too pristine
Jai Clare

                              like it is a room in my mind, or something; I scream at him, and he turns away.

I close my mind, I put my hands to my face; and nothing. I do nothing. The contours of my face are the same as yesterday, the day before, and the day before that; I can't now remember any change.

I listen to the silent ringing of the telephone; I cup my hands to the cradle, and mouth, “It makes so much sense now.”

There is no phone.

On first moving into this white room the curves of the cream telephone sang with his voice. I’d picked it up and hid it under the stairs; its socket I’d bandaged with black tape. I liked the effect: black lines on white. Brown would have been too nice, too wholesome.

I tuck my legs under my knees. I can feel him at the front door; hot breath on green flaky paint work. I can see him squashed against me on this sofa, pressing against me, touching the sides.

I just couldn’t let him in.

I like the pattern on this red sofa: running my fingers over its old fashioned cream roses I am reminded of my grandmother, sitting in her green living room, surrounded by heavy oak furniture; so disdained in a plastic world. I would give a fortune to have them here. Now.

I wish I could stop twitching my fingers; they seem to move without my control. Sometimes I watch them talking for me, giving answers to questions that have long perplexed me. Their movements are so beautiful, so complex. I watch their reflection in the window when the night has come.

In the window they look so alien; their talk so elegant. They are the only solid part of me.

I always leave the curtains open at the back. There is no one to watch me. I can see the lights from the house along the side road; I watch them in the middle of the night as their bathroom light goes on and off, then hours later back on again. I feel sorry for their neighbours.

The french windows open to the garden. It is summer and the light draws moths. Street smells creep in. Here I watch for foxes, and wince on the scream of cats.

I like the night; it has so many different shades, different shapes: the density of brickwork silhouetted against a twilight sky, under lights the dark is grey or orange, the moment before dawn the night looks impenetrable as marble.

Sometimes I will lie, face up, on the uncut grass, waiting for the wetness of dawn, looking at my watch. Three a.m.

I am quite alone. Everyone else is dreaming.

No one would dare intrude, come through the garden, to steal from my house. He only batters at the front door.

I fear opening the door: so substantial is his dark shape, his folded arms, his insistence, his lack of knowledge.

Only when he has gone, only when he leaves me alone, quite formless in my white room, will I be able to define what it is he should know.

When we were together, sharing the same room, the same house, the same bed, I thought he knew me.

My grandmother died and he held me as they sold away her furniture. He didn’t laugh when I said I missed her. An old woman who hardly said a word, who just sat in her green room and with her heavy furniture, staring at nothing in particular: a stroke had made her face sag, her hands limp, and her mind chaotic.

I thought he'd proved himself when he never wondered aloud what was there to miss.

I never questioned what he didn’t say.

I stare at the window, looking back at myself; seeing my hands feel the walls, the floor, familiarizing myself with my new home, each corner, each mark on the wall, each scrubbed bloodstain and forgotten semen stain, seeing where I've scrapped away dust from the grooves of the floor. I feel as if I have been here for years.

I painted the walls myself. Each night I would start at 3 a.m., whirling my roller as I danced around the room, dripping white paint in globules on the carpet, my radio blaring erasing the sound of night traffic, my body whirling round and round. I would go to bed at dawn looking like the Woman in White.

It feels like hell every time I have to leave.

Even just to the shops; everyone has to eat at some point. I fear him waiting, submerged in the hot shopping crowds, hidden like a chameleon. Physically he is quite safe, harmless even. I have no need to practice shouting for help. He isn’t the worst I have ever known.

The first time he found me; the first time he knocked at that door I was too surprised to react. I stood there like a transfixed mammal, listening to his cheery, shallow words. Afterwards the rest of the day was a blank. The kitchen never got decorated.

Each time he came back we grew worse; his ignorance ran out of ways to disguise itself, and my blankness grew more animated till my voice screamed hoarse. I never let him in; we would exchange confusions in the dimly lit hall; the timer light going off with every pause.

I never wanted him here; I never wanted him to see me, to see my house, my white room, to hear what I hear. I didn’t want him to question till I knew the answers.

I am now too pristine to be real.

In time I will open the door to him, let him see and know where I’ve been hiding, let him feel how solid I am.

But only when I’m sure.

The lights will turn out, and my reflection in the window will darken, and new grass will grow outside. The foxes will come to the window and sniff a new smell.

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