Tag Archives: Prose

A Coloured Room

By George Alabaster

Association: Room 669

The maid comes every morning to change my sheets and spruceup my pillows. Today I feel crisp and clean when she leaves. I’m waiting for mynext visitors, wondering who they will be. Yesterday was a solitary man whocame late and left early. His body barely made an impression, a cold sack ofskin lying rigid and alone. Those are the worst kind of guests.

The door opens and two people come in. A man and a woman. Thewoman puts a heavy rucksack on me; the man throws his on my brother. They sitand talk with tired voices about where they’ve been and where they’re going. Ilisten. When I’m alone I construct narratives from these snatches ofconversation, spinning complex tales to pass the hours.

The man takes a shower and the woman sits flicking through aguidebook. They leave as soon as the man has finished. I’m alone again. Fromwhat I heard they’ve been travelling for some time, a few days here, a few daysthere. I decide both have left their jobs, choosing to see the world together.He intends to go back to office work but she wants to start again, carving outa new life. A painter, perhaps.

For the rest of the day I imagine the kind of things shewill paint. Maybe it will be landscapes, swirled in amber mist, or portraits ofold and important men.

They come back late and drunk. Fingers fumble for the switchand sharp light is thrown over the room. He goes into the bathroom, then I feelher painter’s hands on me. I am being pushed closer to my brother. She onlymoves me an inch before lying down, but we are nearer now.

Her body is warm and soft. There are no sharp angles to it andher curves swim across my surface, just like the mist will shimmer over thepeak she paints. The man comes out of the bathroom but doesn’t notice thechange. The light is switched off and we drift away.

Over the days that follow she moves me closer and closer tomy brother. I feel the ridges and furrows of her hands, fingers engaged in aslow waltz to a lonely tune. The man either doesn’t notice or says nothing.Then one night they stumble in drunk again and suddenly it’s happening. I amslammed against my brother. Their bodies fall on me together, twisting andturning like the fog she will one day capture. I see the colours of it all, adeep red and a sleepy gold, dying in the sun.

They stay for another week. Every morning and every night theypaint the scene again, their bodies like brushes sweeping across a canvas. Butthen something changes. I don’t know what happened, but I know something has.For one night I am still against my brother, but they do not touch, lying stifflike the man before them. The next night I am back where I was before, and theday afterwards they are gone.

George Alabaster is a philosophy student at Manchester University.


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Words We Used. Things We Know

By Emma Lannie

Association: I was picking out lines from Budget Family Room, one of which was, “morning sun into slices of light”. At the same time, I happened to be listening to a playlist a friend of a friend had made, and the last track was Kerouac reading October In The Railroad Earth. The line, “old Frisco, with end-of-land sadness,” jumped out. I liked the serendipity of running into Kerouac twice in the same hour. And “end-of-land sadness” is such a great phrase. I instantly started thinking about end of the world places, coasts, beaches, and then the sun worked its way in, too, quite naturally. So both the blog title, and Helen’s poem were starting points for my story.

Words We Used. Things We Know

The beach in all its hot brightness kept us anchored there. We watched as strangers ran down to the water, jumped waves, went crashing into the depths. We didn’t move. The conversation had left us spent and reeling, unsure of where to go next. The words still clung to all parts of our bodies and tried to creep themselves under our skin, but I think we resisted. I’m certain we resisted.

The towels we sat on were being overtaken by sand, a grain or twenty at a time. And all we could do was breathe in and breathe out again, hoping that we wouldn’t end up Sphinx-like, buried underneath a desert for thousands of years.

Some children playing frisbee; the screams of victory and near-misses.

No birds.

A gentle breeze.

His hand an inch away from my leg. And that just-above-the-knee part of me wanting to feel his hand there again, under the sun’s full glare, if only once. If only for a second.

The afternoon empty of words. Us emptied of words. And our bodies doing that thing that bodies do, confessing a craving in small frenzied ways. The wetting of lips, the hand moving ever closer, all alert, ears listening for a yes or for something that might end up as a yes, when the silence is finally broken.

We should have never let it happen. Words We Used. Friendships rarely survive these things. We sat there together knowing something had ended. We sat at the edge of the land mass and knew that we couldn’t go back, not to undo things or to make them right. And still the tide came in, came closer.

And even if his hand could have rested against my skin then, it would never have been forever. It would only ever have been a last-chance idea we convinced ourselves was for the taking. Sometimes it’s not good to trust your body with the truth of things. Because without words, and away from the rules of the everyday, the things bodies do mean exactly what you think they do. If something is wanted, you know about it. But in the world you have to refrain from that. And it’s no surprise that the saddest part of any song is the refrain. All the holding-back, the un-allowing yourself to do what it is you most want to do. Until it happens anyway.

Things We Know: the sun will burn hotter; the breeze will trick us into thinking we are okay. And we’ll smile and really try to believe that it doesn’t matter, that whatever happened between us doesn’t change who we are to one another. Only sometimes, not often, one of us will wake in the night with the memory of it and the burning hot of what we wanted then, and what we took. And even when new skin has grown over the old, the damage will still be visible underneath.

Our bodies will always know that this happened.

Emma J Lannie grew up in Manchester, lives and writes in Derby, and blogs here: (http://garglingwithvimto.blogspot.com).


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