By Henrietta Ross
The doors stood open, warm moist air flooding in, dissipating as it mixed with the cool air conditioning. The balcony was empty, except for the white plastic table and chairs where we had taken lunch a few days earlier. I stand looking out across at the pool, now deserted, its water still and shimmering, beneath the deep, navy sky, distant glistening stars punctuating the landscape.
I turned, feeling more contained, calmer as I watched my daughter sleeping on the narrow sofa bed. Velvety dark rich hair fanned out across the starched white pillow, teddy pinned possessively to her chest, its soft fur tickling her smooth cheek.
Sitting opposite her in the quiet apartment, I took in a long slow breath, calmness flooding my system – it felt reassuringly solid, unfettered by other thoughts, emotions or impulses. Warm and constant like those fleeting sought after moments I struggled to find, holding me up, supporting me, and aligning me.
Early starts, daughter pulled from cosy covers, breakfast laid out on the circular pine table, uniform warming on the heater. Streets looking desolate, lights slowly snuffing out the darkness, shops shutters crackling in the silence, as my feet pound the concrete.
Leaving my daughter, my friend’s out-stretched arms ready to embrace her, my daughter’s large doleful eyes as she watched me walk away. Catching the bus, a long and meandering journey, listlessly staring out of the window as the world passes me by.
Sitting in a classroom, surrounded by other students, boys and girls, all younger than myself, mischievous, brimming with life, frequently overtook by laughter, eyes bright. We talked, shared jokes, helped each other with work, them loud and raucous, and myself quiet, introverted, awkward.
My mood, suddenly no longer calm, a sense of pressure creeping in, fleetingly to begin with then disconcertingly more aggressive, pushing, shoving, demanding, forcing, synapses beginning to fire, body becoming excitable, mind losing control.
No longer listless, the world offering up an extravagant palette of colour to match my boundless energy and distorted perceptions. People now addictive, interesting, enticing, almost a compulsion as hyper sexuality curses through my veins. Time speeds up, so much to do, but those who do not sleep are not constrained by the universal laws. Impatient, frenzied, spiralling along in mania’s euphoric ecstasy – an obsessive thirst to learn everything the world has to offer – brimming full of bigger and bolder ideas – convinced of my absolute greatness knowing others too see the golden flares emanating from my being.
A placement at college is offered, a place for me to learn – normally anxious with new people, new settings, I now have interpersonal skills that once were only the stuff of dreams. I am energetic, charismatic, talkative and open, full of amusing anecdotes and one liner’s to dazzle my willing audience. Until, a thought drifts into my chaotic mind, an attraction to the gentle, soft spoken manager of the organisation. Questions of my own morality or even his not entering my mind, as the delights of physical contact, the communion of flesh; the sight of new unexplored skin, the soft caress of hands, the smell, the touch, the feel combining like an elicit high, pushing me relentlessly forwards. An affair begins, passionate, all-consuming, and obsessive though far from faithful.
On holiday, another presents himself to me and I unabashedly take him too – partying late into the night until I’m bored, new experiences calling in the wind, like a tempting mistress who will not let me be…
Books to read, essays to write, studying to do, provocative outfits to buy, new ideas to explore, fantastic amounts of money to spend, drink to consume, calls to make, friends to find…
The whisperings begin; I can hear his perverse voice calling to me. The beast that he is, is now upon me, chasing me through the darkened cobbled streets, alleyways, tunnels, paths lying ahead but I know I won’t make it, not this time. He has grabbed my mind, burdened me with his wrath, until I can no longer lift my head from the pillow. I can’t see out, I can’t see in. My mind feels like a graveyard, desolate, dark, in shadow, my brain is a tomb.
My home is the manifestation of my mind. In the living room, the curtains are pulled shut, wrapping the room in an oppressive darkness, thick grey dust smudges the surfaces, and the odd cobweb hangs from the ceiling. Soiled laundry fills the empty chairs, cascading onto the floor, the idea of using the machine evading me. The floor is littered with my daughter’s toys, as we are no longer putting them away, plastic cars, soft-bodied dolls, teddy bear’s, their eyes watching me, accusing, denigrating and plates with caked on dirt, cups, their milky contents spotted and blue, crisp packets, wrappers and empty cans. In the kitchen, the sink is filled with more dishes to be washed but I don’t have the energy, the surfaces laden with glasses, beakers, food boxes, packets and wrappers, empty pop bottles. The table full of books open on selected pages, notepads with my legendary scrawl, lined paper screwed into balls, pens, pencils, rulers, erasers, post-it notes, correction fluid, staplers and to top it off, the putrid, foul smelling bin overflowing in the corner, giving my home its pungent fragrance.
The pregnancy test reads positive as I hold it in my shaky hands, the blue line like an enemy confronting me, ‘Who’s the father?’.