Thursday, 6 December 2012

Time & Tide

Margaret stood in the bathroom, staring out the window, looking at a bird that was suspended in mid-air. She could see the sunlight shining off its eye, determined in its flight path, but utterly static, wings spread wide, twiggy legs hunched up, a perfect snapshot of speed.

Out of the tap there was a solid gush of water and a splash, like an ice sculpture, hitting the enamel of the bath tub.

But above all else, there was silence.

Margaret had been expecting this day, she'd fantasized about it in school when she was younger, so its eventual arrival was greeted with a quiet nod of the head and very little fanfare. Besides, who would she tell?

Her partner, Lucy, was halfway down the stairs, right leg out-stretched to make the next step, one hand gingerly clawed around the bannister and the other holding an empty, stained mug, her left arm drawn in close to keep purchase on a copy of the local paper.

Margaret walked past her, kissed her on the cheek as she went by, Lucy didn't even blink.

It wasn't warm or cold, the temperature in this moment had become absolutely placid, there was no wind to bring a chill, it was a peculiar constant, like the first moment when you wake up in bed and haven't yet grown accustomed to the day, that comfy fresh feeling. Margaret, like she did when she woke, wanted to snuggle up and savour it, but she didn't know how long it would last. They say time is fleeting.

When she was sat at the front of her Maths class, daydreaming about being able to stop time, Margaret would think about little petty revenges she could enact upon her classmates, upon teachers. She would put them at the front of assembly and pull down their pants. She would humiliate and shame them, revisiting all the humiliation and shame they had forced upon her. In her heart she always thought she was a good person, but she had this wealth of vengeance brewing inside, this imagined hatred for everyone she knew, that would sometimes fizz through her veins, coil her fingers, almost feel like she couldn't contain it and then she'd burst, a terrible scream, an incomprehensible wail, and everyone would look at her and everyone would know.

It was quiet now, and she could do what she wanted. But time had passed, she didn't want to waste her time on people she didn't care about. She had spent a careful life making decisions that mattered to her, ensuring that she left any job that tried to, no matter how subtly, break her spirit, wear her down, distort her thinking. It was difficult, but she had done it. She was happy now, she was doing a job she enjoyed, she lived in a nice little house with a woman she loved, they had a cat - it too frozen in time, though impossible to tell, curled on the sofa - called Genie, and all was well.

She didn't want to scream, she didn't want to hunt down the people who had made her cry, who had made her hate herself, who had written her off because of the private and personal choices that she had made that they couldn't tolerate.

All she wanted was for time to start moving again, for life to carry on, and even though that meant this perfect moment, this freeze frame of her happiness, would instantly be gone forever, reduced to a memory, she could look forward to all those future moments, the memories yet to be made and savour them as she was savouring this.

She went back to the bathroom window, she looked at the bird in flight, she smiled and closed her eyes.

From the stairs she heard a tumble, the sound of broken china, she opened her eyes and the bird had flown.