It is raining outside
And I’m here,
That it no longer reminds me
It is raining outside
A short piece I wrote a long time ago now.. It is nothing more than a fragment of a memory, but I’m glad I wrote it down.
‘I still remember the way we would lie down together, relaxing into each other till our edges blurred and hot skin became softer than any pillow. I still remember how you’d sling your leg across mine, and our fingers would weave together. I still remember the feel of your skin, the scars that you bear, the callous’s of your hands. Your skin was always the shadow of mine, dark where I was pale.
And I still remember the way that you’d wish me sweet dreams, rousing me as I came close to slipping into them, when I’d thought you were already there.
I wonder how long till you are another cold memory, with no spark to wake me when I try to remember. I wonder when those golden nights of lying in your arms, or tracing your face with my fingertips under warm lamp light will mean nothing to me anymore.
I wonder how long I will wonder.’
“If you ever want to get coffee…”
He holds out his hand, and tucked between two fingers is a small scrap of paper. Covered in ink, it is hard to find his number between the words of the poem he has just read aloud, words personal and raw. In accepting the paper, I am accepting more that just his number. He has trusted me with his words as well.
I do not know him. Only his smile, and the confident, yet nervous way he went out of his way to speak to me. The thick beard gracing his chin, the colour of the tattoos running up his arm. And the piece of his soul he bared to this room full of strangers, opening his words and his heart to them. Before risking his pride to come up to me, and pass me this scrap of paper…
So I take my own risk.
With both of us busy, coffee is organised half a week away.
This time he has dark glasses joining the cap which seems to be a part of him. It does seem like his beard grows from it. And the twisting colour of his tattoos is hidden by cling wrap, protecting the fresh marks imprinted into his skin.
He is not what he seems. Reluctantly he lets me buy my own coffee, and we sit outside where we can talk easier.
Much about him fits the skin he wears. He surfs I now learn, though he is kept from salt water two weeks till his newest tattoo is healed. He has done a lot of odd jobs, drives an old car (and has no interest in them as long as they run), and has a dog that he clearly loves. He is older than I first thought, but that is only fair as I am younger than he had expected.
He also studies. Is intelligent. And is an endearing mixture of confidence, and a nervousness expressed in his inability to stay completely still. And there is something about his eyes. Tired eyes despite the coffee, but curious, and he apologises for rubbing at them so much.
Maybe it is not his eyes. Or his smile, though I like that too. Maybe it is just something about him, something that cannot be broken down into such meager portions.
And after coffee, and books, he sends me a short piece he has written.
Inside, my heart aches and I feel my own smile grow thinking of him.
It is not enough though. And I realise this after we attend another poetry slam night, this time together. Where he does not let me buy my own drink, unlike he did with my coffee. Where we kiss in his car when he drops me back home.
“I should go,” I say, half-pulled away.
“You should.” He says, getting the words out before kissing me again. I struggle against the laughter bubbling inside, wondering if he would understand why I laugh, how classic that interaction is. Yet it is new to me.
But walking away from the car that laughter seeps away, drying out my heart as if it had never washed over it.
There is something about him, this bearded man. With his caps and beanies. With his raw words, and his soft heart so thinly protected by cynicism. But it is not enough.
Because somewhere along the line, my heart has gained a thicker shield than cynicism. And though he chipped splinters from it, better armed than most, I could barely feel his warmth.
I wish I had. I reached out with my own arms, so bare of any ink but that that flows through my veins, and yet still it was not enough.
See, another’s smile is still the one I see in the darkness of my closed eyes. His blue eyes the ones that still pierce me. The tattoo on his forearm remembered so well I almost can trace its outline on my own skin…
The shield that has been built since his betrayal, meant to protect me from all that he did, has instead walled him in. And others out.
One day though. One day I will shatter this shield that I never wanted, that I tried so hard to keep from carrying.
I’m sorry I did not get to meet you then, my bearded man. Don’t let me add to your cynicism; your soft heart is too precious for that.
The wind howls tonight, rain like tears in its call.
Through the darkness it comes, swirling around houses so warmly lit to keep it at bay.
Sleep, with its own voice, softer and more persistent, draws me to bed.
Clothes are stripped off, and the wind shrieks, shaking at the doors.
Naked I slip between cotton sheets, shivering at their cool touch. And all the time, furtive glances to my phone, waiting…
Waiting for the text in response to mine.
For the text that will bring more warmth to my skin, that will stoke the fire within me.
For the text that will undo a long silence, not broken by talking or touches so far.
I reach up, and turn off the light. Darkness tumbles in, soft, but bringing no comfort.
That text will not come.
A reply will be received at some point. But it will be a dried, pressed rose bringing memories of a summer full of life and laughter, not a wild flower, petals still bleeding with colour, scent so fresh and true, promising endless summers more.
I’m not sure when the chapter closed. I’m not sure when the romance fled.
The wind howls, and I drift off to sleep.
I have a lump in my neck.
It is a small, movable lump, and somehow during the last seven weeks it has become my habit to check that it is still there. It is not a comfort when my fingers still find it, when it is still as present and real as it was when I first found it.
Life has this funny habit of throwing you stories and then allowing your life to stumble into something so similar it can be a little eerie. My parents had told me of a family friend who had found a tiny, hard lump in her neck, so small she almost didn’t find it, and the doctors almost couldn’t feel it. Still, for whatever reason, she got it checked out, and doing so saved her life. The early stages of that cancer is the only place you can still reasonably chase off death.
Barely weeks later, sitting at my desk with a frown on my face due to uncooperative numbers, I raised a hand to my neck as I always do. And notice a lump.
Taking better notice of the lump, my blood turns to cold water in my veins.
I immediately dismissed it, once I could reason with the irrational worry that had flooded me. But I could not dismiss it truly enough that I did not consult Dr Google once getting home that evening. Even though everybody knows that Dr Google will always end up promising you the worst.
However, much to my surprise, this time it did not. A small, movable lump, it said, is unlikely to be more than a swollen lymph node brought on by a cold sitting in the back ground, or some kind of infection. Unless it does not go down after a couple of weeks, you have nothing to worry about.
Even though I’ve never felt a lymph node like this before, near the base of my neck and around to the side, I felt the worry ebb away. With a mental note to check for it every now and then, I forget it for the night.
Three weeks down the track and I can not ignore that the lump has not changed. Four weeks, and I find myself mentioning it to my mother, though I know it will only worry her over nothing. But it has its hold on my mind now, as well as its place on my neck, and I have to mention it to her.
Five weeks, and both her and my sister are asking me if I’ve booked in with the doctors. I haven’t; between work and full time uni I don’t have much spare time, and in the evenings I am just so tired. It niggles at my brain though, and by week six I have finally gotten an appointment.
The doctor doesn’t seem too worried. It’s not quite where she’d have expected to find a lymph node, and it has been up for a while, but there’s no overt concern. She sends me to have my blood taken so she can run any, and all, tests she thinks might give us a better understanding of why the gland is swollen, books another appointment with me early next week, and then I go.
That appointment was this afternoon. My bloods have shown nothing unusual, except low iron, which would explain how tired and unmotivated I have been.
But nothing isn’t necessarily good news. Nothing means she still doesn’t understand why it is there, or what it means. Nothing means that it isn’t a simple cold or infection that one good dose of antibiotics can get rid of.
Now, I find myself waiting on an appointment so they can ultrasound it, and take a small sample of it.
The doctor still doesn’t seem too worried. “You’re young and healthy,” she says. “It’s most likely going to be an ultrasound only to find out it is a blocked gland. We are only checking to make sure.”
I know she is right, and I’m not truly concerned. It does not feel dangerous, this lump. Foreign, maybe. Unusual. But not life-threatening.
But it is odd, having a lump in your neck. A simple, small lump that feels like it could be so easily removed. So insignificant.
And yet, though this lump may not hurt me, similar ones have taken lives.
We never really know what is around the corner. Or how easily our bodies can become strange, and dangerous to us.
Wake-up calls are harsh reminders.
Sometimes it feels like that though time passes, it doesn’t actually get anywhere.
It has been a lot like that this week. But somehow, I am home. Work is finished for the week, my assignments are handed in. University break is in front of me. Nothing, currently, is demanding my attention but my stories.
At points I have wondered if this moment would ever actually arrive. Sometimes I feared it would hide, let itself be replaced instead by moments brash with busyness, demanding that my tired brain continue to work without break.
Despite my tired words however, this week has had its brilliance.
See, I love my job, and the people that come with it. I love the early morning walks with cold as my companion, even if it tries to slip its arms around me when I’m quite happily tucked up and warm in my jacket. I love the river sliding along under me, yet somehow seemingly so still. Sometimes it is wrapped up like I am, with its scarf of fog. Other times it lays itself bare and the world is reflected in it, an oil painting that uses the river’s skin as its canvas.
Waking early may not be pleasant, but dawn is well worth those first few bitter moments of leaving sleep, and of swinging legs out into cold air.
However tomorrow morning I will sacrifice the freshness of dawn for rest. When I wake I will pull my covers closer, only braving the air outside them in order to find my pen or my books, whichever my hand encounters first.
Because tomorrow I rest. Tomorrow I bathe myself in reading and writing, and all things beautiful, till my mind is washed clean of the sour taint of stress. And when I finally emerge from the nest of my bed? I will do so gladly, the world golden from the start and not just when my mind cannot argue against its beauty any longer.
So I write this post, and let my body ease back into softness so that sleep can find me.
And then finally, rest.
As I mentioned in my last post, I am overwhelmed with assignments for University right now.
So what better time for the muse to sidle in? And she comes bearing such tempting gifts as well…
I gave in. How could I not? I love what I study, and I want to do well in it. Some part of my life will always be dedicated to maths. However, writing has always been my first calling, and when it comes down to working on my assignments and writing a scene that promises so much, I can never seem to walk away from the writing… So this morning, before eating or getting a hot coffee in my hand, I huddled in my dressing gown on my bed and wrote.
In case you are wondering; it is winter in my area of the world. And my room which is devoid of morning (or even evening) sunlight, though lovely, has a bite to it when it comes to being cold. However, I can forgive it that when it is large enough for my bookshelf to be within reach of my bed. I do not even need to leave the warmth of my blankets to escape into a myriad of different universes. And what is happiness, if not that?
The gift my muse has brought is an odd one. Strange, and precious. Fragile. It is like nothing I have written before, and sometimes I get frightened writing it. It feels as if the way it is written cannot sustain a whole book. That it is more suited to musings, and short stories, that there is not enough of anything to weave a plot.
I am getting better at ignoring doubt however. I carefully lock the voice up in a soundproof room where it can echo back on itself rather than on me.
Maybe what I have cannot sustain a book. Maybe it can. There are books out there that have an eerie isolation to them, and yet most definitely have plot. Neil Gaiman’s book, ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ for one. ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern another. Both of which if you haven’t read, I highly recommend. Very highly. (And with those, though of a different feel to it, is Patrick Rothfuss’s novels. He is a genius.)
In the end though, I am writing, and I am enjoying. Is that not what matters? That I am losing myself in a story, and practicing my craft? It is much better than where I have been lately, where I have been caught in a story that I cannot seem to immerse myself in. I love it, but currently I am getting no where with it, and it has been affecting me.
So even though her timing, as always, is the most inconvenient, I welcomed the muse so warmly that I think I almost scared her away. Though I hope it will, upon reflection, cause her to want to come visit more often.
It feels good to love a story again. To get lost in it, and be swept away by its charms.
A new story like this is the beginning of a grand love affair, if without there being another human involved…