?"Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves". ~Henry David Thoreau
I can’t get the blood out. I can’t get the crap out of my head. These damn people won’t get out of my world. Funny, I never thought I would leave with the amount of hatred that I feel for people like you. It’s a joke. “Do this, do that, think that, eat that…”
Why can’t you kids work? You sit on your estate produced incestuous arses waiting for the next morsel of free fodder to enter your tender work shy lips. You remind me of gut rot. You look like gut rot. Like zombies; like those gruesome ones in films that look fake, but somehow so real. Zombies like in The Living Dead, that Will Smith film, the people I took orders from every second of my life. My sergeant. I was their commodity, their lap dog, a brick of their ego. Wasted, for what? But I take pride in myself. I take care of my appearance and of who I am. I despise gut rot. I despise this place.
Work for a living. Stop wasting skin. Show me, show someone that you can do something other than roll a joint, have sex and drink cheap cider that your parents probably weaned you onto as toddlers. That’s after your usual lard pastry as a starter. I’ve seen them; thirty nine pence, and that’s whilst the half-price sale is on. Remember that can of cheap pop for your mini ‘Sim’ in the pushchair too. He hasn’t got a hope in hell. You’ve more chance of winning the lottery than finding his dad. Life. Enjoy. It’s people like you who generate generous credit for Mr Kyle.
I can smell decay.
Alright, there’s a recession on. Fair play, fair game, why don’t you at least start the fucking game. Firstly, ladies, get off that game and they may respect you a little more. At least, that’s what they say. You make me sick. You repulse me. And ‘Sarah’, when you step foot out of that shiny silver saloon, make sure the sight of those vile yellow round rubber dinghies don’t obscure my view again. I want to walk to the bar in peace. I’m fed up with that same circle of decay which hits the snake and moves down each time, each generation. Put your foot on the ladder. Pull your pants up you dirty slag. Go back to…just go home. Yep, we certainly import more than foreign produce. Silver saloon man likes the taste of foreign produce. He’s a loyal customer.
I’m a loyal customer. I buy disloyalty from you.
I remember back in 2001, the kids were young then. Every moment with them was precious. I’d have died for them. Every time I looked into their eyes I saw that sweet innocence that we’ve all had at one time or another. That angelic purity that creeps into our make up from the moment we take our first breath. “Can I get a toy?” The softness of your sweet little voice brushed past the hairs on my skin, echoed into my heart and veins, burying itself into my throat. I almost choked. That was after the fairground ride that made you cry. “I don’t like the clown, I don’t like that clown”, you cried. Even though Mummy and Daddy were with you, you felt fear. That hurt. I was there to protect you, yet you felt the need to produce sadness from your eyes. I promised that my gift to you was to never let you hurt. I also promised to keep you away from boys with hormones raging through their developing skin. We have years yet. But I remember that day like it was yesterday.
Their disloyalty destroyed that…
We don’t cry. That’s what we’re told. Stand straight, eyes forward and carry on. I carried on. I still can’t get the blood out. Mum would know what to do. Her extensive knowledge of old wives tales that you firmly dismiss as a child. Hormones raging through my skin and the dismissive attitude to match. I miss that. I miss the defiance that can make or break that bond. That bond will never leave me, or her. That bond will never leave my life. Life, it’s a funny thing.
There’s so much pain. It feels like a dagger tearing into my side, into my soul, into my existence. Can you help me?
They didn’t help me back then. I remember.
“Can you help me?” I asked as I marched to the desk. I grew my confidence rapidly, two weeks after the attack. This man sat on the other side of the desk took his time to look up. He was receding. He didn’t care. Men like that could walk down the street without pants and still maintain some pride. ‘You arrogant git’. I replied in my head to his cold gesture. ‘Who do you think you are? Hey? Sat there like a man made of gold with a face looking like my little nephew’s action man sat on the bog, taking a prized sh-‘ The voice in my head wanted to break free, wanted to expel all force of anger from my stomach to the tip of my front teeth. I felt my back molars greet and fought with what stirred within me. Like when I saw Sarah, those kids and the Sim in the pushchair.
1-0 to me. I could picture myself in there, signed up with the butt off the rifle in my hand, making contact with this man’s face, keeping score of my points as I hit him. I wanted to impale his veiny hand onto his miniature British flag pole on his immaculate desk. Then I gave a slight smile.
“How can I help you?” He sounded a little camp to me.
“I want to join”. I stated, assertively in my head. Later that year, I had joined. I wore the gear, marched marches and drank the drink.
I became a member. I became a winner. Or so I thought. I was now made of gold. Every other Friday I was expected to suffer from gut rot and cure it in the morning with another. On the day of the attack, I felt death. I felt the blade like a punch, to the left of my torso. They ran, like zombies into their demonic crevasses with their pastries and their cheap pop. The gold turned to dust. The police never caught them. I bet they were ‘Sims’. They lived on the estate across from ‘Sarah’. I later found out that her name was Mai Ling. They inspired my rapid confidence spurt. Bastards.
So my story’s a little jumbled. I guess my memory is shot. At least I didn’t get shot. The blood would have been a lot more. The thought of that thick red fluid seeping through my top wouldn’t have been bearable. Not even mum could have fixed that one. I’m good at fixing some things.
“Fix this”, you muttered as you held your doll’s head on with your pretty tiny hands. You’ve always had tiny hands. You take after me with that. It was testing enough being a woman in the army, let alone having the world’s tiniest hands. “Never let that stop you though”, that’s what I always told you. The temptation was there for me to stick the head on back to front. That’s how you always held ‘Minnie’ when you decapitated her every other day. I knew she had a ‘flexible’ neck when I bought her for you. I was too busy trying to get the last one from the shelf on the eve of Christmas, 2000. When I gave you the pink packaging, you screamed so loudly, your big brother jumped out of bed and ran down the stairs in shock, worried for us, worried for you. We joked that the only reason that he got out of bed so quickly was that the Shower Monster was after him. We told him that the Shower Monster was in charge of making sure that all teenagers showered daily. Your brother believed that. I’m sure that you did too, even to this day. Little did you two realise that your dad had spent weeks creating that persona. He had a very vivid imagination. That vivid imagination stretched a lot further than I could ever imagine. So much so, I now realise that I didn’t really know him at all. It’s a different life when you’re both in army life. That’s why I left it behind for you. You both mean the world to me. We became even stronger when your dad left. I hope you felt that too. I’m sorry about the violence you had to witness. I know I’m a rubbish liar.
As the blood started to dry on my upper arm, I looked down. It was beginning to dry. Nope, mum couldn’t fix this one. It was a lot worse than I first thought. Tomorrow will be the eve of Christmas Eve. It’ll be a new year soon. 2010, that’s come quickly. It feels surreal yet calming. I feel so calm.
Funny really, I wanted so much. I still want much more. The only thing I really want now is for the pain to stop. Even that seems to be subsiding.
“Sit your arse down”. He mumbled softly in my ear. He’d been drinking. It smelt like Port. It definitely wasn’t cheap pop or that vile alcoholic liquid that I’ve smelt, it was sweet. It made me feel sick. I could tell that he had done this before. So calm and collected. His breathing was deep and relaxed. That worried me. That finalised it for me. There was another. He was a little edgy. He was like a prairie dog keeping watch out the kitchen window. He made sudden movements with his jaw. That thought was cut short with a punch. It wasn’t a punch at all. The was when this reminiscing started; like a story board, in no particular order.
As I lay on the cold smooth tiles, I remembered having time to wonder if I had chosen the right colour. Silly, I know. Maybe they should have been a shade lighter. I was terrified, yet scared that the blood would ruin the grout. I wanted it exactly right at the time. It doesn’t matter now. I recognised the larger one; the one with the calm persona, the one who initiated my position, my life and decided when the clock would stop for me. I had known him for years. He was Terry’s friend. You know, the one who spent weeks creating a Shower Monster persona for our kids. I’d been to his five bedroom detached house for lunch several times. I even based my kitchen tiles on theirs. Beautiful place. They were beautiful people. Funny, he never really said what he did for a living. I think I’ve figured it out now.
I wasn’t sure which was worst; the ‘punch’ or the collision to the kitchen floor.
Three faces appeared at my window. They should have just walked through the door, it was open. One rushed in, took my hand and shouted, “call an ambulance”. It reminded me of when you used to play a cassette where the voice became deeper, slower and more distorted. I saw her face. It was blurry. It was ‘Sarah’. I felt her lift my arm and place something tight around my wrist.
“You’re going to be okay”. She repeated over and over in a calm soft voice. It reassured me. I wanted to smile. I couldn’t.
I could hear the voices of kids from the estate. They took it in turns to elevate my arm. They seemed to know what to do straight away. Even whilst in the army, I struggled with situations like this one. They were naturals. I was bleeding badly. The combination of fresh and dried blood would have tested my mother’s cleaning skills for sure. It was at a time like this that I wished I could reach for the phone and ring you Amy. You make me proud. You’d have given me the right medical advice. You studied for years to qualify. You seemed to have qualified in not returning my black dress. It’s fine, I was going to let you keep it anyway. You look amazing in it. It was made for you.
The tiles seemed to be getting warmer. I was getting colder. It felt like hours that I lay here. The tiles were irritating me. Silently. I was admiring the craftwork that had gone into their arrangement. Funny really, I didn’t like the arrangement; too perfect. Every four squares had a sequence. Every sequence had an order. What if the workman had rebelled against that order and had chosen to create his own pattern, ignoring the general consequences that go along with rebelling? We all know that we have to follow a system. With this system, there are positives and negatives, perfection and flaws, prejudice and acceptance. In the army, there were all of these things. I became it, I accepted and I encouraged it. I was a victim of it. It’s how it works both inside and outside the army. The workman should have been more creative with the tiles. I should have chosen a colour which was unique to me. But I didn’t. I could see my reflection in my chrome oven. You know, the chrome oven to fit the tiles, to fit the detached house, to fit my life. To create a lie.
Eyes don’t lie. They were closing. I just caught a glimpse of my arm turning from a healthy bright brown shade to a duller deathly colour. Skin is a funny thing.
A blanket had been placedover me. I felt so cold. You know, there was no proof that ‘Sims’ had attacked me, no proof at all. These ‘Sims’ were using their skin to save mine.
If there's another life after this, I want to re-tell it whilst I'm truly alive, not truly dying, but with more clarity, less resentment and with more of an open mind.
In the end, I now truly appreciate all skin. I wish I utilised the mind inside mine a little more.
P M Corbin (2012)
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