I haven’t managed to post for a couple of days because I have found a pain akin to childbirth. Dental pain. Good God, I ‘d rather cut my leg off below the knee with a rusty saw than endure another night of that. My teeth are in good condition, but I have two fillings in two lower molars on exactly opposite sides of my mouth because I have a thing for symmetry but also had a penchant in childhood for gobstoppers and toffees. Let me tell you sucking all day on a sweetie for years on end does not make for cavity free teeth.
Then there is the British dental system of the 1970s which followed the if-in-doubt-drill-it approach. But it is my dentist, a good old Aussie bloke who has caused the pain I find myself in today. A few years back he recommended root canal for my gobstopper filling even though it wasn’t causing me any problems at the time. Like a good dental patient I aquiesced. All in all the root canal was a relatively pain free procedure but it is the aftermath that has caused me to wish I had told my dentist at the time to Get behind me, Satan.
The tooth is now unstable and prone to inflammation. I have flare ups like this every now and then which are painful and debilitating and make me question the wisdom of a man who told me root canal was “best for the longevity of the tooth.” Right now I feel like ripping the bloomin’ thing out with a pair of pliers.
Anyhoo, I have missed reading everyone’s blogs and will catch up soon. I did feel well enough this evening, however to finish off my story for this week’s Search Engine Stories.
The prompt is It’s Good To See You.
My story is called Waiting For Snow.
I was waiting for so long after it was over for you to call and tell me you’d changed your mind, that you didn’t want to, couldn’t let me go. For years I waited – over seven million minutes – I figured it out once; but I never heard from you again.
Until today. Ten years later. Ten years after your mother said I was unacceptable wife material. I couldn’t believe how quickly you backed down once it became clear she would not give our engagement her approval. One minute I was the love of your life, the next minute I was persona non grata. I kept expecting you to collapse in a heap like a pile of old clothes because obviously your spine had been forcibly removed. But you remained upright, your mind so definitively changed it was like the past between us was non-existing.
There is something that feels like bleeding to be told you come from the wrong family, that you went to the wrong schools, that you are not quite right.
‘We don’t want their sort in the family,’ I heard your mother say at one of the luncheons she had when she was still tolerating me. By their sort she meant me and my mother.
My Mum is a little loopy, a little lop-sided, but she’s really not that bad. She has her ups and downs, it’s the depression, you see, but it’s not as if she’s going to take an axe to someone. It’s not as if she’s going to walk into a government building with live grenades in her pockets. She is as keen on keeping the status quo as the next person.
My mum is a survivor. ‘I’m like the tree growing from stone,’ she always says. It’s her favourite analogy. We saw it once – a tree growing right through stone. The tiniest crack in the footpath, right there in the middle of the city, and there it was – a real tree – thrusting up through stone and dust like a hand reaching for the light.
She refers to that tree every time I see her. My mother. She calls it the true green tree of hope. ‘To survive in such conditions gives hope to all of us,’ she says.
I couldn’t tell my mother you were gone for two years. Two whole years I lied to her. She would have blamed herself. She is depressed but she is not unaware of how others perceive her.
She loved you, you see. Really loved you. ‘The son I never had,’ she said. ‘The son you will never have again,’ I thought.
At night I used to dream of people crying, wailing for mercy. I didn’t know them but I recognised the colour of their tears. When I awoke I realised no one was crying but me.
And now you are here. Again.
It is a wedding. An old friend of both of us. You are sitting with a woman. She is your wife. She has an overly proprietary air when it comes to you, stemming from insecurity, I suspect. She sits there in her floral prints and sensible shoes, her lips pressed together as if she is trying to stop herself from calling out; while you lounge, long-limbed and lean, dressed in a well cut black suit that does little to disguise your natural ease and sensuality. Every woman in the room is watching you. We are all thinking the same thing :’ How did he end up with her?’ Our fascination with you and your wife draws us like a net.
Without even knowing her, I know who she is. Well bred, good family, excellent connections. No skeletons in her closet, no potential problems which could blow up in your family’s face except for her tendency to overeat when she is anxious and her regular interrogation of you regarding whether or not you are having an affair which arises from you coming home more than an hour after you’ve finished work. A lot can happen in an hour. She knows that as well as anybody.
Our eyes met across a crowded room. I’ve always wanted to say that. It is as corny an experience as you might think. Yet it is real. You came over to my table immediately where I was ensconced with all the maiden aunts, drowning in eau de toilette with a hint of lavender. You pulled me to my feet and kissed me just like it was yesterday. ‘It’s good to see you,’ you said with that knowing smile you have.
I can’t say it was good on my part. Seeing you again was like lodging a fish hook in my heart and using it to slowly rip out my aorta. What might have been and all that. How did you manage to capture my heart and hold on to it even when you left me? It is a sombre skill to have.
When you returned to your table your wife regarded me with suspicion. You took off your jacket and I saw the tattoo on your wrist – the one with my name on it. I wondered how you explained that one to her. I wondered why you had kept it.
For the rest of the evening I sat, listening to Aunt Maude complain about the fish course and the fact that the salad was wilted, bathed in the blue white glow from the ice sculpture. “Swans Entwined” it was called. I laughed when I found out. So did you. Our eyes met, slipping back into the secret way we used to have so easily it took me by surprise. For the rest of the evening we looked everywhere but at each other. I felt like a high school girl playing that hard to get game.
There was a sense of awareness between us. Of each other. Of the situation. I wondered how much I would have to push for you to cross the line. Or how little.
I thought about it. Pulling you into the rest room like some kind of pathetic, lovelorn wretch, but it was only appealing for a second.
One of the swan’s wings on the ice sculpture was melting. A chunk fell off and landed in the crystal basin the sculpture was sitting in. It was the size of a fist, the shape of a real heart, just lying there turning to cloudy water.
All of a sudden I had to leave. People were dancing. I could hear their heels tapping on the dancefloor like knuckles on windows. Waiting to see someone again can be like sitting at a window waiting for snow – the heaped snowflakes turn so quickly to water you might as well have been waiting for rain.
I held my breath as I walked into the dusk, clutching the handrail that led to the street like I was trembling and brittle. It was warm without the swans on ice and the look in your wife’s eyes. I walked along the darkened streets, suddenly sure-footed, abandoning traces of the past like footprints on grass, knowing I could tell my mother the truth immediately – that this time you were gone.