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craighallam
November 9th, 2010, 05:06 PM
Hi guys,

Figured I should bite the proverbial bullet and post something for you all to read. Wrote this one a while back and it's been sat in my 'potential' tray for as long. Hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think?

Craig


Memories in Sepia


I didnít even hear them coming. My basket, snatched right out of my fingers, was the first thing I knew of it. The sickening smash as their bumper tossed it into the air, tiny white wheels still spinning, made me shriek. I covered my ears, I donít know why. A blast of whump whump whump filtered through my gloves as their music died away; my ears throbbed as if trying to copy the sound.
I stood in the road, breathing in the thick scent of hot oil and rubber, left alone with the agony in my wrist. I didnít know what happened to me, just a blur of motion, colour and noise. It took a long while, I think, before I realised how close Iíd come to being killed like a rabbit or a bird, the ones you see at the roadside, all fur or feather and nothing else.
Do you know what thatís like?
Itís easy to say Iím past my sell-by date. Tell me Iíve had a good innings; tell me I must know my timeís short. I know. I think about it regular. But when faced with your own mortality, realising how easily youíre snuffed outÖ.Iím not ready. I thought I was. Iím not.
I stood in the middle of the crossing, white lines leading away in either direction. My basketís tartan sides were torn open likeÖ.like I could have been. Shopping sprawled across the road. Fresh fruit mashed into the tarmac. A tin had rolled into the furthest gutter, beans I think, not that it matters.
I stared down at the white lines, completely blank in my head. Itís funny how the brain works, when it works at all, but all I could think was:
ďThereís black lines between the white ones. Every white line has a black one on either side.Ē
Itís silly, but thatís what I was thinking. Strange how you never notice something like that.
Another car stopped, a young woman I think, and she tried to help me out of the road. I know I struggled and fought her at first. She tried to take me across the road and I wouldnít go. There was somethingÖsomething about the beacons. The way they flashed so regularly on their stripy poles, like laughter in lights. I knew stepping between them would be the end of me, I just knew it. I think I told her that as we turned back. I think I did but hope I didnít.
She left me at the kerb, huddled in my skirts like a crippled pigeon, to clear the road. My body felt like it wanted rid of something and it was trying to shake it out of me in a fever. I couldnít tell you when the shaking had started but it wouldnít stop. I know when the weeping started though, right there and then. I cried and cried like I did as a girl when I skinned a knee, grabbing at my wrist to stop the ache. I think I rocked.
The oak trees at the roadside whispered to me, tried to hush my tears.
I refused every offer of help given. My pride was knocked enough. Although, as I walked the extra half an hourís route to the subway, my arm wrapped in a sleeve like the walking wounded, I cursed my own stubbornness. Every inch of my body ached, even more than usual. The shaking had stopped but threatened to come back whenever I thought too much. I rested a lot as I walked. I probably flinched as cars sped by, but donít tell anyone.
I finally found myself on a familiar stretch of pavement; a returning trench soldier limping home, determined to reach loved ones after an age at war. Only I had no one to return to. No one would sit me down, press a hot cup of tea into my good hand and slap my back with hearty congratulations for my bravery. Iíd have to do it myself. I wished again that Iíd taken the young womanís offer of help. If Iíd asked her, she could have brought me home, helped me over the formidable step, sat me down on the sagging, lumpy settee. Instead, I stood at the end of my shabby garden path alone.
Iíve lived in this place for most of my life and no longer know any of the faces that blink at me day to day as if amazed that Iím still breathing. I knew them all once, but things change, as they say, and now the street that was once mine is nothing but a row of twitching curtains.
Every time I reach that spot I feel with undeniable certainty that I wonít make it the last few feet to my door. That time was no different. My body had had enough. My legs were too tired to carry my weary little frame this time. This time Iíd stand stock still until my rusty bones refused to move. Then, under the weight of my years, Iíd crumple to the ground.
But I made it to the door, as I always did, fumbled for the key with my free hand and shouldered open the door to my solitary confinement.
It struck me then, the smell of my home. Like old newspaper. I could almost smell the ink. When had it begun to smell like that? When had I let it?
Finally sat on my settee, what remained of my shopping still lay where itíd landed just inside the door. The bruising in my wrist was starting to show, spreading under my skin like the shadows of fish under water. A constant throb came and went like a siren. I eyed the District Nursesí box, the one with the bandages and dressings theyíd use when they came. That wouldnít be for another week, theyíd only visited this morning, and it was never for long. Iíd have to wrap the wrist myself.
I cried. Again and again I cried. Not for the pain, not for the things Iíd lost, not for the embarrassment or the dignity that had been stripped from me, but for the loneliness. You donít realise how truly alone you are until you need someone who isnít there; until you speak out loud and your own voice is unfamiliar.
Iíve wandered through the last few years of my life seeing other human beings as nothing but speeding shapes that jostled or tutted at my slowness. The nearest thing to conversation I have is the monotone boredom of the checkout girl, and I like it that way. Getting too attached leads to sorrow. Iíve lost the only person Iíll ever need, or so I thought, and no one else can compare. But on that day, the sound of my sobs echoing back to me in my sparse living room, I wouldíve given what remained of my soul for another person to be sat on my settee. The only people I have now are etched in sepia, staring out at me from dusty gilded windows.
At first, all I could think of was the drone of fading horns as the car passed close enough to ruffle my clothing but, slow as the rising of bread I came to myself. I remembered other things. The blurred colours started to clear, like a watercolour left in the rain, but in reverse.
That didnít make sense at all, forgive me.
What I mean is that as the shock wore off I remembered details that I didnít know I knew. The carís colour, how the fallen leaves scuttled like mice, and something I wish I could now forget. Four pale faces with dark eyes, twisted by speed, staring at me from beyond glass like explorers in a submarine. Their laughter standing out even above the music. One voice rising above the others, shouting something I couldnít make out. That Iím thankful for.
It comes back to me in dreams, made fuzzy by sleep. The faces change. Sometimes theyíre people I knew; sometimes theyíre my husband, cold as he was when I saw him last; sometimes theyíre me; mostly theyíre the same old whooping ghosts.
I mustíve fallen asleep because I woke up. That happens more often of late, these dozing periods. I wonder if itís my body practicing for the longest sleep Iíll take.
Iíd slumped down on the settee, my head drooped back, but I still cradled my arm like a baby. Right down to my fingers was a horrid purple, the skin stretched too tight by the swelling. The light had gone out of the day, leaving only an amber streetlight to see by. I didnít close my curtains, check the door, or move my shopping from the doorway; the only perishable I cared about putting away was myself. The stairs are always an effort of tugging; an impossible feat of strength; a chore of Hercules. I remember that story from when I was a school girl. Itís taken me seventy years to understand how he mustíve felt. He toiled alone, every day, silently pressing on with whatever task was given to him. The difference between me and him? He went down in history, Iíve been forgotten.
Perched in my night gown at the edge of this old bed, pain rattled my bones. All Iíd wanted to do was get home, just get home, and Iíve no idea why. Nothingís made better by being here anymore. What I once loved, what I needed from this place has gone.
Iíll carry on, because Iím afraid of what happens when I donít.

Cressida
November 9th, 2010, 06:52 PM
Well my first thought was - thank goodness to read something at last which isn't based on Dracula and garden gnomes or whatever the current fashion is. However moving on. This is a really powerful opening. I think perhaps you should replace regular with regularly but I imagine that that that is because I am English. It is very well written, flows beautifully and is evocative. Where are you going with it?

Razzazzika
November 9th, 2010, 07:23 PM
Excellent Imagery. Very emotionally intense. Very little grammar/spelling errors that I saw, and I nitpick..., I say bravo.

curb not kerb --- sorry had to do it

craighallam
November 9th, 2010, 09:37 PM
Cressida - Cheers muchly! I'm english too, so I have no excuse :D. Glad you liked it. I have no idea where it's going. I've got the option of having this an an introduction to a longer piece or leaving it as a stand alone event. I think I might leave it as a snapshot...we'll see.

Raz -
curb not kerb Damn! How did I miss that!? That's why it's always good to have an outside eye cast over your work, I guess. Thanks! :D

Glad you both liked it. I'll post more in the future. Maybe something about Dracula meeting some Garden Gnomes...hmmmm \\:D/


Craig

Cressida
November 9th, 2010, 09:44 PM
Woohoo a fellow Northerner too! :D So glad that I am not the only one.

Leave it as a one shot if you like but it is quite intriguing and would stand padding out if you wanted to.

craighallam
November 10th, 2010, 10:28 AM
Thanks for your comments, Cress. It's much appreciated. I might post something else in here later. It saves opening another thread for a story.

Craig

garza
November 10th, 2010, 10:53 PM
Why abandon a perfectly good word like 'kerb'? Check with Oxford and you'll see it's correct.

Beautifully written story.

craighallam
November 11th, 2010, 05:36 PM
You know, I thought it was right...I just double (or is that triple) checked it and I should probably leave it. Is it a Brit thing, the kerb? What do American's call it? Or do they just spell it differently?

Good job I'm not going for international writer extraordinaire, eh? hahaha

Craig

Razzazzika
November 12th, 2010, 04:21 PM
oh my... it's true

Kerb Ėnoun, verb (used with object) British .
curb ( defs. 1, 15 ) .

craighallam
November 12th, 2010, 08:30 PM
My god, such a simple misunderstanding over the bit between pavement and road #-o

I almost dread to post any more stories in case of further repercussions! :grin: