Driftwood by Alison Wells

Outside the window washed out watery skies of battleship blue, clouds uncertain, unfurling, stoically flimsy, parading on.

I’m lucky to have a window. Of course, it was all arranged, once they knew. No more clamour clanking trolley legs and bed pans, no more slicing the night into ward rounds, faces peering into disintegrating sleep, re-presenting that nightmare of awareness with their careful invasions.

I think I can hear the waves from here.

Sea shore body, rotten seaweed slick, stones relentless, monuments of them piled up in remembrance. And this strange and stubborn breathing forward and back, forward and back, the lungs pushing on to their own personal finish line. Stubborn. Holding the soft duvet, soft colours, soft pastels, soft light, soft lighting, soft stepping, soft seats, soft, stupid body, washes of pain, the shore. My body is driftwood.

Outside the window, too early for footfall, but then they are in here, daughter,  husband. They hold my hand. From old sandcastles dry sand falling over time, my life running out in the blue grey of my daughter’s eyes. I tell them to go home.

Through the window, I think I can hear it, the sea. In and out, into the dug out hollows where the sand dips, old days – so long ago already – unreachable days of swimming in the cold of October, man on the promenade, umbrella, skies keening. Sea forbidding to look at it but fold-embrace to be in, water-lap against the skin. Later, dressed – yes dressed, then still – and walking, rain spitting, face so alive, sea-air bracing, braced. Braced for anything.

I’m lucky to have a window, here, sun beams now, early, boldly, finger trace, creep along the window boards then pool, recumbent. Out there, lone bird in the sky, as always, freedom, tilt of wing. Watery skies deepen to a voluminous, transporting blue. Lone bird in the sky climbs higher, silver wings glint, sharp miracle.

Sun recumbent on the sill and the sound still of waves, relentless. Soul in a bowl, the low roll and wash of everything, each waking moment of life, sorrow and light. I picture my daughter and husband left in the flotsam, feel their cobbled, imperfect love eating me from the inside, feeding me from within. Now, breathing out, out through the window to the pale watery sky that deepens to a transporting blue. My body is driftwood and all that I knew. Every breath a testament falling on the shore.

Alison Wells is the author (as AB Wells) of the comedic Housewife with a Half-Life. Her stories have been published in The Stinging Fly, Crannóg, New Planet Cabaret & UK Flash Fiction Day’s Jawbreakers, and shortlisted in the Hennessy and Bridport awards. She is a resident blogger with writing.ie. For motivation and inspiration you can check out her Facebook page Head Above Water, or catch up with her blog here.



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