She suspects she has only ever had one true affair with the knife, and all those since have been meagre attempts at regurgitation, petty rivalries born of intention and tainted by the anticlimax of recreation. She sits daily watching the synthetic roses, virulent with red, fluoresce persistently on the porch. Moth-bitten, with broken stems and a hairline crack running the length of the ceramic pot that marks their station on the brick step. She sits observing their activity, disassociates herself from the solemn sermon their blushing heads deliver, ducking in the wind. Waiting for something to happen. She has lost, or perceives she has lost (and looks for death on the horizon because she fears she has lost) the ability to make things occur. How useful youth was in the day-to-day creation of happenings. Now she has displaced the seasons, and the pleasant expanse of nothingness, a featureless backdrop, assimilates itself to her emotionless countenance, as she welcomes the weather.
Her father’s house, in the Polish town. Its healthy walls, its strong bone structure. She found it easily, buried knee-deep in the liquid winter, and enquired of the locals as to whether anyone currently resided there. They regarded her, not more obliging than they were wary, with the heavy, knowing gaze of people carrying the burden of the past—both pervasive and private. Her accent was rusty, the native tongue had long since been liberated—a stray cut loose from its derelict cultural confinement. She spoke in dislocated dialogue; the secure, prosaic language of dinner parties and familial get-togethers. Of pleasantries exchanged between well-wishing strangers. Broken German from an elementary textbook. How she hated the sluggish tongue, the barren vowels that tripped reluctantly from the lips, imprisoned by the teeth. The English language seemed a positive ballad of elegant syllables. She had wished never to hear these sunken verbs again. She had tried to forget it all, but they spoke with a dramatic flourish, demanding that she remember, their tone didactic and intense with purpose. Those primitive villagers, deeply set in their archaic ways, the spit in the palm. Such old gestures seem a blessing on unimaginative bones, bones of gypsy ancestry; wrapped in incense and adorned with elaborate jewellery. She briefly caught the delicate, sickly scent of patchouli and lavender, an odour that seeped from their pores, travelled on the breath and suggested unrelenting hardship and wisdom and infinite strength.
She walked self-consciously, away from them, shielding herself from their accusatory recognition, feeling a pariah, a fugitive. As though wearing the flag of her inheritance on her lapel.
Her father died when she was ten, as did most fathers in the war. Fathers, and men. It was never a thing to be fussed over, death is the most reliable thing about life, everyone knows that. And they had dared to glorify it, morph it into a gross celebration. Stripped it of its austerity and depth. Spoke of souls and eternity. She could not allow for this, and carried the weight of his demise with her for so many years, never daring nor feeling inclined to lay it down. To dismantle it. What else can be born of death but sorrow? What else can be born at all?
She retreats to the stairs and pauses to consider the black telephone crouched on its haunches, ready to pounce. To announce. People don’t much come up to the house, it is miles away from the assaulting imposition of neighbouring cities. She doesn’t receive visitors warmly, and all prospective suitors dispatched by well-wishing relatives invariably retire back to their distant homes after an evening of her company, unsettled and discouraged, for she has created for herself a feminine mystique that cannot be penetrated by mere mortal man. She appears in their perception brisk, evasive, and preoccupied. She concentrates on cultivating a solid, scarlet heart to beat a constant rhythm against the world of the dying. She is keeping death out in the physical sense, assimilating herself to the prospect of solitary eternity and forming no attachments.
Sometimes she feels an inexplicable longing for the anonymity of the city, where such informal tools of misinformation as gossip and hearsay are not so readily employed. She envies them their compartmentalized lives, regimented working hours; those unobtrusive strangers who would submit to anything to avoid confrontation. A positive conglomeration of drifting, nameless particles, condensed within the thriving nebula of the city, where one could get smaller every day and very likely disappear.
But the suffocation. She politely declines, preferring to spend her days in the soft sunlight, arranging the weary roses.
She attempts to sweep away the misguided bugs with a few hesitant gestures of the hand. Soon blue saline solutions will wave a salutation to such foreign guests. Her light fingers graze the frayed edges of their heads; the bloody inks are particularly exciting in the sunlight. When the thought of blood transpires, the dizzying swell of the heart’s diastole and systole rises in her chest, a pressing undulation. So perhaps it comes as no conscious surprise when, upon brandishing the pruning sheers in order to trim the petals of their half-eaten siblings, she clips her finger instead of a stem, loosening a sizeable flap of skin over a current of blood. She resists the urge to suck the wound, but stares at her finger, suddenly regarding it as one does an unfamiliar object; a digit not attached to herself. How exquisite a ruby red the blood appears to be, and how warm against the skin. It is amazing how, upon mutilation, a body part becomes something external to the person to which it belongs, merely a treasured belonging. She stares at the finger for so long that it ceases to be a finger, in the same way as a word fails to register in the consciousness as legitimate when it has been repeatedly vocalised. Perhaps there is a separate self that exists beyond the body of physical composites. She puts down the sheers and rearranges the flowers, marvelling over her secret discovery.
Oh, Father. Now is but a moment passing. When does the future become the present and the present become the past? When do the living become the dying, and the dead become the forgotten? The brutish become the commemorated for the death that cleans the slate? Where does the tongue become the throat, and the voice become the word? The heart cease to be the person, but something bigger altogether?