Time. To waste, to kill.
Before the appointment.
Wandering back and forth in front of the clinic, wondering if anyone notices from the upper window, if they watch, thinking: What the Hell is she doing? Is she mental or something?
Wouldn't blame them. How I must seem. How I feel.
Outside of myself yet also lodged deep, a splinter in my own brains and belly, twisting, growing sceptic...
Poison thoughts, lacing every consideration; paranoid, anxious idiocies: This man, with his perpetual scowl...scowling at me, murder in his eyes. Smearing me with a glance as he passes, leaving me as little more than a stain on the pavement. This woman and her screaming children, rolling her eyes, sighing. Not at them. At me, at me. Another obstacle, another unwanted distraction.
Strangers not the worst; people I know, people who purport to love me...I know. I know. What they think, what they sometimes say, whispering in their little cabals, their secret meetings at Moms and Trevor's...the messages they swap on line, the texts they send.
Some of them found, though they don't know it. Some of them read.
Some of them less cowardly, sent directly:
I know we've never got on all that well. I don't know why. But why don't we see you anymore? Was it what Trevor said at Gloria's funeral? He didn't mean to upset you, none of us did. People are worried about you. It's like you hardly speak to anybody, these days. Please us a call or pop over. We can talk, if you want.
The letter torn, partially screwed up before I even finished reading it. Not her; this concerned, fretting woman, this woman that suddenly cares what I think, what I feel.
Too late, too late, Mom. For a long time, now.
Early, as always. For everything. Another one of the anxieities she handed down to me, afflicted on me. Doctor Weathers likely already waiting in her office, having cleared her schedule, after last night. Panic, breathless, a frantic call.
I won't. Not today. No matter the rain, the cold; no matter the lightning searing my nerves. Late. Late, late, late...the word, the concept alone enough to make me breathless.
Stopping, closing my eyes, not caring what those who pass by make of it; that they tut and mutter and stare:
Forcing the world to slow, time to wind down. Not gasping, drawing in several deep breaths, imagining warm sea water, tinted amber by setting sun, washing over me, through me...
Calm. A moment, a place...maybe a memory: some childhood holiday from when I was a toddler, before the machinery of remembering had even fully calibrated itself.
White sand, warm sun... a forest of strange trees to the West, bounded by a broken wooden fence, mountains to the South, a small chalet in their shadow. Where we slept, where we bathed and ate breakfast, where Dad drank his vile, black coffee, before we headed down to the water's edge every day...
Barely a heartbeat, but enough. Sun giving way to murk and rain, calm to a more serene state of anxiety; enough to let me function, to seem as though I'm not a lunatic, an alien in a poorly fitting human skin.
Away from the clinic, though there are only fifteen minutes to go; back, back the way I came from, against the tide, the strange eyes, tuts and disapproving mutters, not one actually speaking, not one saying hello.
To the church, with its dark, high-arched windows, its plinth; a grassy hillock, raised and recessed from the road.
So out of place, amongst the scattering of electronics shops and hair-dressers; a structure from another time, better suited to surroundings of fields and forests.
The path rising beneath my feet as I head up the small lane down its right hand side; the houses here a strange confusion of modern structures and other anachronisms; those that clearly serve the church, and have done for some time, others looking as though they were erected throughout the years then successively modernised; fitted with double-glazing and extensions, conservatories and annexes.
So quiet, even the clamour of the road fading, though it's still clearly visible. A moment of thought for Doctor Weathers, a twitchy, nervous woman herself, always gnawing on a pen or fidgeting with her clothes, as though afraid they might decay around her, that they might suddenly constrict and crush her mosquito frame.
Grinding my teeth at the thought of it; sitting in that chair, pouring out my woes and secrets to her.
Though she's helped me so much. Though she's kept me from crisis, on more than one occasion. I don't like her; haven't from the first moment we met. Telling her so, during one of our sessions. The woman shrugging, fiddling with a loose strand of hair:
“We aren't required to like one another, Lisa. We're not here to be friends.”
No, no, and that's good, because we never will be.
Away. Away from the clinic. From letters. From watches. From Doctor Weathers. From prescriptions and pills and plastic-politeness.
This lane, descending down the back of the hill, winding like a great, flattened snake, the road itself poorly maintained, cracked and broken, rain welling from its wounds like infected blood, gurgling down its gutters, carrying a freight of dirt and leaves.
Decorating the hill's flank...a graveyard, a rusted steel fence surrounding it, a stiff, shrieking gate providing access.
Not knowing why I pull the gate open, its rust coming away in my palm, biting into my fingers. Not knowing why I follow the winding, overgrown path between the stones.
Serenity. Sweeter than any pills or memories -fantasies- of childhood beaches might bring; a sense of utter calm, stillness inside. Almost alien to me; a state that has me stumbling to a halt, a hand to my chest, a strange smile spreading across my face.
What is this?
Crows and magpies calling, perched on the lop-sided, moss-crawling gravestones, the boughs of the great, leafless sycamores and rowans that sprout between them.
The legends on the stones all but illegible, stained or weathered beyond interpretation, those rotting beneath long, long, long forgotten, no doubt, outside of some obscure church records.
Give us a call. Or pop round, if you like.
“No,” smiling, “no, I don't think I will. Not any time soon.”
Following the way, the path diversifying amongst the irregular ranks and clusters of graves, not even checking my watch, certain that my session has begun, by now; that Doctor Weathers will be calling to check up on me.
Always so punctual; what my teachers, my bosses, love about me. Its lack something I loathe in others, that Doctor Weathers tells me I need to understand at a base level: where does that anxiety derive from? What do I think is going to happen if someone is two or three or ten minutes late?
Nothing. Nothing. I don't know. All I know is...it physically hurts, sometimes; my temples pounding, my throat constricting, my heart...
Crows cawing as they take flight, more than I thought, the magpies following suit. So many, so many...enough to obscure the graveyard, the church...to blot out the sky.
Not flailing, not panicking; no familiar constriction, no lightning scorching my nerves, no storm waxing in my belly...only weightlessness, a sense of lurching forward, of the ground abruptly falling away, leaving me...
Not flying. Not falling. Drifting. A feather-thing, bones lighter than those of the birds that this new state is comprised of, that dart and flutter throughout every inch of space, that caw and croak and shriek and peck, though only at themselves, one another, leaving me untouched...
Poison. Tainted meat. Rotten mind.
Until they disperse, until the fluttering of wings ceases, and I fall. Hard, hard against the earth, the wet, almost fluid soil, as though the rain has been falling for days rather than hours, reducing the entire graveyard to mire.
Sliding on hands and knees down the slope, clawing at the muck, coming away with fistfuls of grass and weeds.
Familiar; the acid mainline of pure panic, a bolt of burning blue from crotch to forehead, igniting and scorching whatever it passes.
Something wrong...with my eyes; I can't see...
But I can; vague shapes, those of the gravestones, the surrounding trees, the silhouettes of nearby houses, the church. Windows burning, those of the houses white and cold, those of the church orange and warm.
Shivering, frozen, not with rain, but frost, glittering frost covering everything, colder than any winter dusk.
Staggering, the ground no longer sludge, but hard and cruel beneath my feet, biting into naked soles. The world reeling around me, melting before my eyes, becoming a smeard image in a damaged cinema reel.
Sunshine, afternoon warmth, a sweet and still haze, ghosts of children dancing between the stones, mourners laying bunches of flowers and sewn dolls upon them. Watching, as they smile, as they weep; as they call their dancing, laughing kin to their arms.
A thought, a heartbeat, the world shimmering once more, ripples passing through it like a reflection in a still pond.
Suddenly surrounded, milling with those who gather, here in the church grounds. The stink of them; enough to make me gag, every breath flatulent, the sweat and filth of their bodies, their unwashed clothes...all eyes on the figure swaying in the soft sun, her filthy, battered body spasming, her eyes bulging from their sockets, alight with hatred, poisoned froth bubbling from her lips as she curses them all, curses every inch of land they walk and air they breathe...
Letting go, turning the page; a sensation like twisting a kaleidoscope, watching the world come apart before falling into pattern once more.
Choking, clutching at my throat, a colony of parasite ants suddenly swarming within. Burning grit in the air, in my eyes, seeing the church through them; a burned, shelled out ruin, yellow and scarlet haze, a sick sun; feverish, ash on the breeze, on every breath...
Closing my eyes, seeking that place; that stillness. The beach, amber sea, white, blinding sun. Mom and Dad...still in the chalet, as I carve a path through the white sand, toddling to the water's edge. As the crow settles on a nearby bit of driftwood, as it caws to me, seeming to say my name...
The sense of flailing, unfixedness, fading, grasping this moment with unseen fingers, in a vice of pure intent.
Opening my eyes.
A new world, a timeless world, that I don't know; past or future, some other present...not knowing or caring.
The church still standing, the trees betraying Autumn in their gold and scarlet gowns, the majority of them shed to reveal the black, gnarled bodies beneath. My friends the crows and magpies perched amongst them in cackling multitudes, watching, as though awaiting my next miracle.
Now as then, when they cackled and cawed their secrets to me, as they did to her, before the jealous and unsung choked the magic from her.
Laughing. Inside and out, at the thought of Doctor Weathers and her gnawed shapeless pens, her twitching leg, her flitting, uncertain eyes...
Not needed, not here, not now, not ever.
Wondering who or what or if she is, in this slice of time, this snared, stolen moment. What I might find out there, early for my own birth, late for my own death, beyond all anxiety or concern, where tomorrow or yesterday are barely a thought away.
George Lea is an entity that seems to simultaneously exist and not exist at various points and states in time and reality, mostly where there are vast quantities of cake to be had. He has a lot of books. And a cat named Rufus. What she makes of all this is anyone's guess.