Fiction

Notes from the Ward

‘I love the clouds. . . the clouds that pass . . . up there . . .’

Baudelaire (‘L’étranger’)

 

Labour Ward, Homerton Hospital: 

 

I can hear crickets, luminous crickets singing inside my veins, singing and telling stories of sun-baked earth and marshlands and bogs, crickets merrily taking those stories into my pumping heart.

 

I wake up in a cabin floating in blue darkness. I do exactly what I would do normally, I take the hand-mirror in my hand . . . as if I were about to discover that I have changed. But no, there is no change. My face is my mum’s face, a perfect Cupid’s bow sits on my mouth, eyes somewhat floating with joy, a liquid joy reflected from deep within the cavity of my body. The hairline encircles an ageless face . . . my eyes in the mirror follow my chin (like luminous crickets), then come down the neck on to my shoulders.... Suddenly they stumble on the length of the shoulders, suddenly they stumble on my hands hanging from the shoulders like two over-ripe snake-gourds that tell my actual age. It always made me feel that someone started to draw me with the delightful brush of an Impressionist, but somehow left it unfinished (to be completed by Daumier or Goya as a caricature). The rest of my body is about three-and-a-half-feet long. I struggle to touch my fingers with my thumb; I struggle to grip a cup of coffee or a paintbrush. It seems everything has been placed just a little out of my reach.

 

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