Too possessive to be a friend. Demanding to the point of being an acquired taste. He calls my name and expects me to come running and even if I close my eyes and try to ignore him, I hear him and feel him. God, I hate that.
He never stays in the morning. That side of the bed is empty. Night-time is his kingdom, always liking me best in moonlight, the silhouette of me. Away from crowds. He likes me all to himself.
Touch like a marble floor.
I could sleep inside a hearse he makes me so very tired, one night after another vigil night.
Tick the fucking clock. Night comes around again and I dread the pointless bedtime routine. He likes me feeble, broken, weepy, delirious.
If only I could sleep.
After the will was read
The twin sisters hold each in a violent embrace like two exhausted swimmers. Alice’s hands are all over Maggie’s face, her neck, scratching and pawing and scraping at her skin in a filthy search for something to give her reason to surface. Anything to feel connected by blood and history to their dead mother and exclusion from her will except for the one flimsy object in Maggie’s possession.
The thrill of giving and receiving gorgeous violence shocks Maggie, so she hits and yanks again and again until she is lost in the sounds of tearing, the touch of slapping. Skin, so much living skin. Toxic and fantastic. The release of anger after months of tending to Mother’s needs before her death, the memory of Mother’s taunting she is not good enough to be her own flesh and blood and the blows she ducked because Mother didn’t know who she was.
Now Maggie’s hands are weapons. Sweat forms on her brow, above her lip, and saliva thickens at the corners of her mouth. The twins tear at each other’s clothes, at ears and noses, seeking flesh and bones, vessels and nails, each remembering Mother at her worst, at her best.
All there is left, is rage and being ravished by rage and the object in Maggie’s pocket. Both women are incensed by the twists of penniless fate befallen them and being touched and gouged all over is an answer to pain, so that when tomorrow comes, the memory of it will be in yellow and blue thumbprints and red sticky stripes printed on their faces to give shape and hue to suffering they cannot articulate.
Fat tears of blood roll down Maggie’s face in stripes where the cuts send the trickles this way and that. Her teeth are red, and the taste of iron is fierce on her tongue – a taste of violence blackberry-sweat like Mother’s jam, like Mother’s blood she imagines and smiles. Alice grabs her sister’s trachea, her ear; she hears the punching of her hands to rip out Maggie’s spotlight.
Collapsed, Maggie looks at the ground where she kneels; she sees the reality of dirt without flinching, and she bathes her striped face in puddles of rainwater, traces the cuts on her cheeks with her finger where her sister has marked her. The telephone wires above sway vigorously in the breeze sending a crow into the sky with its black feathers and its drooping claws. Alice watches the bird like a sermon. The copper tang in Maggie’s mouth makes her hungry for more to answer the fist of grief.
She removes the photograph from her pocket to goad Alice. It’s a photograph of the three of them curling on itself at the edges. Alice snaps it from Maggie’s hand, wipes it clean then tears it in two.
‘Take your half,’ Alice spits at her twin sister. ‘Mother loved me as much as you.’
Teacher – listen
‘Listen,’ Miss says, ‘to the wind tonguing its way around loose windows in the classroom. It’s got muscle.’
Silence grows skin, and I grow goose-bumps because Miss wants us to write about ourselves, to delve into feelings and spit out our hearts.
‘Conjure a world away from here!’ Miss waves an arm like a wand. She takes a black marker pen, its nib so thick that her words on the board – ‘Creative Writing’ – even smell masculine to me. Miss knows nothing about me or the place I call home with my father and brother. Miss has it all. All that honeysuckle perfume, fairy-tale ring on her finger and Snow White eye-shadow.
For inspiration, Miss reads aloud something written by a dead bloke. Words billow out as smoke, squeezing a throat and clenching a heart until its faintness is terrifying.
I take a biro in my hand like it’s an amulet and feel surprised when ink drips, black as a magpie’s tail.
Fat Vinny gets out of his chair forcefully as though he’s avoiding a fatal collision. He says it’s too hot to concentrate and cracks open the window like he’s slamming on the brakes. I hear a muffled half-sigh of air. I know it, like breathing into a pillow to stifle pain, subdue a scream, a cry for help. The rest of my oxygen is on paper.
‘It’s like a fucking séance in here!’ Vinny says.
Miss pretends not to hear, as if ‘fucking’ is beneath her. She keeps moving slowly around the classroom, performing some kind of ritual that’s meant to help us weave spells to build our own palaces.
I conjure a waterfall in slow motion, turning me to liquid, purifying every cell and tissue in my body.
A reckless gust of wind rattles the window to remind us of its muscle. ‘The wind’s ripped!’ Vinny jokes. ‘Like me.’ And he wobbles the white blubber on his stomach to raise a laugh. His belly button is submerged in the riptide. The motion of flesh drags me out of my waterfall onto a cotton sheet stained the colour of cherries, tomatoes and squashed plums. No amount of washing gets it clean.
If only words could slice the rotten, heal wounded flesh, and hide what can’t be undone under a permanent layer of snow. Miss will hear my voice soon, like the wind trapped between opaque glass.
I title my piece Dad’s Stick of Dynamite and sit back. Vinny dislikes something about the freeze frame and throws his chair across the room. Paint red as blood spots chips onto the back wall. He grabs my story and swallows it whole. Hungry – as I am – to fill the hole inside.
Choking, Vinny tries to cough up my words. The poison of its content clearly doesn’t suit his palate. Miss thumps him on the back with an impressive whack, but still his airwaves are constricted and his bloated red face turns to blue. He jerks forwards, trailing his pudgy hands down the whiteboard, smudging the words ‘Creative Writing’ Miss wrote less than an hour ago before I knew my power. He lands heavily on the carpet.
Perhaps I do have a voice, after all.