January 2018 Contest Winner
Sian Phillips: I have worked as a teaching assistant for some time as I love watching young people grow in confidence but selfishly, it also allows me sufficient time to write. Without writing, I really don't know what I would do as it's possibly one of few things I can do well! I am forever lost in my head and since I was old enough to pick up books, I have devoured all forms of literature. Great cinema, writing, music and art serve as inspirations. I cannot imagine life without them. I would never have pursued a writing dream were it not for the active encouragement and constructive criticism offered to me by my former creative writing lecturer. She made me believe I was more than just okay at something.
Then and Now
Then and Now
My toes drive once again into the damp grass; the soft wet mud that greets them causing me to shiver and clench at my fists. It’s almost funny to me that this is my primary focus when my throat is constricting painfully at the prospect of what is to come.
This spot is lush and green. Remember? Our picnic space after a long, summer walk, and then, between mouthfuls of chips and messy dip, where we would dance drunk on the edge, swaying for the audience of trees beneath.
I flex my arms experimentally, lifting them lightly from my sides, and I will myself to look down.
Tall trees stand erect for what seems like miles and the soft expanse of leaves looks like it would provide a cushion for me in my fall- something that is not a part of my plan. I want to dive into and through the earth, to fill my senses with clay and bark and grit as I break like the most fragile of dolls. Like you. I want to do like you and smash the world and then walk the Malverney Bridge to your side. I’ll fist your red dress and press the most insistent kisses to your sweet mouth until you bury yourself into me, and cause my ears to buzz and flush when you murmur the words I’ve been dying to hear, ‘I forgive you.’
I’m wearing your dress now; the white lace one that scrapes my thighs and used to make that rare wolfish smile break out on your face whenever I borrowed it. I loved the feel of familiar green eyes tracing every curve of my form, like a child filling in a Paint By Numbers, tongue poking out slightly with the sheer effort of concentration. You coaxing me back onto the bed and lying between my legs as we both succumbed to warm, dizzying heights.
We were like this sometimes, weren’t we? When the pills and your synapses didn’t cloud or fog, but met in humble acceptance and mutual gratitude.
The rain is light now as it clings to my hair, and my mind recalls lazy Sunday afternoons where we would attempt to walk off heavy dinners in mild drizzle. You would present me with a bashful smile as I turned the camera on you; so cute in your woolen black hat that I felt I’d strain my cheek muscles for smiling so wide. It changed so easily and so often but I could never see it- my stomach would churn and drop at silent tears that I had not managed to predict. I would mold myself to you and envelop you with my body- trying to block any persistent demons from reaching you, but it never worked. They would whisper and creep through the gaps and I was powerless to stop them.
He meant nothing that night. I was giddy with the fuzz of alcohol and I was smiling dopily as I revelled in the heat that tingled and spread over my skin. I was sick afterwards; throat burning as I heaved and sobbed at my sin. I rubbed my body and lips raw with soap; leaving me blotchy and pink and marred by the touch of someone other than you.
I could never hide it. I tried. Nestling underneath the covers pretending to watch a David Lynch movie; play-fighting on the stairs as we raced to the kitchen, your raucous laughter causing my heart to feel trapped and entirely compressed.
I told you everything the minute we left the house; I was stumbling down the driveway behind you as I averted blurred eyes and exhumed it all. You only told me to get in the car.
I curled up in a fetal position; at times quiet, and at others pleading with you to talk to me, but nothing. You drove fast and relentlessly, dogged determination rendered your beautiful face as unwelcoming and unwilling.
I loved you, I love you and all I could do was rasp, ‘I’m sorry.’
I shouldn’t be scared now. I died that day when you turned to me slowly and looked more lost than I had ever seen you. Tears leaked from your eyes and stuck to strands of hair around your face. I trace your picture all the time; in mind, or with fingers and lips. I don’t exist without you. I can’t.
I pose like Christ, letting the wind lap at me as I shut my eyes tight. There’s nothing left to look at. I just want to listen to the water break and fall as I….
I wake up. I wake with face buried in heavy fur, and Stanley, our St. Bernard, looks at me quizzically as I stir against him. We walk the bridge together, following an invisible line that hopefully leads to you.
You in your red dress with the straps; the straps I’ll shift over to mouth kisses and apologies and love. It’s time to let me love on you again.
I’ll walk forever to find you. It’s you and me now. The way it’s supposed to be.
She drapes herself over the back of the living room couch, nose pressed against Liza’s aquarium. She drums her fingers, long nails on clear glass, tap-tap-tap, a monotone, grating sound. The amethyst-colored jellyfish inside—the only two miraculous survivors—seem unperturbed, floating around as languid and disinterested as ever. I want to be those jellyfish. I want the world to seem as distant as a bad dream that can’t reach me through the amniotic-like water...
I find that writing for competitions motivates me, so ‘It’ was written in response to a prompt where the story had to include ‘without it, it all falls apart’. I didn’t actually enter that competition, but when I was happy with it I sent it here. I do as much writing in my head as I do on the page and was hanging out the washing when this came to me. I do have experience of a close family member who has dementia so that inspired me too.