Friday, August 26, 2016

Nice Girl

The girl - the other girl - is pushing the stripy pushchair along the pavement. Aldi carrier bags swing from both handles. She almost walks into me. The baby is playing with its feet. The eyes of the child in the pram are his eyes, green and bright. 

Those are the eyes that I once fell into, coiled together on that old sofa with the stuffing bleeding out, our hands exploring one another for the first time.

Their baby has snot snaking down towards its lips. They’re his lips, too. His warm lips on mine on that sweaty sofa, the teenage mingle of sweat and aftershave, stolen from his dad’s bathroom cabinet. 

I’ve replayed this scene a thousand times – bumping into him, or bumping into her, bumping into them both. Showing him I’m fine, I’m over it. I’ve done all right for myself, thanks. But the baby, this baby with his eyes and his lips has stalled me.

He was a big fish in our small home town, once. He reeled me in, threw his affection around for a while. Before unhooking me, letting me go. Now he’s just a minnow, pulling this other girl and baby along in his wake. 

The baby with his eyes, his lips.

I was just a nice girl, he said. She was more adventurous than me, he said. Now she looks like the stuffing’s been kicked out of her, like the stuffing on that sofa, where I first tasted lust and excitement. 

In her dead eyes I see my alternate life. The one that got away. Her adventures confined now to a snotty child and budget chicken korma.

When we meet on the pavement, him and the girl – the adventurous one – and their snotty child, the one with his eyes, his lips, I don’t say any of the things I thought I’d say. 

I don’t tell him what a success I am. I don’t say Remember me? I just smile. I just stand there and smile, politely. 

I’m the nice girl, remember?




Friday, August 12, 2016

Sarité

Sarité is dead again. Nearby, a mother kneels at the side of the road in loud lament for the shattered child in her arms. An old man leans in the doorframe of his soot-blacked house, watching me. Leaning is the best option after the landmine took his leg and his livelihood. Images surface when I’m not looking, in idle moments when I’m tempted to believe the world is a safe place again. But it never was.

I see Sarité again, turning to smile at me as she walks away, adjusting the child on her hip. “See you tomorrow,” I call out, but she doesn’t answer. Perhaps she knows that I will see her in an eternity of tomorrows, but not she me.

The moments fade, stealing my energy like a receding wave sucking sand off a beach, and I am left incredulous that life is mundane.

I move through each day, get on with my life like I’ve been told to. I get up, I do my job, I drive through endless stop-start traffic. A car backfires in the middle of Reading and I’m in Baghran again, running, stumbling from the Hazara marketplace as it explodes around me and all I can think is that I’ve dropped those beautiful pomegranates I’d bought. It jolts through my chest like an electric shock: I don’t see the marketplace, but I feel like I’m there again and it pulls the breath straight out of me. Someone hoots their horn at me, and I drive on down West Street, hands and feet still jarring.

Later there’s a film on. But a man pulls a gun and I spill my drink, Baghran intruding. Even sleep isn’t safe: I see Sarité’s face and what they did to her. The old man leans in his doorway and watches me. Awake in the dark, my heart slows back down, sweat turns to chill, but it’s always the hands and feet that take the longest to feel normal again.

And so comes tomorrow: I battle the traffic, panic in the Tesco crowds, meet a friend for coffee. My friend says goodbye, turns to smile at me as she walks away, and Sarité is dead again.



by Olivia Jackson

Monday, August 1, 2016

After Terror

There will be a pile of sand
flanked by 31 stones
where a sister died. She
was carrying coloring books
and boxes of crayons
in her backpack
when the bomb came,
her final breath a question,
not a goodbye. She
was carrying them for those
who died before
in similar blasts and fear.

Now there are lies,
speculation, calculations.
What'll happen when
it comes here.
A girl on the subway
cups her hands to alert
her mother she's hungry.
A boy plays with a toy
machine gun. In each I see
postures becoming
prayer, notes for us

who haven't yet fallen.










Photograph:
L.M. Hurtado




by Carl Boon