Week Twenty-Four: In your wheelhouse

A Love Letter (of sorts).

          Last night I dreamt I went to my old wheelhouse again. It seemed to me I stood by the front door and could not enter, for a liquorice padlock and barley chain barred the way. I called out in my dream, but there was no answer.  Moving closer, I peered through the pasta curtains and saw that it was deserted. Suddenly, the way it does in dreams, bread appeared in my pocket, and I took it out. It was warm and crackled in just the right way as I sat down on the front stoop, glancing furtively around. I ate it; bites too loud in the unforgiving silence.

It sounds stupid, unimportant, ridiculous, to dream about something like that. Most of my dreams are exactly that, but not this one. This one wrapped me up in a blanket of yesterday and kissed my forehead, a bittersweet lipstick mark left behind.

What I’m trying to say is that it wasn’t stupid to me.

This is a love letter, of sorts, to all the food I can no longer eat.

To the pasta, durum or soft wheat; you entered my life the way you left it – with ease and tender tastes and loops and swirls and bowties. The last time I had you the water spilled over the pot, and I tried to avoid using a strainer because I’m lazy. You stayed patiently in my freezer waiting for me to fulfil your destiny (you almost got eaten by my roommate but I saved you, remember?). It hurts my heart to leave you for a lesser substitute. This I promise you – I will love you, only you, not your lesser imitations, for the rest of my life.

To the KFCs, the Burger Kings, the Subways and especially the McDonald's. You were there for me when I needed you most – in moments of weakness, solitude, and, on one occasion, in Switzerland when you were the only thing I could afford. I drive past you now and see your golden arches through the fogged up window of my car, soft and alluring. Regret lingers in my chest; regret for things lost which cannot be regained, for the damage you did to me which I asked for. For the fact that the choice of what I can and can’t eat has been taken from me.

To the meat pies – I will miss you on the days when all I want is to be a kid again; to remember the times mum picked me up from school, and I would beg for a pie and I would get you, sometimes, if I promised you wouldn’t ruin my dinner. The pastry was soft and the meat hot; one or the other spilled all over me and I would lick the sauce off my fingers, sticky and sweet and not caring I looked like a grub. You, more than anything, more than photos and love letters and report cards carefully kept (“Stephanie is a friendly and outgoing student who would benefit from more time spent not talking in class”), are my childhood. You are my childhood, and I put you away with the teddy bears and the frilly socks with a heavy sort of sadness in my soul.

To the chocolate – O! The chocolate – the milky sweet melting moments we have shared are now locked away forever in my secret heart of hearts; a souvenir of the past, like so many smeared post cards from my father, illegible after years of being read, and re-read, and held to my chest with tears in my eyes. Thank you for all that you have given me.

To the bread, who has known me all my life. On cold mornings, fresh from the bakery or the oven; I have kneaded you, I have cut you, I have toasted you, I have squeezed your crust and felt it splinter under my fingers. You are the best and the worst of them; I want so badly for you to still be a part of me, but that hope has been taken from me. You were my wheelhouse and I have been served an eviction notice. I am outside of my wheelhouse now, looking back at it from some far-off place, imagining how you are getting on without me, now that you have made it clear how much you don’t want me. You make me sick, you’ve made me sick for years only I didn’t know it; I blamed grief and stress and myself while you and your gluten destroyed my insides, and I can’t look back without feelings of betrayal forcing me to feel hate for the thing I once loved so dearly.

I said this was a love letter, of sorts, but really this is goodbye.

I will venture off into the wilderness of the health food aisle and allergy information blurbs. I will explore the exotic lands of Quinoa and Millet and leave the shores of wheat, barley and rye behind. I will face the future with feathers in my heart and the knowledge that I will be truly well for the first time in years; that this is something I can control; that I will be happy and won’t cry for no reason; that I won’t need to get treatment for illnesses I don’t have. That I won’t have people telling me I’m anorexic and that I’m disgusting and should be ashamed of myself. I will build a new wheelhouse, made from rice and salad and fruit, and I will live in it, one day, when I grow into this new world of mine. And I will not talk of you again; I will not tell of my dream, for the dream is mine no longer. The dream is no more. 

NB** The first paragraph and last few lines are inspired by the opening chapter of 'Rebecca', by Daphne du Maurier.

I've never posted anything so true to life before. I wrote this because I have been recently diagnosed with coeliac disease after years of feeling unwell and being tested for everything under the sun. I am so so happy to finally have a diagnosis so I can move on with my life!

As I have never posted anything like this before (completely from my own point of view, non-fiction), I would love to hear what you think. 

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Week Eighteen Prompt: Inspiration

Shopping Trolley

I am a shopping trolley.

This is not a metaphor.

(I know what a metaphor is,

because a small human

hanging off me asked

a large human

what it was, once.)

I am a shopping trolley

(this is not a metaphor),

and I need to get to the sea.

I do not know why.

There is something somewhere,

in all of us. In the abandoned receipts,

in the one bad wheel,

in our metal bones,

that speaks to us.

To the sea, they whisper.

They whisper now to me.

I am a shopping trolley

(this is not a metaphor),

and I need to get to the sea.

Mr Coles and Mrs Woolworths;

they chain us together.

They do not want to lose us

(but what they do not see

is that

we want to be lost).

We are shopping trolleys

(this is not a metaphor),

and we need to get to the sea.

There is a careless woman,

one day.

She does not know, or has forgotten

that thing that mothers say,

“less haste more speed”. She leaves

me in a car park,

with one coin,

with an old plastic bag,

with her careless blessing.

I am a shopping trolley

(this is not a metaphor),

and I am going to the sea.

One more day, then

the day after that, and the

day after that.

Squeak, groan, rattle.

Damage done. Too many

Coupon Tuesdays.

But,

I am a shopping trolley

(this is not a metaphor),

and I want to get to the sea.

And then?

There is the salt. It catches me

like an idea.

Clinging to my

abandoned receipts,

to my one bad wheel,

to my metal bones.

I have arrived.

There was a man

who oiled my joints.

Replaced my bolts.

Straightened my casters.

Welded my frame.

Until I felt brand new.

(I am a shopping trolley,

and I am at the sea, but-)

Him I will miss. 

Him, I might even send

a postcard.

End. 

Why did I write this?

Throughout this entire competition, so many writers impress me week after week with stories I could never dream up; stories which gave voices to the most unlikely of characters. One writer in particular has this week caused me to approach things a little differently, to find the magic in the every day, and to realise that everything, every person, every object, every thing you can imagine (and some you can't), has a soul worth writing about. Thank you  for helping me to see that.

Image courtesy of this website

Many, many thanks to the very lovely  for the speedy and thoughtful beta job. 

Week Seven Prompt: Bupkis

Security saw her as soon as she came in. How could he not? The store was nearly empty; it was just before closing time. She nearly waddled in the way heavily pregnant women do, sizing up the bedroom showcases as though looking at an enemy. Security watched her walk through the displays, running her hands over the bedspreads, opening bedside table drawers, turning lamps on then off. She tried first one bed, then the other. Staff came up to her, wanting to make a quick profit then get her out of there as soon as possible.
 
She wasn’t going anywhere.
 
*
 
It had gone on for two months now. She would toddle in around 10 minutes ‘til close, find a bed towards the back of the store, near to where Security sat in his office, and fall asleep on it until the time came for him to wake her up. He would watch her silently, trying to figure out why she kept coming here. Up close, he could see the shadowy moons under her eyes; he could feel a tiredness that seemed almost overwhelming. It didn’t stop him from noticing she was lovely, and that she wore no wedding ring. She seemed sad and he badly wanted to help her, to alleviate some of her sorrow, but he wasn’t the sort of man who cured the problems of lonely women. He wasn’t handsome, or all that smart. Security was his name – his mother had named him for the gift she said he had given her – and now it was his job. He wasn’t the sort of man who entered a woman’s life in a mysterious and winning way, the way some men seemed to. So he watched her, watched her as she prowled through the aisles, never choosing the same bed twice, largely left alone by the staff now as they’d all become used to the bizarre pregnant lady who fell asleep in their store. He watched her though, and he saw that she held everything close to her chest, as though she had some cards she didn’t want anybody to see.
 
On this day though, things would be different. She had found a bed, near the back of the store and she lay down on it. She felt the cushioning beneath her back, felt the rough threads under her fingers as she traced lazy circles on the duvet. She decided this would be the place where she would spend the next hour. One of the staff members caught Security’s attention from across the store – pointing at the person next to them – a woman in a suit, pointing at the pregnant lady, then miming her own throat being cut. Security recognised the woman in the suit as Comfort Maver, the ironically named area manager who smacked fear into the hearts of several employees with her surprise inspections. Comfort claimed it was to ensure the smooth running of her company, but they knew better. These visits more often than not served to cut staff by at least two in any given store, and no one wanted to lose their job today.
 
Security approached the sleeping woman, tentatively as always. He had been waking her up for two months now, just before he left the store for the night. He would touch her lightly on the shoulder, and she would sit up quickly, dazed and happy, for a brief moment. Then a cloud would come over her and her shoulders would wilt slightly, like a flower who has been in the sun for too long. He would gesture to her to advance toward the doors. She never said anything, just blinked a few times, nodded, and left the store a little before him. He had yet to say a word to her.
 
“Miss? Excuse me, Miss? You need to leave.” The light tap on the shoulder didn’t seem to be working today. She was in a deep sleep. This close he could see the faint purple tracings of the veins on her eyelids, the slightly parted mouth with each breath she took. He felt a quietness come over himself as he watched her, almost as though he was trespassing on some miracle about to happen.
 
Suddenly, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up, and without turning around, he knew. Comfort was there.
 
“What the hell is going on here?”
 
The sleeping lady sat up so quickly she might have been spring-loaded. Comfort’s voice did that to most people. She stretched and yawned, smiling at Comfort. Security nearly melted, and felt a trembling somewhere in his knee region. He had never seen her smile before.
 
Comfort wasn’t impressed.
 
Comfort turned to the staff member anxiously tagging along behind her.
 
“Why the hell was a customer asleep on one of our beds? Do you know how unhygienic that is? Do you realize that we are missing out on a sale right at this moment due to someone else not being allowed to test this mattress? You know the rule – ten seconds to a bed.  And you!” She turned now to face Security, finger pointed as though he was a naughty dog. “I don’t even know why you still work here. Slow and steady doesn’t quite win the race when you’re a security guard.”
 
The pregnant lady stirred, a pained expression coming over her face.
 
“It’s really not their fault, I’m so tired lately I can just sit down anywhere and fall asleep in a second. I’ve barely been here for a minute. I really think that-” Saying this, she had been struggling to stand up. Security hurried to help her, and she flashed him a brief smile. “-you’re being too hard on them”.
 
Comfort’s face turned the colour of the puce bedspread the pregnant lady had just vacated. She opened her mouth, and everyone braced for the onslaught. It never came.
 
“My water just broke,” the pregnant lady gasped.
 
There was an ambulance, there was Comfort screaming for someone to clean the floor, there was staff surrounding the pregnant lady, and there was Security, feeling awkwardly impotent, not knowing whether to fetch towels and pillows from the display racks or to run to his car and leave for home. The ambos were mentioning dilating and cervix and he wanted very much to not have the mental images he was coming up with in his mind right now.
 
Then, a hand. Outstretched towards him. Her hand.
 
“Come with me?” Her tone was hopeful, her eyes were watery, and in the harried frenzy going on around them, this moment was quiet. This moment was theirs. No one could touch it.
 
He didn’t even know her name, but he didn’t need to. In this moment, he was the sort of man who entered women’s lives in mysterious and winning ways. He loved her.
 
*
 
“Nothing? You have a baby girl. 10 fingers, 10 toes, doing beautifully.”
 
Nothing looked up, smiling as the little parcel was handed to her, squirming and pink and so tiny she couldn’t believe it. Security bent down next to her, staring in awe at the miniscule red face, screwed up and messy and so breathtaking he felt like the Grinch who realized the true meaning of Christmas – his heart felt too big for his body.
 
“She’s something isn’t she,” he spoke to Nothing in a voice only she could hear.
 
“She’s something,” Nothing agreed.
 
Security looked at Nothing, and for a moment he saw her as a baby, pictured little Nothing growing up alone, learning to tie her shoes with no one around to place their finger in the middle of the bow, and he saw her having this baby alone, always alone, for that is how he had known her. He vowed that from this day on, Nothing would never be alone again.
 
*
 
Nothing lived with Security for the rest of her life, and they named their daughter Something. They wanted her to know that wherever she was, whomever she might become, she would always remember that something could come from nothing. 

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