Bin Night

Above WaterCreative

The ceiling felt squashed, sinking down towards the armchair in the brown room. It was the centre of gravitational pull in the house, each seashell and bookmark inching towards it. With an out breath, she too moved slightly towards it, a g&t in one hand and the Four Pillars bottle in the other, precariously balanced. She was compressed, but for her it was the floor, her yoga mat, the dirt. She willed them to meet her. Instead they ate her up and licked their lips afterwards.

Each time she looked down the opening chords of a symphony began, and ended as she jerked her head to horizon level. Vertigo, she suspected, but wasn’t bothered to confirm or deny it. The doctors had said that being ‘grounded’ would bring her back to herself. But she was suffocated. Would her yoga class fee cover a therapy session too?

Her organs felt messy. The vessel of her torso sailing through hard-edged waters. The diaphragm clearly not performing as it should. It was too empty, allowing blood to filter in from all sides and consume organs. The seashells rocked gently on the mantlepiece, mimicking her water breaking. There was a scraping inside her chambers, as though by a scalpel. Surely her breathing was coming from somewhere else then — the gin perhaps, compensating for an empty womb.

No longer an out breath but a sigh of almost ecstasy as she reached the brown chair and let the weight of the ceiling sink her down. Some forces good, others scary and dense. This one was needy and moaning on her, and she liked it. A few sips later.

She waved a goodbye to the picture frame on the mantlepiece. God she hated when people she loathed looked good in photos. Her arms sticky, moulding through a heavy air that felt like honey to the touch. A humidity rang out in the house like sirens, and she embodied an ant on the side of a jam jar. Precarious, knowing that the plunge below was sweet — too sweet to deserve. She was already too sweaty. She took another sip. Her arm slammed back down beside her.

She had a particular relationship to Tuesdays. This Tuesday was bad. The issue, she’d decided, was that it was bin night. The bathroom bins couldn’t possibly be emptied. It wasn’t so much the neighbours she worried about, but how the stench would hit her nose. Would it bring back too much, too little, nothing at all. Trousers with bloodstains could be taken straight to the tip instead, if she drove? Shoved in the boot of her pick-up truck, out of sight, out of smell. She grinned, good idea you.

She’d been told she couldn’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t drive, and that if she did, something bad would happen. Something bad has happened, she would reply, receiving sympathetic furrowed brows in response. Furrowed brows were performative. She wondered if scrubs were just costumes stolen from a high school theatre wardrobe.

Last week she’d been sent home with four of his friends to accompany her. Apparently she needed that many people to make it in the front door and into her own bedroom.

She likes the shells placed in height order, he’d said to the troops helping her upstairs. Are you all listening to what I’m saying? Like this. As they reached the bottom of the stairs, they all looked back as he transferred sea shells from a carry bag to the mantlepiece with the care of a new father. Got it, they replied in varying tones of unison, and headed upstairs with her in tow.

Husband’s Little Helpers left the house. It was just him and her left, not a standoff, but a shift that made the house slanted. They were actors, on the upstage and downstage, but never on the same plane. Separated with urgency.

“Why did you ask me to leave?” he said.

“You smelt like hand sanitiser, and I wanted my room to smell like roses,” she replied.

“I drove you home through peak hour traffic—”

“I know. I was there.”

Her hand rose to slap him. Damn it, too collapsible. Some famous author probably wrote that words were stronger than actions. Yeah, let’s go with that.

“I felt like a fucking child,” she said.

Swearing equals passion, right? A yummy fricative.

“I could get up the stairs without help, and instead you recruited your mates to do it. It was pathetic,” she said.

“They wouldn’t let me sign you out unless—”

“Sometimes I wish everything could have happened here, not in a hospital bed,” she said.

“I feel like I’ve watched years worth of home renovation programs. And I hate renovation shows,” she continued.

“You didn’t bring me anything I asked for. I wrote fucking poems about the revolting chocolate sludge they gave me to stop my brain from shutting off,” she said.

This was prodding. Like a dirty stick to a campfire. A physical reaction would be appreciated please. A step forward, a scratching of the arm, a raised eyebrow would be enough to get her breathing back. She spoke to his bones, praying for movement.

And, nothing. When does intimacy one day become forgotten the next.

“It’s good to see you standing again,” he replied.

With a smack of the face he left the house, wrapping his arms around his torso before he got in his car and fucked off for good. She’d been left in the centre of the brown room, swaying from foot to foot, ears fixated on the sound of his diesel engine.

Now it was her brain that felt sticky. Still like honey, but textured, with some pearls thrown in that ricocheted from one side of her head to the other. She should not have asked him to leave with a yell and a scream reminiscent of hysteria. Ricochet.

She shouldn’t have called him pathologically submissive, paralysed by confrontation. Ricochet. She should have begged him to stay, stay, take care of her and the height- ordered seashells. Ricochet. Her hand trembled against the glass as she thought about how much cereal they’d gone through together. How many bowls of cornflake- granola fusion they’d accidentally dribbled into when the laughter got too much. In any case, she’d forgotten what aisle of the supermarket the granola was in, and had switched to multigrain bread.

She returned to the issue of the bins. How long would it take to empty all of them (well, not all) into the big bin and return to the g&t? Too long, she muttered. Too long, too long, too long, she could see her vowels stretched out before her like chewing gum. She’d always been a consonant girl, but she liked this performance. It needed an audience: the picture of him on the mantlepiece. That’ll do. She could see every crinkle of his wicked smile. She let it land in her gut like a raisin hitting teeth, a chewing motion, a melding of love and disgust. She found words with lots of oo sounds — too, you, threw, argue — and shot him with them. She wanted him to see it all: the jut of her hip bone, the air riding to and fro her stomach, and she wanted it all to be fast and hot. With everything in the room watching.

Not good. Her hair brittle like tangled wire, caught on the screws of the wooden house. She sat back, felt the muscles of the chair contract into her. Safer? Not really. Must’ve reached the end of the gin bottle, she thought, feeling the last dregs of the glass claw down her throat and into her belly. She liked shots of gin more than vodka. It seemed more civilised, less high-schoolers-at-a-night-club. She wondered what that much alcohol could do to stomach lining, to a life force. Maybe she already knew. Was that a knock?

Time machines sounded dumb until you remembered what they could do. God how she wished it was 1606. England, maybe. Somewhere where her vocabulary would be more Shakespearean and less vulgar. How exciting to be in the Gunpowder Plot and not the tragedy in her stomach. Taking wicker sleds to execution felt more courageous than sitting in an armchair and drinking.

The plotters were hanged, eviscerated, then beheaded. Not great, but at least all of London was watching from their windows. Thick velvet curtains lay across her house’s windows like skin. If she were beheaded, no-one would be able to peek in and stare in delight. Or disgust. She didn’t mind which.

What she knew for sure: there was cheese in the fridge, the gin was empty, somebody wanted to get in, she hadn’t signed the papers. What she didn’t know: where any pens were.

If she could characterise the knock at the front door in literary terms: insistent, angry, petulant, aggressive. Trying them on for size like a wedding ring, she liked petulant the best. But there were too many obstacles between her and the door. The bins mostly. She mimicked the rhythm of the knock on her glass — her clinking and his banging sounded like something out of new-wave.

She wondered whether her trauma could incite a new-found musical ability. Stop knocking. Maybe she could become one of those depressed-but-brilliant piano players who played in underground bars in Berlin. Nah, plane flight was too long anyway, and what made her think she could ever play the fucking piano?

She sent herself into vertigo again, head to the floor, then up again, then down. Surely company would be a nice thing again? Stop it. The centre of gravity had changed, he was pulling the house towards him. The door was shoved, it opened, she looked up. The photo on the mantlepiece was now 3D. The gin glass fell into her lap like a carcass, and he reached out to grab it.

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