Conceived

I am thinking of chopping it off. My hand that is. It keeps oozing out the past at every opportunity. I have lost control of it now. Completely. And it is only a matter of time before someone guesses. Especially here, in the nursing home, where death stalks every corner. It is my own fault. I should have removed it before I came here.

Once there was a bad man. Bad to me. Bad to others. I was at a party. He passed out on the floor. I remember the very solid thump as his head hit the ground. I did what anyone would do. I stood staring for a moment. Unsure.

Then I put my wine glass carefully on the table. I checked for a pulse. He was still breathing. I tried to bring him around. Perhaps not very hard but I did try. At first. I took out my phone. I looked at it. The thing is –he was a very bad man.

I clamped his nose between my fingers and jammed the palm of my hand into his mouth. I put my legs across his chest, settling my knees beneath his rib cage. Basically I stopped him breathing. I waited, with my head turned to the door. No one came.

I told myself I had helped him to die rather than you know-the ‘m’ word. For all I know he would have died anyway. It was a long time ago.

The official verdict was death by accident. It was a very nasty head bump. Someone else found him.

Except now my hand.

I wake up in the morning and there it is. The very shape, room for a nose, my hand clamped in that position. Immovable. I have to purposefully will it to release itself. There is the gap between my two middle fingers. Holding something that is not there. My outside fingers tight together. They are just held there in suspension. As if. As if they are still clamping a nose. My palm presses forward. It is all there in the muscle memory of my hand. Which is why I need to get rid of it. Do you know how hard it is to get a knife in this place? My hand has gone rogue.

It doesn’t stop in the morning either. I will be sitting having coffee. I say coffee but it is murky brown tasteless stuff. I will be having coffee with a friend and I can feel my hand contract and form the shape. It just happens. I cannot control it. I know they look at me as if I am odd. Every person in this place is odd though, it is the privilege of old age. I think they want to get a doctor to look at it. That can’t happen. That will be a disaster.

I dread finding someone collapsed in the corridors in case I am tempted. I am tempted. I can still feel his body spluttering underneath me. I feel him struggling for breath even unconscious. And I just held my knees tight. His rib cage could not move. He was unconscious. I am sure he was unconscious. He was mostly unconscious. He was a bad man.

I feel the last gasp of air come out of his mouth. I can feel it on my face because I leaned in. Because I wanted to feel it. And my hand, now my hand, keeps going back to that position. Covering his nose.

I worry about the hand. Would it be safer to chop it off? What if someone sees? Guesses? Knows? But I am helpless in this decision and google and youtube have been useless in giving proper instructions for hand severance.

I find myself making that shape with my hand in front of the TV. With my left hand when I am doing the crossword with my right. I pray now for the end to come for me. I have had a long life, but that night is still with me. Still inside of me somewhere and it keeps bursting out in the form of my hand.

I remain unrepentant, he was a very bad man. My hand is sorry but I am not.

Epilogue

I look at my mother’s body. It is the last time I will see her, laid out in the coffin. There it is, even now, that strange shape she used to make with her hand when she was nervous. Where did that come from? I take her hand in mine and try to stretch the shape out. But the fingers won’t move. They are stuck forever in that position. It was a shape I always associated with her. I never saw anybody else do it. I am alone now. There was always just Mum and me.

I know nothing of my father. He died on the night I was conceived.

The hand

I never went outside. Much as a child. I grew up inside. Afraid of the outside. A manor house. Big old stone thing. Creaking walls. Lots of indoor space. Perfectly manicured lawns. I think in half sentences.  

The hand.

I remember everything about it. It is the mark of. My childhood, that patch of lawn. Perfectly Cut. A square. Part of a bigger rectangle. Intersected  by a path. It sat right next to the driveway.

The hand.

I can’t remember how old I was. When it first happened. I was simply standing on the lawn. That lawn. A hand. Green and covered in grass, came up out of ground and grabbed my ankle. I was terrified. Frozen. Rooted to the spot. I looked down. I could see it had hold of my ankle. Then it let go. I examined that grass. Minutely. There was nothing there.

No hand.

A few months later the same thing. Again. It happened intermittently, as I grew up. The hand out of the lawn. I tried never to go out. Grasping my ankle. I stayed very still. It let go. I had an older cousin, Maisie. Her daughter strayed on to that patch of grass. They found her playing on it. But they never found Maisie. There was simply no trace of her. The police investigated. There was nothing.

No hand.

I could see the patch of grass from my window. Sometimes in the semi darkness it seemed to heave itself upward. Roll and then settle again. I never went on the grass. Not after Maisie. Then an even odder thing happened. The grass seemed to grow. In a neat line. Across the driveway. The gardener kept killing it off. It kept growing back.

It was the hand, I know it was the hand.

I knew even then what had happened to Maisie. One day I simply packed my suitcase. And left. I remember stepping over that errant grass on the driveway. Knowing I had won. I took one of my mothers best jewels. I watched from afar. A pariah. A thief. As the house opened to the public. It shut again after a few years. A young woman went missing. No trace was found.

It was the hand, I know it was the hand.

I married. Had a daughter. Then she had a daughter. It is all too painful, even as I think of it now. They were in an accident. A terrible accident. My husband. My daughter. My grand daughter. Not me.  In the days afterwards, that became months and years, I contacted my brother. He invited me home. To the house.

I wondered about the hand.

Back to that house. I would go. To live out my final days. He seemed to think there was some justice in what had happened. I still had that suitcase that I took with me when I first went. Tatty old thing. I took it down. Opened it. Empty. Except for a tuft of green grass in the bottom. I sat on the bed.

I wondered about the hand.

There it was, I went home. When I got there. The patch of grass had been fenced. First by wrought iron then clear plastic panelling put up. The gardeners struggled to keep it under control. I watched the grass grow, big and tall. I knew it was coming. Coming for me. It would snake out across the driveway no matter what I did. It was patient.

The hand.

Late one afternoon. After tea and cake, I put on my best dress. I went down to that piece of lawn. I opened the gate. It creaked. Clanked. As if announcing my arrival. I stepped inside. All this time, that bleak dark thing-whatever it was- had waited. I did not wait. I walked onto the lawn.

The hand.