This is an extract from my short story ‘Birds’, published in Wet Ink issue 14, just out. I share the pages with such wonderful writers as Ryan O’Neill, Michelle Cahill, Matthew Condon (who is interviewed) and others I’ve yet to get to know better (but soon will!) Buy a copy or subscribe here.
for Sonja …
Birds and wings and musty feathers. I smell their little bodies and the ribcage within – so pop-able. They flit and flutter – excited, demented. They are shrill. Their notes peck at one another. They jump with my heart. My head whips around at one, and another.
The chest’s blotches are there already and I haven’t even made it to the train. I anticipate the ride now, before the day of work – the clean-shaven scents, the clearing of throats, the eyes catching each other in the window’s reflection as they attempt to hold onto the day outside.
It’s not as though work is bad, either. It’s probably somewhat a breeze. Comfortable. The boss does not bear down upon me. But nor has she told me I am on track, doing fine. I have much independence. I design, I submit, I begin over. Concepts come in, I liase, I email. I refine. I am fine.
Jessa was giving me a massage last night, wedging her thumb into my knots. Those un-birdlike parts that won’t shift. The framework around the bubble where inside things flit and flutter and threaten to break out. She tries to understand. I try to understand. She has cures, after all, for her own problems. The new pills, a bitey taste on her tongue, for her migraines. They found a cure for cancer last year. AIDS is promising too. But for the worrisome, for the quickened ones, there are only horrid things that rob you of sleep and leave you with cotton in your mouth.
‘Why don’t you give them a try again?’
There is nothing more she suggests, just digs those familiar thumbs in deeper. I catch the scent of her hair and turn to her soft face. I press myself in. Here it is warm. We are both girls. Our faces are soft together. Our nails are short but our fingers are long, intertwining.
The train is hard, fast. There are many of them now. Streamlined. One after another. Ensuring we all get to work on time, keep the world going. The older people often look deflated. They miss their cars. They miss a lot of things. It is not simple, I think. But this efficiency is all I’ve known.
I unlock the office door. I am always the first to arrive. My hand is slippery on the key. That sweat, the blotchy chest covered by the neck of my shirt. The nausea creeps in. There is a little unbalance in my toes. I sit at the desk and the chair seems to have swirled me around five times over. I take a deep breath, willing myself not to get carried away. Don’t go into it today. Don’t go into it.
It’s just a job. It’s just a day. Everyone does it. People are worse off somewhere. There is nothing wrong. The walls are not closing in. You are fine.
At lunch I don’t leave my desk. Too many lines. Too many places to choose. I have my sandwich. White bread, tuna, lettuce, tomato. Bit of red onion, and mayo. I minimise my design and float around online. The sense of overwhelm is present there too. But something catches my eye in the news feed.
‘ViagenCo. to trial ‘Positivity Chip’ for anxiety sufferers’.
To read the rest, buy a copy here.