Le Sourire

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Heart beating hard and fast. 2am. I kicked off the duvet, stared at the ceiling again, and tried to focus my thoughts. I could almost see the feeling in the air above me, all around the dark room, moving just that tiny fraction out of phase with everything else. You could squint and maybe you’d catch it for a second moving quickly out of the corner of your eye or right ahead of you disappearing, fading quickly into the stone window frames. If I didn’t know better I’d have said it was a spiritual intervention or message. Religions have started on lesser foundations.

And over it all, that feeling thumping, cossetting, working deep inside against the grain of everything I’ve ever known. Call it what you want. This thing has power.

When I finally woke up, the sun had started to aggressively pound into the hillside, a dog was wailing, and my head moved quickly through the gears from early waking numbness up into that feeling again. I couldn’t have stopped it if I tried. I took my meds, swallowing them down with cold water, and went into the bathroom. I looked in the mirror over the wash basin. My eyes were red, I looked old, fat, ravaged by years of bad experiences. I told myself this was only a dream. No-one could really be that crazy. I soaked my face, grey beard and all, in the sink and lifted my head back up to the mirror. Nothing had changed at all except the water running in great globules from the straggled edges of my face. Then I thought of those images stored in my brain from the night before, the things that were said, looked once more in the mirror, and couldn’t stop a smile.


Face upwards

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All the moments in my life – the Sunday morning grass cutting and washing the car, the shitness of working in jail, the sad knowledge of the wrong marriage, and the drifting years since – led up to a deep breath moment in a windowless room yesterday.

I’d never felt so alone.

My Psychologist handed the phone back to me. She was watching me for a reaction. I put the phone on the empty chair by mine. No-one spoke. She was eyeballing me, really trying to look in there.

‘What do you want me to say?’ I asked her.

‘You say whatever you want to, Ben.’

I couldn’t think straight. The lights flickered. Someone walked past outside talking loudly. She was tapping on the laptop balancing on her knees. More typing than usual. Whatever she had planned for that hour had gone completely off kilter.

She was trying to help me.

‘Are you taking your medication?’

‘Fuck off….of course I am. Don’t try and bring this thing down to meds.’

‘I’m not. It was a simple question,’ she said. ‘Do you think you’re being appropriate? Are you behaving in the right way? Are you scared? Boundaries?’

‘Yeah,’ I answered. ‘Yeah to all of it.’

And there it all was before me. That’s when the whole rotten lot lurched into technicolour view: my wedding, years and years of drudging mediocrity, something missing. Images of it all, every single moment of hurt and boredom, and now the overarching realisation I’d been alone through everything. No connection to anybody; old jigsaw. Left in a drawer forever and forgotten until the bits I missed turned up. I never expected to come across those pieces.

But I’m getting confused. It’s early. Light is starting to hang on the raindrops outside. They are falling in a random pattern that looks like it’s weaving in and out of focus just to make things feel worse. I guess it’s what I deserve. In a moment I’ll stand outside just to feel the weather on my skin. I’ll turn my face skywards. I might say some form of prayer. Don’t know who to. Don’t know why either. Just feels like this is one of those moments where a prayer couldn’t do any harm. I’ll try to be mindful of the precious feeling of being alive, watching thoughts passing like the drops of rain rolling right now from the leaves in front of me.