Friday, 9 November 2012

Extract

 After the operation, she had to stay at home for thirty days and all she had for her brain were other people's windows. She tried to read, but the words became soup and the white of the page was too bright, like a camera flash, too much for the letters. The stories that had once canted off the pages, the paragraphs she had leapt through feeling all the while like a pony in a meadow full of ever-decreasing wooden fences, they were gone. Or, they were still there but they were nothing: black termites marching to a tunnel too small to allow her entry. So, she sat by the window with a glass of gin and Rose's lime cordial and she watched the windows.

It wasn't as it used to be, watching the windows. When she was a girl, the windows had seemed like ever-flickering zoetropes, alive with stories. The light was a softer shade of yellow, like butter, and the people moved through the butter with a kind of buttery thoughtfulness. These days, the lights were brighter. The only candles were scented glass-clad cylinders in bathrooms, their only task the re-calibrating of the scents the air once claimed. Poetry does not flourish in fluorescence. The people move differently, or they don't move at all. Every window she looked in was just a box with its own windows inside, flickering multicoloured windows, epileptic visions and banners of unnatural colours. There is only so long you can spend staring at a person, staring at the television.

In the backroom, which used to be Charles's office, were the chests. Inside the chests were his things and she had never looked through his things when he was alive, because a wife sometimes has to be a clear plate to reflect back the thoughts of her man. A polished glass beaker. The wiped corners of the drawer in the fridge. But then a man dies and the wife who has spent all her days being a surface and a mirror suddenly wakes up and there is nothing in the world worth bouncing back, and she is aware that her body is more than this, her mind is a thing. This is the point to die or to carry on, really, the options are less fantastical and less imperative than we think. And there is always a chance to make another decision when you pick the latter. So, she carried on thinking that maybe next week she would let herself go, but let's just see first, maybe. A wife can go a long time waiting for next week, provisionally, when she has become a widow. It seems so definitive to leave the table before the last card has been overturned. Besides anything else, it seems rude.

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