Circle of Life

Vaguely aware of the monitors beeping I took what was to be my last breath. Entombed in my mind I waited for my consciousness to blink out of existence. Instead, at the point of clinical death I entered a suspended state of reality, how I would imagine it is in the womb. I was here but not here; I could hear the voices, muffled conversations, see bright light shine through what could only be my ocular cavities, but I was not there in body, only in mind. Is this what people say they remember when being brought back from the brink? Possibly, although I knew that I would not come back from this new reality – whether this was a temporary situation or permanent I wasn’t sure. There was no pain though, only a floating feeling of freedom.

Time swiftly lost all meaning as I reminisced, how peculiar to be able to remember a whole life, every detail. If I focused I could see every wrinkle on my grandmothers face, every wisp of hair on my children’s newborn heads. Was this how I would now remain? Forever suspended from the world. This was not like a ghost, it was unlike anything I had ever read about. Far from unpleasant, it was more sad that I would likely never touch anything again, or disturb the air around me. I had lost the connection to my body at some point; there was no more muffled voices or bright lights, just my thoughts and memories.

Sounds began to emerge from the peripheral of my consciousness. Muted, calm, voices, followed by rippling shadows of light and dark. I realised I had a body again, at least I could move, though it was like floating in an isolation tank rather than moving around the world with purpose. I felt like I knew what this was, but as I tried to remember, I discovered I could not quite get there. It was all familiar, like I had been here before; though I seemed to have lost my sense of self, of knowledge.

All of a sudden my world began to pulsate, pushing me towards a tunnel with a light at the end. My instinct said to move towards it, although it would seem I had no choice in this anyway. As I emerged I could hear the beeping of the monitors; I took my first breath.

Autumn

The wind blew fiercely around her face. It made the rosacea flare up when she went back inside. Pulling the scarf tighter, she felt the loose threads brush her ears. It was so old, but so comfortable. Every pull told a story – most of them concerning long earrings that snagged at inopportune moments. She loved days like this, autumn was such an under rated season. Sat in the park observing those walking past was her way of relaxing. It was a blissful calm that arrived with the wind. Watching the leaves perform a ballet of sorts, mingled with discarded crisp wrappers and plastic bags, was oddly therapeutic.

A cacophony of children’s shouts and screams echoed from the park. Heavy panting of an overweight dog passing by while it’s owner spoke in raised tones over the wind. As she sat, she remembered when you couldn’t do this. For weeks you could only leave your house for essential reasons; food shopping, medical assistance, or an hour for exercise close to home. Cars sat unused on driveways and in front of terraced houses. Rainbows of all shapes, sizes and materials covered front windows and driveways. The sun seemed to shine for weeks, while tears flowed from thousands of families losing loved ones. Small things previously taken for granted became big things that left a void in the hardest of hearts.

She wondered if others had changed the way she did in that time. The anxiety was the hardest. Thinking back to nights stood on cold paving slabs at night, barefoot, trying to ground herself. The chest pains, migraines, breathlessness. Anxiety was her cross, the thorn in her paw. It settled for a while, but being able to go out again brought a whole new wave. That’s when she began coming here, to this bench. There was nothing extraordinary about it, just a standard bench, although it had been freshly painted blue and yellow when the parks had been closed. 

She recalled it used to be green. Patches worn away where hundreds of parents had sat and watched their children play; elderly dog walkers who’d taken breaks to throw the ball; children’s scuffed knees tended to by mothers who had taken eyes off them for a second, the one second they had tripped. She was once all those things. Before and after that time. Now there was just her, and the bench remained and reminded her of less lonely times. Forty-eight autumns she had sat here, pondering this and that. Now she mostly wondered how many were left, and enjoyed the moments like today.

Follow me on Twitter @donnadouglas57a

The Affair

It began so innocently; a furtive glance here, a touch that lasted slightly too long. I didn’t know how far we had gone until it was too far to let go. It was ok when it was all in my head, it wasn’t wrong then because no one was getting hurt. But now, it’s a different story. Actual people could face irreparable, life changing, shit because I couldn’t help myself, couldn’t resist pushing it that bit further. Is this how all affairs start? I don’t think anyone intentionally sets out to have an affair, not something that’s beyond a one nighter anyway. I think if I was the one it was happening to I’d rather it was one night. You can forgive that. But developing a relationship, then it evolving into sex. It’s a whole different ballgame. I keep trying to pinpoint the moment it crossed into something more than friendship. It was so insidious, but so… ugh, exciting is what it was, new, the unknown! I have no excuses really, even though I keep trying to come up with them. Now the problem is that I care more about the fact I am having a good time, than how many people will be hurt if we carry on. Now the really awful part, yes, there is a more awful part than what I’ve already said. I don’t even want anything more than this, I don’t want a relationship with this person, I’m not sure I would even like them outside of this clandestine affair! I couldn’t imagine curling up with them at the end of a long day, or them dealing with a real problem I was having. They’d never understand my family dynamics, and I’d never introduce them to my family. I don’t want them to see me when I’m sad, or angry, or deliriously happy. I don’t want to share a life with them. So what’s the point in it. What’s the point of any of it? Why am I having an affair? What am I gaining from it if I don’t want it to go further? Well what I’m gaining I guess is just what it is. Moments suspended from reality with no pressures. I don’t need to get up and do the washing, watch something that doesn’t interest me. We don’t need to plan who is going to cook the tea tomorrow night, pick up the shopping, hoover the stairs. There’s no reality in it, it’s just what it is. Two people, coming together and escaping their reality for a hour here and there. Why is it so bad! Well, it’s not bad per se, not the act, not the relationship – if you can call it that. It’s the implications of what it would do to other people if they knew. It’s the wife or husband at home, the children, the cats and dogs, the rabbits, the families beyond the nuclear family you are destroying every time you meet and have that hour removed from reality. 

“Are you finished with that spreadsheet?”

“What?”

“I need to take it to a meeting with me”

“Oh right, sure, let me just save it”

I laugh to myself as I finish up what I’m doing. Spreadsheets are so boring I played out a whole affair story in my head while I was working. That’s what binge watching Desperate Housewives does to you!

No Second Chances

It’s nine o’clock in the morning and I have been driving up the motorway for a long time. The winter sun creates a strobe light effect through the bare trees as I pass by, amalgamating with scenes playing in my mind as I stare blankly at the endless tarmac in front of me. Memories of you I carry but rarely give permission to come to the fore now flood my consciousness. It doesn’t matter; I can no longer fall back into your arms as a result of remembering, so I allow them all. My eyes sting with the quick succession of penetrating light, but the tears that threaten to come are all about you. I see a sign for the services illuminated and decide to have a break. A coffee to compose myself before I see you again seems a good idea.

 

I vividly remember the day I met you; sitting at my desk facing another dreary day of typing when you swept into my life… and I mean swept! I was chatting to a colleague when a gust of wind from the office door opening made me shiver and turn to see who’d entered. I did an actual double take; you were easily the most beautiful man I’d ever seen outside of my television and the smell of expensive aftershave emanating from you was intoxicating. It really was that dramatic, for me at least. For a second I entertained the idea of you noticing me; then my shoulders dropped, my head fell and I resumed my conversation. Even in my fantasy you overlooked me and true to form, life imitated art as you passed by with nary a flicker of your eyes in my direction. I resumed typing in a mindless fashion allowing my thoughts to ponder my life. I was engaged but felt somewhat unfulfilled. I imagined this was just a side effect of a long term relationship, but if I was honest with myself, a part of me kept raising the ‘is this it’ question. I couldn’t leave him though, who would have me! Where would I even meet anyone new? In work I never received even a first glance from most men; my colleague next to me was the epitome of ‘blonde bombshell’ and she played the part very well. No-one chatted me up when I went out, not even a cheeky wink or innuendo; not once, in twenty-two years. It didn’t usually bother me, so why start now. I straightened my posture and deduced you were probably thick as two short planks with a squeaky voice and a tiny…


I revert to the present quickly; I don’t want to remember you in that way just yet. I am enjoying reliving those first days, first weeks of us. My cardboard cup is warm in my hands and the smell of coffee is familiar. It reminds me of the restaurant in the office where we worked together – even the same brand if coffee, Ritazza. I was holding a cup of it the furst day you noticed me.

 

You had been coming to the office regularly after that first visit. Outwardly I barely acknowledged you, but when you walked past me the smell of you made my head spin and I began to yearn for you. Common sense told me I was behaving irrationally, but my hormones had their own ideas.
 

One morning, I drove myself to work for the first time since passing my test. I was regaling half the office over morning coffee with a comical demonstration of my stubbornness to go even a mile over the speed limit while some idiot was driving too close behind me, when you turned around to face me, grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. I hadn’t noticed you tucked away in the corner. Flushed, I hastily retreated to the other end of the office and returned to my work, all the while replaying what I’d said to see how idiotic I sounded. You’d seen me, noticed me – I wondered if you would speak to me next time you came in.


It was strange when you did make the effort to talk to me; I couldn’t get my words to come out right at all. I became a self-conscious, tongue-tied crazy woman who had to leave the office for a cigarette every time you ventured over. It was the way you looked at me, I’d never experienced being on the receiving end of it before. Like I was… well, sexy, attractive – that kind of look. I tried to convince myself I was imagining it, after all, let me put this into perspective; with your dark brown mussed up hairstyle, milky coffee coloured skin and long lashed green eyes, you looked like a model! Combine that with your lithe body and taupe suit, you could have been pulled straight from the cover of GQ. I on the other hand was positively dowdy – pale, scraped back hair and boyish figure. When you started to throw all kinds of innuendo and cheeky comments my way, I dealt with it for a little while but eventually, I exploded from frustration.
 

‘Oh my god, you hadn’t even noticed me until just recently, why the sudden interest now?’

Taken aback, you responded,

‘You opened your mouth and talked! That’s why I noticed you and became interested!’ Well, what could I say to that!

 

Thus began our tempestuous friendship. We always skirted around the dangerous line that couldn’t be crossed. I was engaged, but I flirted along, started dressing better, taking time to do my make-up in the morning and wearing my hair down. You made me feel alive, something I never really felt before. An excitement that was palpable surrounded me and I felt free – metaphorically. At home, my other half was growing suspicious at the change in me. I no longer wanted to listen to his ranting about how no-one would ever treat me the way he did, love me the way he did and how he was protecting me from the big bad men out there who would use and abuse me. I was fed up of being held back by his emotional manipulation, which had kept me tied to him for longer than I cared to admit to anyone – especially myself. I wanted a new life that was free from the suffocating cotton wool cave I resided in from sixteen to twenty-two – he sensed it and dug his heels in harder. Every day you unknowingly kept me strong. The way I felt about you had awakened something inside me, hope – I could find the strength to be alone and discover who I was without someone telling me who I should be.

 

The pain of what came next jolts me. My coffee is gone, but I’m not ready to get back on the motorway yet. I haven’t smoked in years, but I feel today is a special exception.

 

A Thursday in February, someone told me you were leaving the company and it broke my heart. It had been a year since I’d spoken to or contacted you in any way. I never told you at the time, but my fiancé threatened to get you sacked if we carried on the way we were. I had been comforted by the fact I knew where you were and what you were doing though. I’d moved up in the company since the last time we talked and was no longer a lowly administrator. I was doing some training on another floor for my new role when I had the feeling you were nearby. I shook it off, thinking how ridiculous it would sound if I told anyone such a tale. But as I walked into our office before lunch, I could smell your lingering scent. I felt sick with anxiety; I wanted to see you but knew I shouldn’t.


‘Guess who you just missed’ my colleague said with a smirk. I didn’t need to guess, I could literally feel you. If there was such a thing as a cosmic twin or another half, you were mine. I knew you’d come to say goodbye and surely you wouldn’t leave until you had.
 

The next day, you returned and with both relish and reluctance I went to see you. I never thought my heart could literally skip a beat, but that day it did; as I caught your eye across the room and we smiled at each other. We had the usual banter back and forth; I was so childish in my responses. You knew how I felt and you felt the same about me. Cliché or not, it was just the wrong time. So we took a walk together, causing much speculation from colleagues, but we talked, I smoked and nothing more. I wished you luck and felt a piece of me curl up and die as I left you in the car park.

 

Another year passed and I quit my job, ended my relationship and went in search of myself. I came across a phone number in my ‘things from work box’ while I was cleaning one day. I knew it would be one of two people’s numbers, so there was a fifty per cent chance it would be yours. After much deliberation, I sent a text wondering who would reply, if anyone – the number could have been disconnected long ago. To my delight, a familiar cheeky response arrived and we texted each other long into the evening catching up. I made a decision the next day; I was going to have a relationship of some kind with this man who took my breath away. I didn’t care anymore that the scales were so out of balance with us, I had to be with you at least once. A few days later I gathered up my courage and called, asking to come round and see you. It was after work at my bar job so it was quite late, but you said ok.


I remember you were waiting as I approached your door; framed by the light in the hallway, you looked amazing; white shirt, faded blue jeans and bare feet. Where your shirt gaped slightly, a solid silver cross lay on your chest. I looked up at you, noting the two day old stubble and an expression showing you were as equally surprised by my actions as I was. Then you chuckled and welcomed me into your arms, ushering me inside. We proceeded to talk, have a few shots of whiskey, smoke a few cigarettes and inevitably ended up doing what you would expect. I left the next morning feeling elated and empowered.

We kept a strange relationship going for a long time off and on. We both had other relationships, sometimes simultaneously. You were the only person I felt was stable in my life, who I could talk to about anything and you’d point me in the right direction. I was never more comfortable than having a drink together, lounging around talking about everything and nothing. I could text you at some ridiculous hour in the week and ask you to come round and if you could, you would. Sometimes just to talk. I knew it couldn’t stay that way forever. I was not that kind of woman for one thing. More to the point, I loved you more than I could admit. We spoke about having a real relationship, but I knew in my heart I just wasn’t confident enough to be with someone like you. Constantly feeling insecure would have destroyed me and I think you knew that.

 

The tears begin to fall and I hurriedly make my way back to the car. Safely ensconced, I let myself remember the day I left you for good.

 

Years passed us by, until one day I looked at you across the room talking on the phone and thought, I can’t do this anymore. I knew you cared about me, worried about me; but I needed more than that. I needed a relationship with someone where I wasn’t thinking about you at the back of my mind, or I needed a proper relationship with you, which I still wasn’t secure enough for. So the last time I walked away, was the last time I saw you. But as I left, I wanted to tell you; you saved me from a life I was too naive to realise I needed saving from. I thought the way it was, was normal and I had no clue really. You changed me, helped me discover who I really was and made me confident in becoming and being that person. I wish you knew, and could understand the enormity of what you’ve done for me? I’d resigned myself to being nothing and no-one – just a crutch for someone else to live the life they wanted. You were honest with me, encouraged my dreams, picked me up and rescued me time and time again. Every time I let people damage my self-respect and make me think I was nothing. These are the reasons I love you, and I do love you and I have loved you for years now…

  

But I didn’t tell you those things. I always thought I would get to see you again one day, never imagined it would be too late. But here I am, going to your funeral and now there are no second chances. I walked away with the words I wanted to say left on the tip of my tongue. That’s where they will have to stay, forever.

Daddy

You tell nothing but lies, I despise you

I can’t believe what you’ll resort to

A man in stature, a child in mentality

Proud – with nothing to base it on

The irony undoubtedly lost on you

 

You sit on a throne in a ramshackle palace

Of cheap beer and fags and impart your ‘knowledge’

Bragg of being a ‘feared hard man’

Till you cowered at the first punch and

Exposed the lies, to my then, surprise

 

Coughing day and night, your wasted ribs rattle

Lash out at me to regain your ‘manhood’

Try to control me with threats and fists

Surrounded by your marital affiliates

Witness the humiliation of a child for sport

 

You need to dominate someone in your emasculated life

Not my fault you have a harridan for a wife

I wouldn’t stay and pay the price of your misery

My life is my own thanks, not yours to take
You lost your child for the last time

 

Runaway

 

I ran from home many times

To escape a tragic life

Hid in nettles, bushes, trees

To save myself from family and police

I ran from the past

I ran from the present

I’d never stop running

seemed to be the consensus

 

For no-one would listen

no-one would care

Why should I stop running

When your trust is not there

You say that I’ve lied

You say that I steal

You don’t know the truth

You’re blind to what’s real

 

Would you cry if you knew

All the adults had lied

Would you cry if you knew

How I nearly died

How you nearly destroyed me

with petty jealousies

How I nearly went mad

from your insecurities

 

I can tell by your silence

you don’t think you’re wrong

I can tell by your silence

that I don’t belong

You don’t care what’s real

or who told the lies

you just know it’s me

you hate and despise

 

But who’s laughing now

as the old adage goes

I know it’s not you

As you’re aging alone

The last laugh is mine

as it damn well should be

I’m happy and healthy

whole and complete.

 

Indie Love Song

 

Could you write me an Indie Love Song

Sing it at an open mic

We’ll dream of when you make it

And act like it’s already true

If I’m the only one at the front of the stage

Or one in a crowd that’s huge

My eyes are the only ones you’ll see
 

 

Sing me that Indie Love Song

Whether you make it or not

Sing it when we’re middle aged

And when we’re old and grey

Sing it when you think of me

When we are far away

It will mean the same when we hear it

Even when we have forgotten

How it could have been


 

We can pretend while the song lasts

That it never will end

Though the truth is it didn’t get started

So I guess that wish came true

You can’t lose what you never possessed

But this song says it could have been you

When I hear the tune online

I’ll remember these imaginary times

 

Sing me that Indie Love Song

Whether you make it or not

Sing it when we’re middle aged

And when we’re old and gray

Sing it when you think of me

When we are far away

It will mean the same when we hear it

Even when we have forgotten

How it should have been


 

I’ll imagine a time you sang it

Playing a dingy dark club

Where we stuck to the floor

Believed it was more

We danced till the sun came

Laughed as we twirled

For that couple of hours

You were my boy and I your girl

 

Sing me that Indie Love Song

Whether you make it or not

Sing it when we’re middle aged

And when we’re old and gray

Sing it when you think of me

When we are far away

It will mean the same when we hear it

Even when we have forgotten

How it would have been

Unrequited

Unrequited love – the hardest, yet familiar part to play
Regular occurrence in my experience of life
The humorous unknown other (when will it be my day)

Lacklustre eyes observe potential stray
Temples were built for trouble and strife
Unrequited love – the hardest, yet familiar part to play

Good sense has left, found reason to weigh
Heavy, intelligence abandoned mid-life
The humorous unknown other (when will it be my day)

Heavy hangs the unequivocal dismay
Inaccurate portrayal of crisis rife
Unrequited love – the hardest, yet familiar part to play

Reverie is preferable to reality as nerves fray
Fervent thoughts threaten like a knife
The humorous unknown other (when will it be my day)

Soul scarred yet unexpectedly open it’s lay
In hope of surviving this, as a wife
Unrequited love – the hardest yet familiar part to play
The humorous unknown other (when will it be my day)

Half Life

With frozen eyes and rime rimmed heart
She smiled and played a half arsed part
The world never could have guessed
The tangled broken aching mess
That lay behind her gentle smile
Insidiously creating constant bile
To invade her thoughts and daily grind
It’s kept well hidden inside her mind

Passion

Passion consumes you
infuses you
with a feeling so intense
it bursts from every nerve end

When you see him and
eject into a suspended state
so heightened and intense
it’s surreal

The touch of his hand
as you stand so entwined
the cliché becomes real as you fall
with one soul into one another

When you breathe
it’s the first time
when you feel
it’s the first time
when you look into his eyes
observing nothing but the lust manifested within

Like a script
only better
like illusion
but not.
That moment will haunt you till you die.

You relive each sensation
as your body recalls
your mind just submits
to that moment once more.
When he grabs you
breathes how he missed you
remembers each inch of you
you melt into him and he into you.

Then reality intrudes
as you blink and remove
to the here and now.
Feel the heat disappear
remember he’s gone
your body recoils.

You were too overwhelmed
by implications passion held
knew the devastation if it ended
on terms but your own.

Passion remains unfulfilled.
Held within for those moments
it awakens to pleasantly haunt you.