"So how are you, Eleanor", Andy asked, as she sat in her usual position, back to the wall against the upright mattress.
"Fine, ok, a bit nervous", she answered.
"A bit nervous", he repeated.
"Oh God", she said, "this is just so difficult".
He nodded, moving forward in his chair.
The silence sent her on her way to the place she dreaded most. She turned away from Andy, facing the wall, her head in her hands. As the lift went down inside her,
"the bastard" she thought. "He can send me there with his silence. He seems to get a sadistic pleasure from it. Like this pain is good for you or something."
Underneath her ribcage, the cold vacuum penetrated deeply. She hunched forward, crossing her arms tightly in front of her body, holding her head low to hide her face. The mind reader could read her mind. She was locked into herself, impregnable.
" Go away, go away, go away ", she chanted, silently.
"Leave me alone. I want to die. I wish I could die".
And then she surrendered. Stillness. Quiet, a lost kind of quiet. The aching lift reached its level within her, the level she knew it could not break through. It was the limit of what she could bear. All her energy drained, leaving just enough to breath and stay alive.
At home, it engulfed her like this too. It wasted mornings for her, killing time. 9am became 1pm instantly, her body locked in her arms in the pale bedroom with the red passionate covers. 7pm bedtime, the children numbed into accepting her absence. The phone might interrupt, but it got lost in the distance. The cat might scratch the window, and it could scratch away. The postman rarely rang the bell these days, being used to nobody home. And Colm went about his work, used to now ignoring her endless sleep-ins. But she never told Andy this. He'd think her lazy if she did.
"Eleanor", she heard Andy's voice.
His voice was his greatest asset, she reflected years later. It was this that melted ice.
"Would you like me to move closer to you?"
She just ignored him.
The same old pattern for months and months.
He waited a while, his eyes trained on her scrunched up body, observing her pain constantly.
"Can you say anything ?" he'd try again.
Silence for another five minutes.
Usually she would slowly emerge from the darkness. Breathing more deeply would finally generate the energy to go.
"Jesus Christ", she would mutter to herself.
"Will this ever end? Will it ever change? How many more months? How much more can I take?"
" I hate this", she would say." I wish it would end."
"You hate it," he'd repeat.
It just seems to go on and on. She finally resumes eye contact. No is the only word she can think of. If she says no, he will never understand. It all seemed useless then as she tried to pull herself together. It is just slow murder.
"Can you say anything about how you are?" he would ask, so gently she could feel his words melting through her.
"I can't take much more of this" was either said or left for him to guess, her head shaking in exasperation.
"It is really difficult for you," his eyes on her, more comfortably now for her, that she was about to leave.
"He hasn't got a clue", she thinks, and instantly adds the thought that he does not care either.
Locked in, lost to herself and to him. Settled in the crippling pain at its level. Still for fifteen minutes now.
"Can I move closer", he asks, so softly that she catches only "can I move"?
From the darkness, she slightly moves her head.
He slowly, very carefully, leaves his chair to kneel beside her.
" Eleanor", he whispers, as he extends his hand towards hers.
The lift shaft inside her snaps. A deep horrendous roar shoots through her, as her body heaves forward, to bury itself in the mattress, muffling screams that tear her apart, her voice-box belting its way through the terror. He lays his hand on her snow white knuckles, gently, as carefully as a surgeon with a scalpel on an open heart.
"Eleanor", he whispers again.
Her sobs eat into the mattress, a comfortable taste of familiarity from somewhere else. Her breathing slowly deepens, catching occasionally in the wetness of her grief. No time for tissues today, the violence absorbed by the mattress instead. She turns her head towards him, exhaustedly. He shifts position to meet her eyes, red and swollen, vacant in a calm kind of way. And then her body begins to shake. He offers her a blanket, which she curls into, and rolls herself onto the mattress now fallen fully on the floor.
He takes both her hands in his, firmly this time, warming them. She dozes, on and off, opening her eyes occasionally to check for his presence. She need not check. He is there.
She opens her mouth, as if to speak, and closes it again. No words can come, even now. He leaves her be.
Her body starts to warm, uncurl, unfold. Her head moves slowly downwards, losing his gaze. She notices the odour from her body, like death and sweat together. He looks on, as if forever.
Then slowly, he places her hands together, holding them firmly, releasing one of his own. He gently lifts her chin, ignoring the weak resistance, tilting her tired dishevelled head towards him.
"Can you say anything about it ?," he asks, his breath on her face.
"It's the shame", she says, without looking away.Posted by Colm at December 19, 2002 03:49 PM