about frustration, ageing and disillusionment


            She washed her hands after, drew the curtains shut, sat down on her bed, looked at her knee-caps, her legs like plucked chickens, tried to kid herself. The clock ticked loudly, testified time. Time’s litter was on her face and body and she didn’t have the money to make it sit up right. “How many years does a lift not fall?” she thought disconsolately. The covers on her bed seemed ragged and all the needleworked patches of gentle materials woven together with patience in weepy or dry moments and spread-eagled across the worn but loved bed-covering over all those terrible years couldn’t hide how belittled she felt. She wanted to scream. She wanted to batter his door down and tell him to get on with it.

            At other times she gazed out thinly into the ravished night and thought and thought. Her legs were trembling slightly and her stomach ached. The excessive flesh on her thighs puckered like loosish jelly but she was feverish and excited at the hope high as a parachuteless siren bombing its wild compulsion on to an earth that rushed to meet it. When she combed her layered hair, she thought of him. He wouldn’t like her hair. It was dirty and however much colour she added to it, it could never lustre. Tiny scales of skin fell out on to her dresser, patterning the shiny wood with pinkish flakes. She’d have to order that latest dandruff-treatment. She pulled the skin back from her face. I looked like that twenty years ago, she kidded herself. It fell back into its wrinkles. It was indifferent. She was amazed. Bending towards the mirror, she made the skin on her neck taut. It made her pointed chin more pronounced. Her round face looked back at her, the weak pink of her cheeks, the forlorn pallor of her face. “What can I buy to make me attractive?” she wondered.

            “Mirror, mirror, on the wall…”

            What a laugh! the unattractive picture staring back at her, hoping against hope for small miracles that couldn’t come. She remembered seeing herself many years ago in a hall of distorting mirrors. She was more pretty then despite the bulbous head on the skinny shoulders and the long neck like a heron’s. She’d laughed. She’d leaned against the red walls and split her sides. She’d been able to laugh once upon a time when she was eight or nine. She’d got out of that distorting house and gone straight into the fortune teller’s booth, paid her little sum, and sat palm out while that old hag had followed the young lines on her outstretched hand consulting the crystal ball by her side on the small table. What a fake! That witch had said she’d be happy, successful, dazzling for all to behold. “There again,” thought Mrs. Keats, “if she had really been able to tell me the truth, would I have wanted to know? Could she have told a child of nine about ruinous love, use, invalids and gluttons? If she had heard such things, if she had understood such things, if she had believed her life was without the power and the glory…..?"

            She leant against her poor dressing-table, drabness upon drabness, when all of a sudden she heard it! It was thumping as fast as ever, faster. What was the matter? Her heart was racing, screwing the thick blood through her tightening arteries. She put her hand to her head where the pain was. “If only I’d lived more, good cheer, good company, not getting old and ill. If only….” while her heart made complaint, thrumming her cage. The minutes were dragging. Her transparent nightdress was irritating her bare breasts with fibrous harshness. At her dark window she seemed to see the tired grass on the barren hills, little, dark pricks squashed down. The clock pumped like her heart but slower, and the hands ached into one, one-thirty, a.m.


From “After Dawn”, a short novel about young love

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