Can you imagine

Do you trust your instinct, Elliott?

Sue’s question feels as large as the room, and all three women pause to consider it. Thinking about the nights they’ve crossed the road to avoid a parked car with its lights on, or pretended to make a phone call as someone walked too close behind them. Remembering the longer routes taken to avoid unlit streets, and how they automatically take note of who gets off at the same station or stop they do. The way they would never leave a drink unattended at the bar, and how they always check who’s there before unlocking the door. Self-preservation as a replacement for instinct, because being right would be the real danger here.

Elliott feels her body arch toward this sudden realization, a shudder that almost lifts her from the floor.

I’m afraid to be right, she says, holding out her arms to examine the tiny hairs standing up from her skin. I would argue away the most obvious signs, if it meant I could be wrong about him.

Because if I’m right – my god, can you imagine what that means?

~ What We Have Left

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Spinning closer every second

Later, at the beach house she and her friends have rented for the weekend, Elliott takes a pillow and blanket and quietly pads out to the balcony. It is 3am and everyone else has passed out, couples curled into each other, or positioned back to back. She is, as usual the only single person here. Not that she thinks of herself as single. There needs to be some other word to describe the state she has found herself in.

Alone.

That would do it, she thinks, folding herself down onto a damp, wicker sofa. Someone has removed the spongy seat cushions, Elliott can see them stacked near the balcony railings, but she does not have the energy to drag them over. It has started to rain, and Elliott is glad for the discomfort, for the wet on her face and the unyielding sofa base, pressing into her hip. Back in her room, the world had started to spin. Now, she can see the black of the ocean, hear the inky water slapping against the sand. The sound feels as if it is coming from inside her, it is as if she is the one cresting and falling, and it takes a moment for her to realise that she is crying, out here on this balcony, alone with the rain and the waves and the starless sky. Soon she is crying as hard as the weather, all the accumulations rising up out of her. This is not where she intended to be.

Life, she understands in this moment, has stopped happening to her. She has stood in the middle of too many summers and winters, too many dance floors and other people’s parties, and simply woken up the next day older than before. For so long, nothing has happened. She has been on pause, while he went about making his life. Making the tiniest of spaces for her to fit into, asking her to make herself small so that he could keep her right there.

Here.

She doesn’t want to be here anymore.

The plan does not fully take shape this early morning, waves and rain and tears saturating everything around her. Elliott won’t even really know, days later, as she books her one-way ticket, as she scrapes together her savings, just what she’s doing, or why. She only knows that she can’t stay here anymore. That she needs, desperately, for some thing to happen to her.

In this way, our worlds are spinning closer every second.

~ Elliott, What We Have Left

WWHL

Safer in the end

Very few people are all bad. Hardly anybody at all really. Maybe an irredeemable handful who were born with their wires muddled, missing. But the rest of us are works in progress. Reacting to our environments, growing or shrinking according to whatever light gets shined on us. It’s no excuse. Cruelty and ignorance cannot always be forgiven. But I guess, if we want to, we can understand it. We can look at it up close, we can examine all the ways there are to hurt someone. And we can decide what we will not do.

Perhaps the rest is all chance. You really can be in the wrong place at the wrong time. All those things they say when they want to blame someone for the bad things done to them. But not in the way of it being your fault, let’s be clear. A chance encounter, by its definition, cannot be your fault. And here’s the thing. What if you do change your behavior to avoid those chance encounters. What if you alter how you live in this world because there are those who would do to you what you would never do to someone else? It doesn’t make anyone safer, in the end. It really doesn’t.

Because let’s be clear about one more thing. If you change your behavior, and he does not, then you are safe.

But she is not.

~ Alice, What We Have Left

First draft done. Now to make everything better!

He has never been honest

She is supposed to be his safe haven, the place he can go to when he is exhausted. Didn’t he tell her once that she was the shore, or had she imagined that after he played her a song with such words? Has she afforded him a depth of feeling and meaning that he has never really possessed?

What would it be like if she could see him going about his day just now. The care he gives to others, the attention he bestows on anyone not her. Perhaps, just a little, he hates her. Despises how she has led him down a path he cannot return from. Cannot make up from. He forgets all this in her arms, of course, or when he is alone in another clean, wide-bed hotel room and he has had one too many wines to fall asleep. In these moment she is all he can think of. His dark-eyed lover, the one whose body he has traversed and drowned in and drunk from, all these years. Sometimes the ache for her is no different from thirst or hunger. A primal need her skin and scent satisfies.

Other times, like now, when she sends her SOS from across the ocean, he wishes she would leave him be, thinks of life before her, and after her, too, if he could just say the words he needs to. Why doesn’t she understand? Why does she keep coming back for more? She cannot lose him, he was never hers to begin with, he never offered himself the way she offered herself to him.  This is not his fault. What is he supposed to do? Leave his wife and children for a woman he barely knows, barely even likes, if he’s honest?

If he’s honest.

Thanks to her, he feels as if he has never been honest a single day of his life.

~ Elliott, What We Have Left

Jo Piechota at body, remember blog

What we have left, indeed!

When they know who you are

Here’s what happens when they know who you are. It changes. Everything changes. They begin to dig into your life. Because ‘Dead Girl’ needs a bigger story to keep it interesting. The fact of her loss could never be enough. So they pick through my past, sift through my bones, the reporters and editors who don’t get this kind of treat nearly enough, the shock and tragedy of pretty, dead, white girls.

I have made some things easy for these storytellers. No mother (suicide!), no father (where is he?), and there is a predictable small-town history to snack on. Enough people who went to school with me, or knew me when, to keep the theories coming. But most revelations come as a disappointment, no matter the digging. Good student. No record of trouble. Scant evidence of running around with boys. Not a single scandal of my own, until-

And here, Mr. Jackson sits in his studio, waiting for the knock. Charcoal fingers twisting, a package of photographs in a locked box under his bed. Knowing he can’t throw the package away, considering burial or burning, but never quite able to bring himself to unlock that box, open it up. Afraid to look at me the way he used to. To see me alive and vital, and to remember the way I used to look back at him. He knows these pictures are a ticking bomb, a catalogue of his errors, and he knows, inevitably, the knock will come.

Still, when they show up at his door in their blue suits, with their notebooks and guns tucked into belts, he is unprepared.

~ Alice, What We Have Left

Riverside Park

 

Stay like this

Did I think we could just stay like this?

Did I think there was a place you could land, and everything around you would retreat. Where nothing and no-one else would matter, no outside world impacts or time-changes, because you were exactly where you were meant to be. Finally, and irrevocably.

Did I think there was such a place, and such a time, and it would all stand still for me, because I was happy in that place, in that time?

How else to explain my surprise when it all came to an end? How else to make sense of my utter confusion to find the earth shifting beneath me once again, spinning me away just as I began to get my balance. When that was what I’d always known to expect, in my life before.

In my life before him.

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We try to make sense of things because we’ll go crazy without the story; our most important moments in life can’t be things that just happen. Later, I see what he was doing, where he was leading me. Later, I am not surprised that he made me wait, prepared me. He needed to know he was safe.

As if my safety did not come into it at all.

~ Alice, What  We Have Left

… drafting all the things …

Down to where you are

She was 27 when she met him. Her heart was a bruise at the time, she would often find herself pushing against the flesh under her left breast, fingers searching the pain, trying to soothe, trying to make it worse or better, she was never quite sure. The man she had loved, the one she thought she would marry – when she never thought she would marry – had walked out on her three months before. Literally walked out. Dropped the key ring she had given him on the cluttered coffee table between them and walked backwards out of her life. The night before, they had talked baby names. He took her to a restaurant with fairy lights and white flowers and a 40% vegetarian menu. He took her to a place that said I know you, I know what you love, and she was wearing a new black dress, just deep enough at the chest for her new-found sophistication. For this life as a girlfriend, a woman who lived with her lover – she loved calling him lover – and they talked baby names and ate their vegetarian dinners and when he removed the black dress later that night, he was slow, thorough in the ways he replaced fabric with fingers. She came three times, biting down on her hand, the pillow, his lips, lest her housemate hear this primal, private sound.

Later, she would understand the spell that is cast by the first man to make you come. But that night she was too fresh with the discovery, these last six months of loving a man who loved her back. Not that the miracle was the latter. What was amazing to her was that she loved him. She loved someone the way she’d read about and wondered about and been quietly, alarmingly, sure that she’d never experience for herself.

You are earth and I am air. You’ll need to draw me down to where you are. You’ll need to hold me, to make sure I don’t just float away.

Something she wrote to him at the very beginning, a note never sent, because how would you say that at 26 you were as new at love as a teenager, or as skeptical of it as an old woman who’d seen to much for her own or anybody else’s liking? It was hard to remember that resistance, her earliest fears, on this night, six months after she met him, and he began the slow dance of pulling her down.

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~ MV,  What We Have Left

So many ways to tell a story 😉