Beneath the surface, I spit glittering vitriol in an acid arc around myself. These spattering thoughts blister words into the dirt: ‘Join me in lockdown… feel this grief for a past life… falter here with me, in this stuttering uncertainty.’
But there are those who continue to grow within four walls, plucking opportune plums from a laden bough and making life sweet. They barely stutter at all.
I, meanwhile, simmer in my acid bath, my skin growing thinner with every slow second. The liquid blooms rose-pink and rises.
At some point I should stand up and wade out, before too much of me is lost. But the burn is comforting and the return of full gravity is too much to bear.
I’m staying here. Hip deep in shed niceties, I pass the time by drowning well-meaning platitudes until they dissipate to nothing.
The post-holiday blues are sniffing at the door, scrabbling with intent at the letter slot. Anxiety gives a howl as she butts at the drooping handle, while Misery sits back with his old head resting on his paws, waiting for the inevitable opening of the door. Irritation nips at the others and gives a volley of angry barks at being kept in the cold.
Every song that plays on a playlist that I know to be filled with chirpiness somehow hits a mournful note.
I’m keeping the blues at bay by imagining myself launching into the blackened sky and flying higher and higher until I’m above this thickened layer of mist and rain.
I emerge into blazing blue skies and find the Sun’s fierce glow.
I dance over the cloud plain until the memory is locked in place and I can bring it with me as I descend back down to earth.
I can never find the edge where we stop and illness begins.
The line that divides personality from disease is fractal, endlessly complex and barely perceptible. And the closer you are to someone, the more you realise that their illness invades every action, every reaction.
I wonder sometimes who you would be if it were cut from you, leaving only the pieces that are actually you behind. Would your soul buoy upward with every sinew sliced apart? Would a rose tint engulf your vision after a lifetime of grey? Would all those barriers and obstacles and weights and troubles clatter to the ground with a tremendous roar as you finally shook free?
I suspect the shadow shape left behind by the carving would continue to whisper. It goes too deep now. Its flesh is your flesh.
And so I learn to love what has become you. I watch my own flesh begin to entwine with illness and cannot stop decisions from being nudged by this poisonous pairing. A scorpion’s sting lodged in its own back.
We have become one and the same. Fraying at the edges.