She is broken. Her head hurts; her whole being hurts. The world, she realizes, is moving too quickly; were once she could shrug it off, now it wears her down.
They tell her she is over-reacting. Her life is perfect. She wants for nothing in a world starved. It’s true, she has everything. So the next time the heaviness clamps on her frame, she simply counts her possessions and wears a smile.
I have everything, she reminds herself as she loses her grip and slips into an abyss; as she drowns without a fight.
I wanted a fairytale set in the snow – soft white flakes suspended in the air like dandelions; delicious heaps of vanilla ice masking the dirt stained ground; bare trees holding slivers of white, sprinkling them about occasionally like confetti.
I wanted my world to be delicate and pure and perfect, a world made of ice and lace.
When it happened, I was ecstatic. I was living in my very own snow globe. It was perfect. But then the sun came out and everything changed. The snow started a slow melt; the pure white turned to muck. Everything became messy, and difficult, and now I don’t know how to get out.
As a little girl I loved white roses.
I liked that they were not red, or pink, but still smelled just as pretty. Each time I found one, I’d pluck the petals one by one, being careful not to tear them in the process. For some reason it was terribly important for me not to tarnish them, break them, ruin them in any way. I was a very clumsy child, but with the petals I was always very careful.
Once my small white heap was complete, I’d pick each petal and gently rub the soft white flesh with my thumb and fore finger, letting the delicate aroma sink into my fingerprints, into my bloodstream. I was sure one day it would be enough, one day I too would smell like a rose; a white rose, flawless and not common.
I’ve grown up now; I know better. When I see a white rose, I ball my fists and pull away from the vicious, spewing thorns.
He looks at the face – it’s drawn in black, a pen or a marker maybe – and clearly photocopied. The lines start off certain and fluid, but a little past where the cheekbones meet the chin, the ink begins to fade out, leaving a trail of spots and blotches. Do people go to art school, spend years attending lectures, drawing nudes, and paying exorbitant fees, just to end up with a job like this, their artwork pinned on soft-boards and taped to lampposts, he wonders. This must amount to a career of disappointments, surely. He imagines a band of suicidal artists being forced to sit across dank police stations across the country, fuelled by cups of cold tea and silent desperation, sketching criminals, putting faces where only fear exists.
He wonders what the artist was thinking while sketching this one. Was he given a low down of the crimes? Did he have a victim fill his head? Did he judge, frown in disgust at the deeds of wrong piled up, creating a monster? Or did the artist sympathise with the face being pulled out of police records, first the forehead, then the eyebrows, the thin hairline, recognizing the turbulence that fuelled the crimes. Surely the artist, stewing in cocoon of frustration, has an inkling of how quickly things can go wrong.
He notes the delicate softening around the curve of the lips; instinctively he reaches for his lips and smiles in recognition. He also recognizes the multiple dimensions in the eyes – this is a complicated man, with a complicated life, the artist tells him. He nods in agreement, pulling his cap further down, as he walks away, hiding those eyes, those spots and blemishes.
The doctors say she has temporary amnesia. She doesn’t remember anything, but it is only temporary. They keep using the word ‘temporary’ like it’s supposed to make things better. How long till she remembers, I ask them, my eyes locked on the machine marking squiggly lines on the monitor as she breathes. It could be within the week, or it could take up to a year, they say. “You shouldn’t worry though, it’s just temporary.”
I spend that first week talking. I tell her who she is. I tell her who I am. I tell her about her accident. When she asks, I tell her about us and how we met. I tell her about her favourite things. I tell her about our favourite things. When I catch her eye, between conversational gaps, she smiles back at me. When I share a joke, she laughs.
The week grows into three and she still doesn’t remember. We moved back home because the doctors say it’s better for her to be in an environment that is familiar. At first it is awkward, then it’s less so. We’ve even slipped into a routine –I leave early in the morning, kissing her forehead before heading out; she spends her day trying to remember and painting in her garage studio, trying to recognize herself in the art she creates; when I get home, we have a simple meal –sometimes I cook, sometimes she does; we talk about this and that and about nothing at all; and then we go to bed– separate beds because she doesn’t remember and that makes it weird. Sometimes we kiss. It’s always a soft, lingering kiss. Afterwards, alone, in our bedroom, I catch myself thinking, this is kind of perfect, maybe she doesn’t need to remember.