This is called “Work In Progress” and is a work in progress – I’m yet to add the happy in… Its a monologue for a girl.
I was late in to work again today. Got through the first hours, the long, round hours that just trace circles on the clock-face endlessly, interrupted only by looking out the window. There is a tree in the distance, so tall, and I try to imagine how tall I would look standing on its top branches. I’d look tiny! But I’d see everything.
My right leg likes to tap away, much faster than I can type this. It must be measuring out half-seconds until it can run away, get me up and out of here. This feels good – I must have looked at every icon on my desktop, refreshed the email 17 times, read the Staff Bulletin, checked my eBay and had three coffees. The coffees make this rotation of meaningless labour faster, until I thought of this. Write for me – not for them.
Someone asked me if they could have ten minutes of my time earlier. I nodded assent, had plenty to spare, but she actually took half an hour. I didn’t mind, yet my eyes kept glancing at that minute hand, edging its way towards its summit, before creeping back down.
I went over to the park for my lunch, feet sank deep into the fresh snow, but they stayed warm. I always make an effort to go outside for my whole hour, unlike those desk-eaters. There I sat on a bench, while cars stream around the edges of the park an endless rotation, while the clock tower stared at me, asked me to hurry up and get back. I drank a can of Pepsi, then smoked a cigarette, taking in the chemical fog, enjoying the crackle of the paper, then the blue cloud. It made me feel ill.
This is my 31st clean day. I snuck into rehab between Christmas and the New Year. I hate that empty space, that blank painting, the crinkled and circled entries in the bumper Radio Times, the decreasing quality of programming, the not knowing if it’s a weekday, or what you should be doing. Ring roads and retail parks. Miniature bottles of wine on my walk through the underpasses. Look up to the blank missive of the sky. All coded muteness – it does not respond to my shouts.
There were ceiling tiles in my room at the place – a matrix of trapped fluorescence. The plastic white strips have little joins in them, they lead to the magnolia of the wall margin, and map out a grid. I lean backwards, loll my head behind me, and feel like they spread out in squares below me, trapping in the squares that have the neon lights in them, seeing a tiny thin reflection of myself in their reflectors, see the green and yellow wires twisted behind. My head expands and floats off. The lights ping in response.
There are some boys throwing snowballs around. I think they have a bit of gravel or grit in them – they crashed on a car with a peppering sound – the boys’ eyes widened, they touched each other’s arms and ran off, stepping quickly and carefully through the slush, as a man with a red face looked after them, mouthing words to himself and shaking his head. I pick up a few grains of the snow on the bench, and watch as their tiny ridged frames meld into the grooves on my reddening fingertips. My hand shakes and I shiver, a metallic taste appears in my mouth and prongs of pain tap on my skull, twist my belly. The boys walk past me, and one of them looks at me, from beneath his wooly hat – I can’t tell what he thought – his mouth was covered by a blue and yellow scarf.
I had better move on – my hands are too cold, and I need some food. I’ve been eating a lot more recently. I cooked on my new oven for the first time last night. It was installed a year ago, and last night was the first proper meal I’ve cooked. I had to peel some blue translucent plastic off the front of it first. I had a large pan of pasta, and garlic bread. The garlic bread jumped me out of my reverie (I was looking at the curtain breathing in the draught) with a smell I could taste. Burnt. Bastard burnt. Some of the plastic left had melted too. The pasta was bleached white, fell apart as I poured it into a bowl, trying to hold the water back. I stirred in some of the sauce – the caricature of an Italian man on the jar looked so happy it struck me somewhere, I felt his wide eyes empty my soul. Trying to hold back the tears.
Can the world be as sad as it seems? I was in a bar before Christmas, having a few drinks. I had wanted to go home, but… Back to that in a minute. When writing this, I was going to write “I was in a war before Christmas” but the grammar check queried it. In fact, I was right first time. It was a battle, one that I again surrendered to. I had a few drinks, found a small quirky venue, heard the clamour and throng of voices, each espousing their own truth and beauty, and therein I found mine. I found some peace. The last remaining nerves that vibrated negative were quelled, and I travelled back into my childhood, into another time. I told my friend…
And then I woke up. The sun had gone down already, but I thought it was yet to rise. The red LED blinked 4:31 at me. It could have been the early hours, or the afternoon. All I know – it was dark. And got darker. What the fuck am I doing with my life? Where the hell am I going? You know, I was happier back in that room, back on that bench, doing anything to make myself less aware of the yawning, gaping range of the world, the vast chasm that demands to be filled, filled with my possibilities, my future, my work – my anything. That fucking phrase – “You can do anything!” it fills me with fear, because then I think I have to, and it has to be goddamn good. What is good? Is this job not enough? Do I have to have a family? Invent something? Come up with a great novel, a great idea, a new way of the whole fucking world living in total harmony and peace? A theory, a disease, a public holiday – named after me?! Well call this disease after me, because I’m sick…
I really don’t think this is who I’m supposed to be. My hands are shaking, can you see? And that’s not from the drink. That is not in me anymore, but I am. Those things are. And I shake with the pressure of them all, like when you try to put a heavy suitcase on top of an old cupboard – tremulous. Put away the summer, the holiday. That summer was when I last felt alright. Was it? God, maybe… Why am I like this? To look at me, you wouldn’t think that these thoughts course through my veins. I look nice? Then, I avoid eyes. Today, I avoid ice. I don’t need to fall any further.
That summer. It comes to me now, as a sliver of yellow light starts to make the snow glow through the curtains. I think “Thank God” and can see back, and can see forward. I drop my head backwards off the bed and it fills with blood, my feet tingle and that day comes back, out of the black…
I can smile at you now. Did you notice that? I can smile, and I can feel it. It feels warm in my face. I feel like I can feel my friends smiling at me too. I can see their eyes, the crinkled lines around them, long to feel their hand, the little warm pads, squeezed for reassurance. Their voices dance like music in my head, and I think I can do this. Lets look out the window – what do you see? Snow, trees, buildings in progress [sneeze] someone [sneeze] someone on their own journey (I wave and he waves back). And my reflection. My breath in a cloud, a thought bubble drawn on the window. I’m going to do this, talk to people, try my best to record what I feel, where I’ve been, because, maybe, maybe someone else has felt one of these things. And maybe, why not, I could go back to one of those songs, teach those lyrics to someone else, someone new. Fucking hell. Life is bright.