All entries for Wednesday 13 January 2010
January 13, 2010
I do not what overcame me, perhaps the shock of the burn from the piping kettle steam, cunningly cool to the touch at first, but then suddenly clawing an additional scar into my arm. It stings still, nestling beside my war wounds, one from being sent to my death with only a poorly designed oven glove for armour, that left my freckled wrist exposed, a white gash, singed with pink, now left. Another from a wedding reception, crying in a B&B amongst yellowing, floral wall paper, because my first boyfriend told me he didn’t believe in “the entrapment of marriage”, and so the wine glass shattered, and I accidentally on purpose dug a shard into my engagement ring finger, an attempt to hollow out the gap I feared, at just 14, would be forever vacant.
The shock of the kettle steam was alluring at first, not so much a shock but the sudden remembrance of physical pain, an externalised sensation I was thankful to feel. I do not know what overcame me, but I thought of you, my legs suddenly weak, and my cheek unexpectedly laying on the orange linoleum floor, my eyes focusing on the world from this new perspective, a foreign land of autumn leaves, curled red onion skins and snowflakes, of coriander, sugar and salt, gently exfoliating my bare face.
I had not fainted, but suddenly succumbed to a captivating glimpse of the past, overturning the myths played out in my head to romanticise an already fairly dreamy childhood, to unearth a discarded snapshot of domesticity. You were making tea in the kitchen of your first cottage (well, not your first, but the first home of yours I can recall), and the cat, not yet fat from your love like the previous had been, with the majestic nonchalance of feline pride, leapt upon the tiled counter, knocking the just-boiled water over your elbow. You were leant placidly on the counter, that pink and wrinkled elbow, blanketed in excess skin, supporting the chubby arm and surprisingly delicate hand that placed the cigarette in your mouth, bathed in the lava of an Earl Grey catastrophe.
You did not flinch, but shut your eyes very slowly, as though wearing your death-mask and an impassive funeral director was respectfully shielding your dead gaze from the living world. The cat, Lionel, was unaware of his part in the disaster, and arched his back obliviously, scaling the net curtains to finally wriggle out of ever so slightly open window, cleverly left open for his escape. That cigarette was held between your pierced lips for what seemed like an eternity, and I remember I did not get up from the make-shift kitchen table, consisting of a cracked plastic garden table and two wooden stools. I remained still also, awaiting a reaction.
You relished that pain, and taught me to relish it that day too. After several seconds you moved your arm from the counter, and stubbed the cigarette out in the sink. Your hand waved in front of your face, dispelling the smoke, and you apologised for the habit, asking me not to tell my Mother you’d started again. You turned, your elbow almost bubbling in pain, and poured what was left in the kettle into two china mugs depicting bluebirds. “Just enough left in the kettle for the both of us.”
You sat down at the table beside me, absent-mindedly spooning too many sugars into your tea and raining the grains down across the white plastic surface, like you were gritting it for snow, making it safe for me. You were my aunt, and today I thought of you. I do not know what overcame me, but the kitchen floor felt cool on my skin, and I remained there, curled up momentarily, comforted by the misplaced recollection. I then sighed, tutted just like you would of, and climbed downstairs to smoke a cigarette in the Warwickshire snow.