There’s a man asleep in my coffee-part 4

And then one morning I woke up. And he? He was gone…read more

And then one morning I woke up. And he? He was gone. An empty coffee cup next to my bed, the milk cold and lifeless. He had slipped out in the night.

Just when I thought we had connected. We’d discussed our plans, set a timeframe, made a spreadsheet. I’d even changed my status to vegan on social media.

I sat on the sofa hugging a cushion hoping I was wrong, but I could see the trail of milk across the carpet and down the hall.

He had snuck under the door and gone! Just gone!

He can’t have gone far. I mean he was only an inch high so speed was not an issue. Nonetheless I failed to find him. I spent the morning going from coffee shop to coffee shop, ordering cappuccinos and leaving before I drank them. I still do that a lot. It’s been a struggle.

There was and has been no trace of him except the milky sludge trail on the carpet which I had to clean before the landlord inspected. There wasn’t even a note. Nothing. Just gone!

My parents tried to console me. That didn’t last, They are now serving beef at dinner parties as if the whole thing never happened. My mother was back on butter within a fortnight. Gone are the soy lattes, replaced with full cream mochaccinos, mocking me as if my pain meant nothing.

I spend lonely nights sitting on the sofa with the TV on. I don’t watch it. I spend my time scouring the internet for some kind of clue, for someone else who has had this experience.

I have found nothing. It seems there is no place on the internet for dairy based humans. My friends are worried. I am not. I am determined. They keep trying

I don’t want flesh and bone, I want dairy. I am sticking with dairy, there’s not even a question about that on Tinder btw.

The cup is still by my bed. I left it as it was until the stench of milk gone off was more than I could bear. I cleaned it and put it back. It is still there, along with a container of chocolate sprinkles. It’s as if he never left.

I say hello to the cup when I get home from work. I say goodnight and good morning to it.

I buy chocolate sprinkles and just open the tin, letting the sprinkles spread and waft in the air throughout the whole flat. No one visits so it doesn’t matter.

I have all the coffee ads downloaded on my phone. I am looking for clues. I have watched them all a 1000 times. Sometimes I think I see something but then it turns out to be nothing other than poor CGI.

I returned Tom Thumb to the library because that is a fairy tale and my life is not a fairy tale. It was well overdue. I had to ask my parents for the money to pay the fine.

I look at cottages on farms with cows all afternoon at work. I hope. Christmas is coming and I hope.

I thought that vegans might be on side but they hate me. People they say, no matter who they are, should not sleep in coffee made with diary. I tried to explain but they won’t listen.

I am alone. Even my parents have tried to convince me it wasn’t real and even if it was he isn’t coming back.

I have been back to that coffee shop. Its changed hands. I sit at the table where we first met. I am a regular. The same waitress is still there. We are friends now. She is the only person that believes me. Even though she didn’t see it, she has seen the pictures. And she believes me. Or at least she feels so sorry for me that she pretends. And isn’t that the basis for a lot of friendships?

And then –one evening. I could smell it as soon as I walked in the door. The subtle blend of frothy cappuccino milk and chocolate sprinkles. Fresh dairy. My heart skipped a beat. I literally ran towards my room and the cup.., and the cup… and there in front of me on top of the bedside table, there is. There he is. I am looking at him.

But it’s not him. It’s not him. It’s a her!

I sit on the bed. She looks me up and down. She is too small to look up and down so I just look.

She perches on the edge of the saucer. Then in a less squeaky voice than I imagined she said, ‘I thought you’d have a hat?’

That’s sass for you. Here she is in my house, perched on his saucer and she wants to talk clothes. These dairy types, they focus on the froth. I learned that the hard way

I reach for my cowboy hat that I had hidden under the bed since he left.

It cost me a packet and I had bought it ready for the farm. I had only worn it a few times. Mostly just to work. It never felt quite right in the office.

So we say there staring at each other, her in her hat and me in mine.

‘Where is he?’ I finally asked.

‘Oh honey,’ she said and I knew what was coming.

Nonetheless I went to the kitchen to get some honey anyway. Apparently it makes for smoother coffee than sugar when you sleep in cappuccinos-something about sugar in your shirt. I sat the jar of honey on the dresser next to her. I took off the lid. I could see her trying to inhale the fumes. I didn’t like her already. I waited for what was coming next.

What happened-find out next week-who is she? Does he come back. Read more next week.

There’s a man asleep in my coffee-part 3

What would you do-what if there was a man sleeping in your coffee? What if you found out you really liked him-read more…

It’s been 3 months. The manager of the café was relatively uninjured by the chair incident. Just a sprain, not a break. Some bruising. A torn shirt. And the tie pulled fast around his neck so he couldn’t speak for a week. Squeezed his vocal chords or something. I read it in the local paper. I guess she really rammed that chair into him.

The café is open again now although I haven’t been in there or even past it.

Also apparently the local paper said one of the customers was bumped and spilled her coffee in the confusion. She is suing. Him not us. The café may have to close again. And all because they wouldn’t sell me a cup. I don’t blame myself. Only one ambulance was called so it can’t have been that bad.

They haven’t been able to trace me. Mental note-always use cash. My own theory is they don’t want to trace me. Because I could sue! There was a man sleeping in my coffee- and I did not O-R-D-E-R that. There ought to be some compensation for the trauma!

Actually it has turned out well though so I have let it go. People say its not normal, but what is normal? I don’t care anyway. People say I have been behaving ‘erratically’. This is my third job since it happened. I sofa surfed for a bit and then moved to this new flat.

My parents have paid a lot of the bills. They aren’t really sure. Nonetheless they have gone vegan in support. I have given up cappuccinos. Something I once thought unthinkable but now I know that people sleep in them I can’t drink them anymore. Seriously look at your coffee next time-be sure.

He lives here now. He is with me most of the time. We get on. We are friends. I am not going to lie, I hope for something more. Its just the ‘how’ that is problematic.

He is a great guy. I know what you’re thinking. He sleeps in coffee cups-how great can he be? Well I say-who are you to judge? I bet you’ve slept in some dodgy places? Right? Yeh!

I’ve read Tom Thumb several times over and Thumbelina so I know what I am up for. I have informed myself. I know this is not a fairy tale, but what modern romance is. I know we can’t reproduce but he is the first person I really feel a connection too. Even though he’s basically dairy.

My friend and as I said last time, we don’t speak. She can’t give up cappuccinos. She had to give a statement for the police about the theft. It was just a cup! And I tried to buy it, but ultimately I was committing a crime for the higher purpose of saving a sleeping man.

 Apparently it was one of the first cups the café ever bought. I have kept it anyway. Its now his permanent bed. Its on my dresser- by my bed.

My friend was charged with assault but her Mum is a judge. She got it thrown out so its all good. She just isn’t speaking to me, because apparently she is banned in every coffee shop within walking distance of a tube stop. Café owners-they stick together. Who knew, like some sort of caffeine mafia. Probably I am banned as well but I just do herbal tea these days. 

Anyway my friend covered for me. She didn’t really give full details of what she’d said. It was quite a brief conversation. She doesn’t understand but I know I can never repay her. Sometimes its how friendships end.

How did he come to be sleeping in my coffee? Well he wasn’t born there. He was just travelling through and needed a rest. It’s more common than you think-apparently-but there’s still not a web page.

My parents are worried. No one wants their daughter to settle down with somebody who sleeps in other people’s hot drinks. I’ve lost friends over it. He is no good at parties although he can command a dinner table when the time is right-but it has to be vegan. It’s not polite to eat someone else’s bedding. Even the internet must agree with that.

He has relatives and he might introduce me. Maybe in the summer. He doesn’t do well in the summer. He dries out. We plan to spend it indoors.

I know you are thinking what everyone else is thinking-it’s a hopeless situation. But I care a lot about him and I think he cares about me. He is easily the best date I ever had.

Every so often someone sits me down and tries to talk sense to me. But there’s no point. This is my life and my decision. Up until now he has been mostly transient but we have plans. We can travel together. He has literally no baggage. And I can take a cup almost anywhere.

We want to go and live in the country. Near some cows. A paddock of cows is like his spiritual home. He is tired of the city with its posh coffees and hipster décor. He was moving to the country when we met actually, it’s just that it takes a long time to move through the city when you are an inch tall.

Now I think if I can keep this job for a bit, I can save for a bit. We can live happily in a cottage near a farm. I will probably get chickens. But we won’t be eating the eggs. Maybe some bees, but mostly we will live near cows.

Everybody will come around eventually I think. I think they will all come to see that I am happy and this is right for me.

Next week:

And then one morning I woke up and he. He was gone.

 

 

There’s a man asleep in my coffee-Part 2

We no longer speak…why… read more

We no longer speak.

But I know I owe it all to her. She helped me save him. After we left the shop the first time, it went like this:

Half way down the street. I grabbed her arm.

‘We have to go back!’ In my head, that is a pivotal moment and I said it loudly and firmly. She, on the other hand, swears I mumbled it and that it was one sentence in a longer conversation.

We can’t agree.

I think she looked at me like I was mad but I also think, even then, she knew. We had to go back. We did go back.

I spun on my heel, forced myself to look at the café , took a breath and walked determinedly back. Striding across the pavement. At least that’s how I remember it.

She says it was more of a slow, bewildering, uncertain saunter.  She says if you actually spin on your heel you will break your ankle. There could be more truth in her version?

Anyway, maybe it was neither. Perhaps we walked there in a non-descript manner, both of us thinking different things and neither of us speaking.

We went in. I could see the table. The one we had just been sitting at. I could see the cup still sitting there. But- there was a woman by the chair, taking off her scarf which had somehow caught on her coat. She was trying to untangle it before she sat down.

We literally had moments. The chair was pulled out from the table already.

I ran. Lifting an elbow, I slid past and underneath the woman’s tangled arm, straight into the seat. She was surprised. Stepped back. I might have made contact with my elbow. I deny it.

The waitress was about to pick up the coffee cup with my sleepy friend. I flung my hand out to grab the saucer. There was a moment when we both had hold of it before she recognised me and let it go.

The woman meanwhile had stumbled. (Again I deny contact) She’d tripped and was sat on the knee of the person across from us. I didn’t look around but I could hear the apologies in the background. My friend meanwhile ambled back in and sat across from me.  That was really the beginning of the end of our friendship.

He was still there. In the coffee.  Asleep. The waitress stood there and I blurted out an order for an espresso for my friend.

He was gently snoring, swirling chocolate sprinkles into the air. I didn’t wake him.

Meanwhile the woman I had elbowed (allegedly) out of the way had gone over to the owner and was remonstrating about my behaviour. I could see him looking at me. I coolly and steadily met his gaze. The waitress was scowling at the coffee machine as it spluttered into life. I suddenly knew what I had to do. I had a plan.

The waitress was quick with the espresso. I think she wanted us gone. She placed it on the table, all the time glaring at me. I didn’t care. Focus. I was going to save him. He was breathing, alive. I opened my mouth, out came the words, the question.

I asked the question, ‘How much to buy this cup?’

She looked at the cappuccino which was now well past being able to be drunk. She still didn’t seem to see him.

‘Cappuccino is £2.80.’ She seemed to be slurring her words but my friend denies that completely, said I was behaving erratically and making people nervous. Unlikely!

What a cheek that waitress had anyway, she’d already picked up the money we had previously left at this table. I owned this cappuccino already and whilst I am not sure of the ethics of it, I certainly felt I was responsible for the welfare of the person sleeping in it. Again a question to which the internet has no answer??

‘Is that with the cup?’ I asked.

‘Cant buy the cup,’ she said-firmly. She was really being combative now. I would not be put off. This was not a competition. I just wanted the cup and the cappuccino in it.

‘How much is the cup?’ I persisted. Focus is important to success. My voice was steel. My eyes reflecting a determination to succeed that would make a boxer proud.

I have read a lot of self help books about handling this kind of situation (although I should add, not ones that specifically addressed where you are trying to buy a coffee cup because there is a man sleeping in it).

She went over to the manager who seemed to be examining some kind of possible bruise on the woman I had elbowed away. Which was rubbish because she almost certainly had injured herself in untangling her scarf and coat. Anyway what did I care? Convict me for assault, I had more important things on my mind.

She came back. ‘We don’t sell cups,’ she drawled.

‘£10 for the cup,’ I said. My friend looked at me, then looked away. Embarrassed. I didn’t understand why she didn’t understand. She didn’t understand why I didn’t understand.

Maybe she was right. It was quite a lot to pay for a white cup.

I could see the manager now coming my way. I was desperate. There was some kind of weird force at work. This wasn’t me. This was not how I behaved. My friend looked down. She started stirring sugar into her espresso. Why, when I needed her to focus on the s-i-t-u-a-t-i-o-n????

The manager was having trouble getting through the chairs to our table. He had to be polite, asking people to move their chairs in. He was nearly at my table. There was one table between him and me. And two chairs would need to be moved so he could get through. I heard the screeching of chair feet on lino as one chair moved out of his way.

I could see his belly starting to push through as the occupant of chair number two reached for the side of her chair to move it. I had to act. I could see her hand sliding down to grip her chair, in seconds it would move and the manager would be at my table. He might not sell me the cup.

I did the only thing I could think of.

He was coming to my table from one side and the door was to the other side. He was squeezing through one set of chairs (his own fault-too many tables).

I grabbed the cup with the sleeping man. I stood up. I went for the door. There was still a table between us. The Manager was squeezing through chairs, almost through and out the other side. I was going in the other direction to the door, balancing the cup. Trying to keep it stable so he didn’t wake up.

The manager turned all his energy to me and made a final push towards me. He had almost made it. He was going to stop me. No!

The waitress stood there. Frozen in panic. Was a customer really about to steal a cup? On her watch? Her eyes wide, her face contorted in distress as if she just realised Titanic actually sinks.

The manager was so close. I could smell his cheap aftershave.  I could feel the air swishing as his arm reached out towards me. If I’d looked at him I’d have been able to see each individual crumb in his beard.

FOCUS.

I think I yelled.

I remember the sound of a chair screeching across a lino floor. You know that screech! It was melded in with my scream. I had a rush of adrenalin. I turned my head briefly to look back. I could see his blue jacketed arm, the desperate chubby fingers reaching towards me. I could see the belly poking out from under the orange shirt, buttons straining with the effort, his yellow tie twisting in time with his rage.

And then. My friend.

I saw my friend. Looking at him. Realising she was my only hope. Her hands seemed to be moving in slow motion to the side of her chair. One hand each side of her chair as she heroically pushed back into him. Her coffee flung down onto the table with the suddenness of her movement. Dark black beautiful syrupy coffee flew everywhere as I made the door.

He was sprawling backwards, yelling. It was too late. I was gone. The door flung open. A coffee perfectly balanced.

Out into the street. I held the cup, walked away and did not look back.

Stay tuned for what happened next, next week?

There’s a man asleep in my coffee!

There was a man-in a cowboy hat- asleep in my coffee…read more

I like this café. I come here a lot. The service is seamless, fluid. They serve every kind of coffee you can imagine and they sneer at tea drinkers-what’s not to like. Except today was d-i-f-f-e-r-e-n-t.

I always have a cappuccino, my name is just a coincidence. I never drink a latte-well would you if you were me?

We were sitting at a table. It’s busy enough that you can never get the same table. We’d ordered. Nothing out of the ordinary yet. I could hear the milk being frothed in the background. All perfectly normal.

The waitress came over and put the coffee down. I didn’t pay much attention. We were mid conversation. It was just a quick acknowledgement and the waitress was gone again. It was uneventful. I always have one sugar in my cappuccino.

They are one of those shops with the sugar in an open jar-never sure whether that’s more or less wasteful than a little paper sachet. The sugar at the bottom is often hard and they must have to just throw that away fairly often. Anyways (which is not a proper word-it should never have an ‘s’), I loaded the spoon with the sweet brown crystals and was steering it towards the cappuccino when just left of the chocolate sprinkles I saw-him.

There was a man asleep in my coffee! In a cowboy hat!

I know! Never happens. There was a man-in a cowboy hat- asleep in my coffee. The hat was covering his head which must have been resting on the smooth, white, porcelain rim. His torso was poking out while his bottom half was nested in frothy milk. A kind of dairy duvet scenario. He was snuggled down in silky, smooth, soft cow’s milk, full cream as well. Don’t believe in the skinny stuff myself.

My hand stopped dead. I mean just stopped dead, midway between the sugar jar and the coffee. After all, who wants to be sprinkled in sugar while they sleep (you’re right- there’s probably a website).

I just stared. My hand hovering. Just hovering in mid air with a loaded spoon, like a plane who’s pilot has just realised the engine have failed-only less dramatic because it was only a spoonful of sugar. Thank goodness for all that yoga that made that sugar spoon stillness so possible

I looked across at my friend and nodded towards my coffee. She looked at it. At first she couldn’t see it. But I made her look again.

We nodded together and I whispered, ‘There’s a man asleep in my coffee’.  He might have been only the circumference of a coffee cup tall, but he was asleep. In my coffee!

We looked at each other. Panic crossed both of our faces. This had never happened to either of us before, anywhere, ever and I have drunk a lot of coffee.  

‘I’ll search it, on the internet’ she said. And she did.

‘Nothing’ she whispered ‘only people falling asleep when robbing coffee shops.’

‘Common? That’s so common it comes up on a search?’

She nodded. Our stress levels were through the roof by now. The internet did not have an answer. I repeat, the internet did not have an answer!!!!

What exactly is 21st century etiquette when a café serves you coffee that has a man asleep in it.

‘Try tea’ I said. Still nothing.

Could it get any worse?????

It got worse!!!!  He-started-to-snore. It was low level at first, just a kind of small humming sound. But then he started sucking in milk and it got messy. Really messy. This is why dairy duvets will never take off. This is why sprinkling chocolate granules on someone who is sleeping is a bad idea-it gets messy. Really messy-I have said it twice now, but just for emphasis-here it is a third time-really messy.

I looked at my friend. She looked at me. No one else seemed to notice. There was foam flying everywhere and the air in the cafe seemed laced with the faint whiff of chocolate sprinkles. There was a continuous low level breathing and snorting. NO ONE NOTICED!!!! I checked all my social media feeds, NO ONE HAD NOTICED!!!!

The waitress came over. ‘Is everything OK?’ she said, calmly, serenely. She had failed to notice the life changing event happening before us as well.

My friend and I looked at each other. We were both thinking the same thing. We will only get through this if we both pretend it’s not happening. We both nodded. ‘Yep Ok’ slipped off both our tongues simultaneously. Snap. We both went red. She looked at us, not at my coffee, not at my table. She-looked-at-us. It was like it wasn’t happening on her planet.

Embarrassed. We sat there. Hoping she would notice. Hoping she wouldn’t notice.

Hoping someone would notice. Hoping no one would notice. Hoping what-that he might sink into my coffee and drown, or leap up out of it and –and what???? Either way you can’t drink a coffee when someone has slept in it. Can you? I mean can you????

My friend positively skulled her coffee as I searched desperately for a fiver and enough change to cover the cost. Posh shop ‘n all this one.

We both got up and got the hell out of there. Leaving him there asleep, my coffee untouched. A spoon of sugar spilled all over the table and the money in a sloppy pile. The faint whiff of sprinkles swirling in the café air, we barged through the café door, elbowing someone else out of the way and started walking away as fast as we could.

Read next week and see what happens next…

It was her hands

It was her hands. The face was old, lined, wrinkled, the eyes squinting into ever increasing darkness. This was my community service. For vandalising my dentists car when she gave me teeth so white I needed sunglasses to look in the mirror-actually true-when I switched on the bathroom light, they shone so brightly I had to wear dark glasses. She refused compensation to me so I dented her car.

I now wear a mouth-guard wherever I go. And I have gotten used to sleeping with my mouth taped shut. And a breathing tube although there is still a faint fluorescent glow that lights up my nostrils in the night. Her car, on the other hand, one of those self repairing ones, just re-grew its bodywork and is all fine. Vehicles with an exterior made of reinforced bacteria that can reshape and reform itself-well you know how the commercial goes-accident free because one colony avoids another etc etc- and she had one of those vehicles that could phosphoresce. Which is nice in a car but not what I wanted with my teeth, hence the criminal damage.

I liked community service though, in an old peoples home. Old people who mostly have robots for company don’t relish the idea of having to have a conversation with a human anymore, bot conversation is so much easier. But ‘she’ seemed to like me from the moment I arrived. There was only one kind of odd thing. She wore gloves. All the time, and I mean -all the time.  Gloves to make coffee, gloves to eat food, gloves to play on the computer. Gloves as she went into the bathroom. She even read her paper magazines with gloves. Nobody else seemed to notice. Well nobody else much was human, except for the other residents who all had their own little foibles.  

I was in her room one day and noticed she seemed to have gloves for every occasion. More pairs of gloves than I have shoes, no really more pairs of gloves than I have shoes.(67 by the way-assuming we aren’t counting flip flops-82-if we are-give or take a pair I left on a virtual holiday-I know, how?)

I wanted to ask about the gloves but the conversation never went in that direction. Then it got to my last week and finally my last day. She smiled across at me. I knew she could see the faint glow from my teeth but I was not sure she could make out all my features. We were there in her room sitting across the table from each other. There was a ceramic vase with fake plastic flowers on a doily between us. She moved it to one side. And then she did  it. She slipped off one glove and then the other. And I saw her hands.

Long elegant fingers, perfectly manicured, not a wrinkle on them, perfect flawless hands extending off gnarled, wrinkled wrists. Maybe the most expensive hands I have ever seen. Beautiful hands. Young hands. Human hands. Not her hands.

I didn’t know what to say. They must have cost a fortune.

‘They’re not mine’ she said.

Well I didn’t study rocket science but I knew that.

‘Who’s?’ I said, as that felt like the logical thing to ask. I wonder now if that wasn’t just a bit impolite.

‘My daughters,’ a pause, then awkwardly, oddly she went on, ‘she didn’t want them anymore and doesn’t want the hassle of coming to visit me, so she gave me her hands. She has mechanical ones and doesn’t want these ones. She was quite young when she had it done. Its sweet, she is with me always. I’m looking after them for her, until she comes back for them. She may want them again one day.’

I smiled.

As an aside I had decided that I didn’t want to exchange any body parts with my Mum. It remains contentious. She still wants my knees-that was a difficult conversation. She covets my knees but I still need my knees and I don’t like the look of the replacement ones. They’re so shiny, the last thing I need is shiny knees with my teeth. In the end my Mum got knees that have a small flip out screen on them so she can watch TV on the bus, they also have a torch function-useful for when she’s out jogging at night and you can use them as a phone on days where you’re feeling flexible. I never feel right calling my Mum’s knees though. I use the other number that’s connected directly to her ear-best not to ask what she’s done with her ears, brighter than my teeth. She’s her own personal club night when she’s out running..

‘I wonder’ she went on, ’would you do me a favour?’ I looked at the hands. Beautiful hands.

‘Of course.’

‘ Would you visit her, say hello, tell her I am ok?’

‘Your daughter?’

She nodded. It seemed a bit odd, I told her she should call or go herself. This place wasn’t prison but she insisted she wanted me to go and there was no reason not to. I watched her elegant hands scrawl writing, real writing-with a pen-across a piece of paper. It was mesmerising.

‘I’ll come back and let you know.’ I said.

‘No need’ she said and with that I felt as if we had said goodbye. I left. Those hands, those beautiful hands, that vision stayed with me for a few days.

A week later, I took out the slip of paper and took the bus to the nearest stop (yep there are still buses-for those of us who can’t afford bacteria based transport). I walked the rest of the way, rehearsing what I was going to say. Picturing the metallic hands at the end of human limbs and remembering how bright my teeth could be and that people had the right to make different choices-even my mother.

I turned onto the street, on one side a neat row of houses, on the other a metal fence surrounding a garden. This couldn’t be right. There was no number 53. I stopped and I asked someone and they told me the gate was further along and to go in. I did.

And there it was, plot number 53. Sometimes it goes wrong. Plot number 53, with a proper tombstone and everything. And the inscription, ‘Always and forever, Mummy holds your hands’.

My head was spinning, my teeth glowed, I spun on my heels and ran.

Light

 

So much has been written about miscarriage this week, this is how I felt…

 

I wonder if this is how it feels when you are awaiting your own execution. No panic. No fear. Just the knowledge that it will happen. Birth is about life, about immortality. There’s this great female mythology surrounding it. We can all hold hands and chant and it will be wonderful and warm. New life that has come into the world and we will all celebrate it.  

This is about death. What I am going to go through is about what is already dead, a life not started. I kind of knew the day we went for the scan. I heard the words ‘No heartbeat’ and I made a noise and I cried but I knew. I already knew.

 

It requires surgery to remove it. I did not know that. ‘It’. I call it, ‘It’, because it dulls the pain, but I gave ‘It’ a name. A name I will never speak. A silent name that rings out in my head with pain.

 

I didn’t want surgery. I just wanted to go home and have a natural miscarriage. You can opt to do this but how do you do this?

 

You wait. You just go home and wait. You know that it, the thing you are carrying around is dead inside you. It doesn’t need you, not your food and not your comfort. Sometime when you weren’t watching and you didn’t know, its tiny little heart just stopped. You didn’t feel it or sense it at the moment. It was only afterwards, long afterwards that you knew.

 

I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry a lot but there were no tears. I just had to wait for it to happen. It was just a fact. This baby was dead. It was going to come out of my body. I could not cry. In fact I hardly cried at all. I wanted to. I want to.

 

It took a lot of waiting for it to happen. I just kept on going. Washing. Cooking. Cleaning. The house was spotless. The meals magnificent. The pain hidden. Waiting.

 

I wanted privacy. I just wanted to do this privately. In the comfort of my bathroom. It was private. Just me and death and nothing else. There would be no great celebration of life. No celebration at all.

 

When it happened and it was there dead on my floor, I was so scared I could not even touch it. I was almost hysterical. My husband picked it up and put it down the toilet. Gone so fast. So many words. Down the toilet like a goldfish is all I can think of. I wished I had the courage to at least touch it but I didn’t. I should have touched it, loved it, buried it. Still there are no tears. Life goes on. I have to focus on the child I have not the other child I wanted.

 

In my head I am standing at the end of the path and screaming into the void. And I think  there is just darkness up ahead. In reality though up ahead someone is building a wall. The path is cut off from here and I have to turn and go the other way. The void is disappearing. The wall is getting higher and I have to turn. I turn my head and there are my husband and my daughter and they are walking and skipping in the light. I turn back to the void. I am screaming at the man building the wall. He builds on and  the wall is getting higher. I have to turn and follow the light. I am screaming at the wall. The wall just gets higher and now I  have to turn and follow them into the light. Still there are no tears and yet- still I have to turn. I am here. The void is gone. The wall is built. I must turn and go into the light. 

 

The Wolf Child

She is foaming at the mouth. There is nothing I can do. Nothing we can do. It happens. I know it happens. Just not to us, because this is our first and our only born. I didn’t see her future this way. I knew the risks. Of course I knew the risks. It’s just it had been such a long time. There had been none for so long. I thought we were safe, that we had somehow ‘bred it’ out, instead its mine to own.

She hates vegetables, has always hated vegetables. When she was seven a dentist told me her teeth were odd. We never went back. I knew then. I tried not to, but I knew. She loathes her grandmother’s cat, that’s on her fathers side. On my side, even now we all have an aversion to cats. It runs stronger in my family. It makes me feel like I am to blame.

Keep her? Of course I would like to keep her-but how? She was born for the wild and the call of it grows daily. She is barely able to sit still in class, her hair is long and ‘free range’. There is nothing I can do. She lingers by the meat in the supermarket, I can’t take her there anymore. . She gnarls her teeth and foams at the mouth, the scent of fresh meat is everywhere-summer barbecues drive her mad. Her bed looks more and more like a den every day. She sleeps curled up in a ball at the corner.

Then there are human moments, moments where she looks at me as if to say-mummy what is happening, help me, please explain? But I can’t. There are no books, nothing in the library, no pages that set it out. She is wilding up. One night she will simply run out into the wilderness and never return. Of course we must facilitate it. We will move from here, London is no place for the wild creature we have. We know it must be done but we have not discussed it. As it gets closer we will move. Maybe Scotland, Wales, there is a distant cousin I have heard of there, maybe Europe-the wolves are back there now? Persecuted but returned and she will be more clever than your average wolf. She will after all still carry all that human knowledge in her head-I tell myself.

Somewhere out there in the darkness, she will howl at the moon. Alive in the wild, she will morph fully into what she is, live her life happily tearing apart sheep. I had hoped for something different. But it is not to be. We must go soon. I know we must go. 

Writhing in the mud

Now I think of it, I know if you’d looked closely you would have seen they were slightly underslept. -that’s not a word-read more…

I can’t tell you the name of the town, but I can tell you it was October. A warm and mild October, the evenings were drawing in, there was a hint of chill in the late afternoon air. I was there on the quayside, looking into the mud at low tide, wondering what it was that drew people here at this time of the year. I wasn’t alone. There were others around me but I seemed to be the only one that saw it.

A great long eel like creature, writhing in the mud. It was mesmerising. I was rugged against the expected cold. I looked at those around me. It seemed to be revelling in the mud, enjoying it. No one else seemed to have spotted it.  It seemed to be there for my sake and mine alone.

I was staying in town, just the week. I hadn’t really noticed that there were a lot of women my age in town, all with sunglasses and caps, an oddity at that time of year. Now I think of it, I know if you’d looked closely you would have seen they were slightly underslept. Too tense, agitated, as if they had an appetite that was unsated. I thought nothing of it at the time.

I went back to my holiday cottage, puzzled by the fact that I was the only one who had seen the creature in the mud. I ate my dinner. Washed up. Went to bed. I don’t remember much beyond that. A strange buzzing in my head, a kind of dull excitement that made sleeping difficult. Dinner hadn’t quite filled me.

But in the darkness, I couldn’t tell you the time, late night, early morning, low tide, I found myself by the quayside. A strange sense of being too early, of the tide not being far enough gone. It didn’t matter. I took off my clothes and walked down the steps. I could hear the water softly lapping, but I wasn’t here for the water.

I laid down in the mud. Without even thinking about it.

I felt it all over me. It was both hot and cold as I sank further into it. I writhed about in it. My whole body thrilled to the sensation of it. It was slippery and wet and I felt delirious joy in its slimy moist stickiness. I rolled and wriggled and laughed out loud. I sighed and screamed and whored myself to it. Sated, eventually. I got up and went home.

I had the good sense to shower before going to bed. I slept, at first the sleep of angels and then the restless sleep of an appetite that could not be met in the daylight hours. I donned cap and glasses and stalked the town. Like everyone else.

The next night, I did the same again. I knelt at first and covered myself in the mud and then I lay down and writhed and screamed and hollered my enjoyment. And I was not alone. There were others, other women, doing the same as me. We did not touch each other. We did not speak to each other. Each of us existed and acted alone, screaming mud fuelled ecstasy into the darkness.

It ought to have woken half the town. But no one came to watch. I was only to stay a week, but I begged another week from the landlady. By day I wandered through the town, a ghost. By night, I rolled and played in its muddy foreshore, happier at that moment than I have ever been, either before or since.

By the third week and tired of the mud, the landlady, accustomed no doubt to such strange behaviour, took me to the woodshed. There was a bed, browned sheets and a heater. I stayed there. I did not eat. I could not sleep. I longed for the night time, for the mud, its warmth, its coolness, its slimy, sticky covering. Every night, the same compulsion drove me to the shore, to luxuriate in its murky wetness. Every morning, the hunger and longing came again.

And then one day, just like that-the wrong tide, a different moon, the spell broke. I slept and awoke, hungry, dirty-covered in mud. Horrified, I showered, ate, left.  Leaving the sunglasses and cap on the bed. I have never been back. I cannot explain it. I wait for the hunger to come again.

The Shadow on the Wall

I am lonely, here in the wall, please read to me?..read more

I can’t remember when it started. I do remember how it started. I got up one night to use the toilet. And there it was.  On the wall. A shadow. Specifically the shadow of a child. No actual child casting the shadow. It was the middle of the night but light enough for a shadow because we always left the outside light on. It shone through the panelled glass door so that we could see our way to the bathroom. And there on the wall, in the half light, a shadow. It was playing. Skipping. In a world of its own. I was intrigued but I needed the toilet more.

Then the next night again, there it was. I went and stood before it. Not close, against the stairwell. Again the next night. I watched some more and then one night.  It stopped. It stopped what it was doing and turned to face me. I couldn’t make out any face but I knew it was facing me. It was just a shadow. A dark shape on the wall.

It seemed curious. About me. Again the next night, it seemed sad. So I did what every mother would do. At 3am in the morning I read it a book. It seemed comforted. It slumped to the bottom of the wall and lay sleeping. I went back to bed.

Still I didn’t go near it. I sat across from it. Out of reach, but every night, 3am I got up to go to the bathroom and I read a book to the shadow, just a picture book. It didn’t take very long. I never went near the wall, I just felt I needed a distance. Instinct. I must have done that for two or three years, read a book every night. The interrupted sleep was difficult. My husband thought I was mad. He just couldn’t seem to see it. There was no shadow for him. Just a wall.

It grew, over time, the shadow grew, got older, bigger, like a child growing. The books got longer and more complex. In 2013 I did the entirety of Harry Potter-all of it. Sitting down and reading to the shadow over a series of nights. About an hour each night, sometimes more, often more.  

I didn’t understand it. It seemed to get more demanding. Somehow. More down cast every time I stopped and soon I was reading for 2 hours, then four and the toll on my voice, the lack of sleep. Did I say my husband couldn’t see it? He must have left about that time. I stayed on, a devoted mother.

The lack of sleep was consuming me but there was no way to stop. I kept reading to it every night. But I never went near it. I stayed away from it physically. After awhile I never even vacuumed near that wall, I didn’t want to wake it in the day. Soon we were into modern fiction and I was reading the Booker-out loud. I never meant for it to happen.

I went to bed early, got up in the middle of the night and read to the shadow. It never said anything, it couldn’t. It just sat there and listened. I never went very close to that wall. Did I say that already? Ever. I think I never really felt comfortable in its presence. I was attached to it, obligated, but still- fretful.

And then one night I did. I just went closer.

All I really remember is a loud sound, like a bang and feeling sticky all over. Like I was caught under the wall paper. And I could see him. I could see him as a real three dimensional person, walking into my bathroom, a whole human fully formed. He dressed himself in something my husband had left behind. He rifled through my bag and he left the house. Out into the night. He never returned.

I can’t see myself to tell you what I look like now. In the light that shines through the glass panels I know I am visible. In the night. I wait. There are new people who have moved in. I wait for the night. For that person to get out of bed at that exact moment, to see me. I have practiced it. Planned it.  And I know.

I know.  You’re reading this. I know you know. You know which wall I mean. I know how you try not to look my way at night. I was like that once too. But I am lonely, here in the wall, please read to me?

 

The Hand

I know what you’re thinking. If you find the bones of a human hand in the raised bed of the house you rent, you should…read more

I remember it clearly. I had decided on planting a herb garden in the raised beds on the patio out the back. It was not long after my mother had died. She had always wanted a herb garden. The garden beds had been completely unused since I arrived. I had turned the soil that day and was looking at it from the kitchen window. I could see something snowy white in the blackness of the soil. It pricked my curiosity. Then I ate dinner and forgot about it.

I live alone.

I went to the work the next day and somewhere, somehow that fragment of an idea crossed my mind. So when I went home, I went out to the raised bed and I dug around it. That little piece of white. It was not as white as I remembered, more a cream, perhaps it was how the evening light had caught it.

I rent this place.

It was a bone. How odd? A bone. I dug a bit more. There were more pieces, more fragments. I kept digging and by the end, I had all the bones for a human hand. I had found the skeleton of a whole human hand. I know what you’re thinking. If you find the bones of a human hand in the raised bed of the house you rent, you should…

I didn’t.

I took it inside. I gently washed the dirt off it, just like I had seen on that forensics show on the telly. I even got out an old toothbrush for effect. I felt like an archaeologist. I wished I’d had a white coat. I told myself I had not found a whole body, just a hand and what was the harm in keeping it. The next day I went shopping.

I bought a box.

A glass one, clear on all sides, I searched skeletons and I laid out the bones exactly as they should be in the box and then put it on the shelf. I ate dinner. I watched the telly. I tried not to look at it. But it was like- it was calling me. After all, this hand, hadn’t it stretched up from somewhere deep in the soil below to find me. Hadn’t it sprung through the soil of its own volition into my field of view.

Sometimes.

I took it out and sat it on my knee and stroked it. That hand that belonged to someone else. That elegant fleshless skeletal ornament. It was quite beautiful. Then suddenly the lease finished. What to do, the herb garden was thriving. I pulled up what I could to take with me. I packed my things into boxes. It was late summer, time to move on. All the time, there was the box with the hand, on the shelf. The hand that had given me so many nights of comfort in front of the telly. But it was someone else’s hand.

So I left it.

In the box.

On the shelf.

When I moved out.

Because it wasn’t mine. Because the next person might be lonely too. And I think that’s how I came to be here, people say. They say such bad things.