Time, I feel, for a short(ish) story. Hope you enjoy it!
When they come, as surely they will, they will go first into the kitchen. Despite my protestations, regardless of my words, they will draw back the bright-striped coloured curtain, ignoring its golden, thick-woven braiding, its subtle details, and enter the room. They will brush disdainfully past the plain, polished pine of the door frame, and set their feet against the cool, hard flagstone tiles. Their shoes will, undoubtedly, be practical, solid and uncomplicated; their soles too thick to appreciate the slight unevenness of each slab as it jostles with its neighbours for prime position. Their highly-trained, analytic eyes will scan every aspect of the room, internalising each detail, speculating, deducing and then committing their conclusion to fact. They will see the high polish on the glittering diamond granite worktop as it sweeps in both directions from the multi-ringed range; but they will not be moved by its antiseptic cleanliness, or by the knowing wink as it sparkles in its surface. They will not be drawn by its practicality and sense of purpose as might a chef. No. Instead their minds will be consumed will painting a study, a caricature of me, and a critique of my life.
The sink is unsoiled, clean, empty and disinfected: Only the most detailed of inspections would reveal the most minute of scratches the mar its skin. The drainer too tells a similar story, wiped clean of the residue of water which had ran from crockery and cutlery now neatly stored out of view. Their eyes will not see the pristine espresso machine which occupies its pre-ordained space like an princely heir sitting at the joining of the granite surfaces as they run perpendicular to one another; one reaching out towards the range, the other like a long-fingered branch stretching out over a range of expensively veneered beech drawers and cupboards, an open wine rack stocked with a selection of overly priced bottles, and an integral fridge-freezer. No, their analytical eyes will pass all this by as if it were merely a collection of clues which would lead them with unerring conviction ton their inevitably conclusion.
Instead their eyes will be drawn to you. You, laying prone and exposed on the floor, framed by the expanse of expensive stone tiling. You, suddenly revealed in your true form, as if disturbed by some shadowy intruder. You, as ever, the centre of everybody’s attention. They will see you, asleep on the floor, your right leg raised slightly, bent at the knee; your right arm flaccid, limp against the stone, whilst your left one leads to a hand hopelessly flat against your chest, its fingers clutching desperately to hold on to life. Your eyes are closed, almost in a state of resigned relaxation, and yet there remains something defiant within your face, a determination which has refused to leave you. Somehow you are still clinging on to a belief in yourself, a belief that the universe revolves for you, and that without you we shall all cease to be.
Their eyes will see the ice-white tee-shirt, which, as always, is slightly too small for you, as it clings to the muscled outline of your torso. They will see your strong arms, with their well defined yet now defunct biceps and triceps, and your ruined chest. They will see the scratches and the incisions that have at first driven the cotton into your flesh and then in the same coarse action ripped them free again. These are not the signature of a surgeon’s scars, dealt with purpose, care and precision, delivered with salvation as their goal. These are not like the fading wound which lies on your skin where your appendix once was. The scar that had changed with your mood or the company that you were keeping at the time: The scar that had been the mark of a still born twin, helpless and conjoined, who had sacrificed any hope that it may have had in order to allow you to breath in life. The scar that had been a cancer which had been released, thankfully benign, from your abdomen. The scar that had been left by an assailant’s blade as you had performed one more heroic deed of bravery. No, theses scars had been delivered with anger, passion and a rage that could no longer be contained. There had, quite clearly, been some attempt at precision, an attempt to complete the task as swiftly as was possible, but just as obviously this was not the work of a scalpel wielding surgeon. No, this had been an act which displayed a far deeper connection between victim and perpetrator.
They will look from you and the shape that you make to the floor and the mass of congealing liquid which hugs its rises and falls. It will no longer be the crimson passion that it once was, but will have taken on a new form that of spilled, black treacle, still sticky beneath its now rubbery skin. Experience will have taught them not to be surprised, as I was, by the size of the lake that had spread out across the tiles: This is only a fascination to the uninitiated. Rather they will study the form and shape that the lake has taken, and from this conclude which blows led to which spillages, and in which order they fell. They will make rational the irrational and make impersonal and analytic the impassioned.
Their eyes will see the dropped and discarded length of metal, naked and separated from its compatriots, and realise that this is the only object that is out of place in the kitchen. At the moment it is closer to me than it is to you, but they will not see this. They will see only eight inches of stainless steel, turned and polished and proud of its quality, now lying stark and forlorn against the stone. They will see the globules of sticky, red liquid as they cling to the five inches of ground and sharpened steel. They will see the smeared stains which have taken their shape and appearance from my skin and have impressed themselves on the handle. But they will see no further. The stains will cry out to their audience like tell-tale children, expecting no greater reward than recognition of themselves, and to be smiled upon. They will see all of this and they will know. They will know all of this, and know all that they need to know, but still they will not make me out to be the monster that you made me.
But for now I will leave you. I will let my weary feet take me from the kitchen, from our final encounter, and lead me over warm wooden boards towards the staircase. For a moment I will pause, but I will not turn my head-there is no longer the hold to draw me back-and then I shall slowly climb the stairs, with each one savouring the silence, until at last I reach our room. I will open the door onto the emptiness, step beyond the naked frame and stretch out my hand towards the bed. With a deliberate hand I will carefully draw back the black, patterned quilt which sleeps so easily against the smooth cotton of the freshly pressed sheet, and slide inside. I will lie on my back in our bed and stare into the darkness, and I will enjoy the stillness. Beneath the quilt I will be enveloped in tranquility: My body will finally be at rest from your demands, and I will be sore no more. I will not feel the presence of your body, its insistence, its pressure and its determined persistence. I will not hear the emotionally charged sounds that your mouth makes as both you and I lie in silence, in separate rooms now, only yards apart, but still connected. I will lie here in the bed that you once shared with her, and you will lie with no-one. I will lie and in my own time close my eyes against the darkness. I will lie in the stillness that surrounds us both and have a good night’s sleep for once: And you will lie and have a good night’s sleep for evermore.