An artwork in three panels
Three Figures, Jatin Das – 1970
Before I married, I was a plume of gas. His hands grasped through me. Slowly, slowly, I set into that which can be held. Or be hurt. My cracked lips taste of summer on the turn. I press on raised veins on the backs of my hands, trace a map of mortality along my skin. Never to return to a noble gas, perhaps I can cling to another to become a compound. What distinguishes a gas from a solid is the vast separation of its particles. Eyes closed, I exhale until I’m empty, until each fragment of me lets go.
The bed whimpers as I try to leave her. She bows her mattress and pulls me back in: concave to my convex. I dream of all who lay here before me as she drinks my energy. Another day passes. I hear the stomp of my husband’s boots against tiled floors below. He’s stopped asking if I feel better. One floor of the house each seems fair. I turn onto my front to face her and sink in. She whispers through my skin, stay. I wrap myself in the duvet, melt my organs like caterpillar soup, wait until dawn to decide.
Words pierce arteries, slash stomachs, cause damage deep inside the brain. But only if you let them in. Solidify. Turn each vowel and consonant to mush against statue skin. Stretch out the sounds to breaking point. Repeat them so there’s no end and no beginning. Blow them into the air and see their dandelion beauty as they split and scatter. When your mind wishes to echo those words hurled at you, sweeten them. With your arms wrapped over your gift of a body, repeat only those phrases you would whisper to a child. A cloak of compassion protects you now.
Stephanie Hutton is a writer and consultant clinical psychologist in Staffordshire, UK. Her debut novella Three Sisters of Stone is published with Ellipsis. Find her at stephaniehutton.com and @tiredpsych.
Features & Fiction Editor – Steven John