, all gifts from birthdays. Every morning I get dressed. I refuse to wear jogging bottoms, instead I dress as though I have somewhere to go, somewhere to be.
I’ve never realised the strangeness of these rituals. Appearances for my own sake. Pride, self-esteem, vanity unfurling with the spritz of perfume no one but the dog will smell. The nip of blusher swiped on one cheek, then the other. Pointless to both of them, their lives revolve, spinning onwards and outwards, outside our front door. Why roll around the house in anything other than comfies and messed up hair? There are already so many excuses to wear something nice. And though I might joke about being ready for hospital trips, not wanting unshaved legs peeking out of hospital gowns or an unmade face to bare to whoever is watching as the waiting room is bypassed in a whirl. It’s the being unmade. Undone by illness which washes away the colour in my face, undoes the teenage friendships and moments dancing in front of the mirror.