Signs of Life

I am pacing, pacing, always pacing. At the top of the room- I pause. The dog has moved to the sofa, his preferred perch from which to survey his dominion, and below my feet the warmth of where his body recently rested is held within the fibres of the carpet. A dog-sized shadow of heart-pumping, breath-taking warmth remains, left behind for five seconds, then ten. It begins to fade. I am amazed at how long this sign of life lasted.

I wonder, if I lay down on the ground and tried to breath heavy, contented dog-breaths and sighs, if I tried to dream of mud happily explored and food joyfully eaten, would I leave behind such a warmth? I am too scared to try it, fearing the answer. It’s been months since I dreamed of such things.

This year, I lost my words. (I never had much of a voice. Small in volume, big in thought.) But this year, I have sat in stunned silence, watching the world with greater confusion than ever before. Whilst most clamoured through angry, twitchy quarantined fingers streaming across sunlit keyboards, magnificent in their sudden and supposed omniscience, I lost my words. Instead I sat, frozen like a wintergirl, my eyes widened and eyelids cut off, forced to watch. Useless hands tied behind my back, fingers tapping out numbers and breaths and seconds on my wrists, an obsessive-compulsive SOS. My spirit in vain and impotent, I watched.

This year, I have watched blue eyes just like mine spill tears too many times. I have watched the last pillars of my family fall, a generation almost come to a close, curtains drawn across coffins in crematoriums and songs sung to a macabre The End. A bittersweet legacy made eternal in death, yet more words never spoken, both kind and cruel, forgiving and fierce. I have stitched a thousand and one stitches for one voice and am haunted by the tone and implication of another.

This year, I have watched a facile people bemoan the loss of pints and dressing rooms and 3am stumble-spills from clubs while the Great Outdoors was closed for business. Public access land deemed publicly inaccessible to spade-and-bucket daytrippers and dirtbags alike. Nature and life was taken from a many who hardly knew it in the first place, and from a few who feared for their safety at their own hands in its absence. No soothing balm of rock and river, mud and mountain. I watched those tortured not-so-few take personally the accusations of keyboard warriors- ‘selfish, unnecessary risk’ – and revive old friendships with self-destruction, chemicals and blades. I have seen that for some, staying inside this year has been an unnecessary risk.

This year, I have watched jealousy make strong men weak. I have faced the jealousy of these men as they affixed the role of emotional policeman to my breast. I have applauded myself for Defining my Boundaries while I raged in despair at the boundaries my many acronyms place between me and my it-could-only-have-been-you. I have run from a man and his dog, seeing the gaslight shimmering in the fog a mile off like the nightlight of my childhood bedroom glowing in a dark pierced by shouts and slams, my little body too terrified to sleep lest I be awakened by someone’s clawing need. I have dithered by the friendship of another, cursed timing and youth and body, finally handing my life on a rope back to him with caution, flooding with relief at the reward. And I have been blessed by a third’s suspicion, for once giving as much as I take, embracing a Newtonian-Buddhist cosmic balance of mind and soul, doubt and connection, past fuck-ups and present triumphs.

This year, my mind has spun Wile E. Coyote style over the cliff, grasping for comprehension of any of it, of any of this! (Insert sweeping gesture forth into a darkened hotel room.) Disillusionment has separated my hand from the wall and the rock and the pen and the paper. An invisible membrane of feelings I thought I’d forgotten to feel, not unlike the discarded latex gloves tumbleweeding down the streets of this city I hate- streets still teeming with their usual road rage, vandalism and a hardly suspicious but still shocking number of N2O canisters. This year, I have not been feeling much, nor writing much, nor saying much.

Now I wish to clear my throat, untie my hands and say goodbye. Goodbye to grandmothers and the Greater Good, to angry-eyed men and accusatory texts, to keyboard crusaders and crippling self-doubt. Goodbye to watching in silence, sidelined and blindsided.

I grasp at the pain of lost calluses on big pulls, the cold biting wind of the coming winter’s promise of B3s, the rough-gentle skin of a space oddity who promises to discover new worlds with me. I sink my toes into the warm dog life-shadow on the carpet, I knead at pumped forearms grasping for 6c’s, I hook my finger through the belt loop of faded purple corduroys. I am finding ways to reappear.

I am pacing, pacing, always pacing. At the top of the room- I pause. The sun is coming up. I look around in surprise, signs of life scattered all around me. Quick! Before the world awakens and begins its hollering- I grab my car keys, boots, rucksack and head out the door.

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