The Aisle

by Rose

‘I will do anything to make it up to you if you’ll just meet me at the church, where we got married, at 5. Please. I’ll do anything’. Jenny kept looking at the message on the phone over and over.

She had decided to get there early, but now she regretted it because of the cold. It was an empty, windy afternoon. One of those days where you can’t find the point where the grey clouds meet the grey sea and all memories of yesterday’s pastel-coloured seaside town and yellow sand seem irretrievable.

She knew it would hurt to see him, and to listen to everything he had to say, but she couldn’t be in any more pain than she had been this year. When you reach the bottom of a well you can’t go any lower, and she was as flat out on the ground as she had ever been. She had gone past feeling pain. It was as though she had passed out from the pain and was barely functioning in a blacked-out state. Her eyes took in the most minimal of sights, and the rest of her senses shut out anything that would risk bringing her back into reality.

After straining her neck in all directions to see up every side street, Jenny folded her long dress under her, sat on the stone steps just inside the church door, put her phone away and looked down the aisle. She couldn’t picture what her reaction to him was going to be. She had pictured it in so many ways, and now that she was here, looking down the aisle into her past, she wasn’t sure whether he would even look the same after his year away.

She took her fake glasses off and rubbed the bridge of her nose. She was a naturally skinny girl, but this past year had rendered her quite pointy in parts, and even her nose looked like it could use some more flesh on it. She wore a silky designer maxi-dress and thin-strapped leather sandals which exposed terracotta stains from the fake tan on her feet.

There was so much she hadn’t noticed before. Even in her trance-like state she could notice details that she had missed. Without the flowers obscuring the sides of the pews, she could see the curve in the arm rests, and the subtle flourishes that someone had carved into the side of each one. Without the bouquets of roses adorning them, which had been nothing more than a load of stiff stems bound together in sickly shimmering bows, she could see the full impact of the symmetry and dovetailing in the sides. Without a sea of hats, which had bobbed along like colourful buoys in her tear-filled eyes, she could see the way the light changed through the stained glass window ahead.

People talk a lot about walking down the aisle. But she wondered how many people could remember much about the actual aisle at all. She felt as though the whole thing could have been a dream. The church looked much smaller than she remembered it. She couldn’t imagine everyone fitting in, but then she remembered that it had been a small affair, immediate family only. She didn’t have many other people to invite then. They had been so much in their own little world. All he’d wanted was her. Meeting up with other people seemed to be such a chore then, only serving as time away from each other where they felt the safest.

She wanted to do the whole thing again. She looked out behind her to the cobbled street. If she pulled the door slightly closed behind her she could walk to the front unnoticed and then when he arrived she would hear the door open and could pretend to have come in to shelter from the sea breeze. If they decided to renew their vows then she would probably be too caught up in the day again, so this was her only chance.

She went outside to the front, took a deep breath and adjusted her dress, brushing out the creases. The wind kept blowing the bottom of the dress round and into the gaps in her legs, the silk snagging on the wooden door, catching splinters. She looked to her left arm, opening her elbow out slightly. She hadn’t remembered doing that before. Not at all. It took her a minute to work out which side her dad had been. Who had opened the door that day? It wouldn’t have been her but who would it have been?

When she got to the bottom of the three stone steps she was more aware of the door behind her than the rest of the aisle ahead. Had it been left open on the day, or did someone close it. All she had seen on her wedding day was her quivering groom, hands shaking by his side when he wasn’t mopping his brow. She had surprised him so much by saying yes. He used to tell her that every day when he woke up he had to wrack his brains for why she had agreed to be his wife. By the end of every single day he would have told her how men like him don’t get women like her. She had just been in a hurry to get to him and to put him out of his misery that day.

She wanted the door closed now. When he did turn up she wanted to know it straight away and not to be caught by surprise with him slipping in though the gap, and walking up behind her like he always used to when she did the washing up.

The cushion under her felt damp from the cold. She checked her phone again. It showed that her message had been delivered, and that he’d read it. Twice (she’d sent it again later in the day, her desperation winning the battle with her pride). In her valium-induced naps she had had dreams of him seeing her message and letting his anger go. She had imagined him wanting to start again and to forgive her. She was just thinking about getting up when she door squeaked and groaned open. She felt sick in an instant, and the walls seemed vast and wide as she turned around.

The man in front smiled but looked concerned. He was a complete stranger to her. He looked as though he hadn’t been expecting to see anyone inside.

It was the church warden. He explained that he had come to close up at 8 but had seen her there so went and did some errands before coming back. He asked her if she would mind letting him close up and that he was sorry. He said he wished he could leave it open so that she could pray for longer.

Eyelash

by Rose

No matter how many times she tried she couldn’t dislodge the eyelash from the sheet of paper. Every time she brushed her hand over it the eyelash got more and more embedded into the snow white sheet.

The eyelash was thick and black. Not dark brown or just dark because of being against the white, but black. It was like a jet black ink stain, a fresh tattoo on flawless skin.

Her hands grew clammy with sweat, and beige fingerprints started to form on the paper where she tried to lift the eyelash up by getting it to adhere to her skin.

She thought about getting a new sheet of paper from the pack but there would be no way to explain why she needed another sheet. She took pride in only ever needing one sheet to submit her designs, and asking for another would involve having either to say that she had made a mistake or that she had been careless with the expensive paper and damaged it.

So she incorporated the mistake into her design, picking out a long thick black eyelash for the other side.

You Were Meant to be Watching Him

by Rose

You were meant to be watching him’ she said quietly as she passed me, carrying the kettle to the sink.

I put my black boot on the rusting metal lever of the white plastic kitchen bin and held a plate over its whale-like mouth.

‘I can’t bear to throw this away’ I said to her on her return journey, staring at the last piece of bread and butter I would ever prepare for his supper.

‘What else are you supposed to do with it? ’ She replied, marking the end of the conversation with a forceful flicking on of the switch.

The cheap thin white bread, once perfectly flat, was curled up at the sides, and the thick margarine, already artificially yellow from the outset, was almost orange in parts by now, with an extra film of jelly-like grease starting to form on the surface. It glistened and glowed under the stark tubular light in the kitchen, and seemed to be the only colour I saw on that monochrome day. The dated kitchen was lined with stark white cupboards, with different shades of grey trim on the handles, and smatterings of grey flecks in the formika worktops. Weary mourners leant their grey and black bodies against the pale cupboards, their duty coming to an end.

I wanted to keep that last supper forever, that bread that I used to be embarrassed to buy in the shops, the spread that I warned him about every evening at 9.

I wanted to keep it in a plastic box to look at every day. I wanted to use it as my punishment. I would make myself stare at it every day as a reminder of what I hadn’t done.

When they’d come to take his body out on the stretcher I had snuck into the kitchen to make it. I’d covered it in clingfilm and put it in the cupboard. It was the only job I had been asked to do. I had to do it. No matter how late I was.

‘It stinks,’ she said as she snatched it from me, clingfilm, plate and all, and dropped into the bin. She elbowed me away so that my foot left the lever and the lid snapped shut.

I felt for the spare key in my pocket.

I would come back and get it tomorrow evening at 9.

10 Things not to say to mentally ill people

by Ramsay

  1. “Have you taken your tablets today?”

Have you wiped your arse today? Oh, I thought we were ensuring the excrement of our human existence wasn’t going to affect one another’s day. Only okay when you do it? Got it.

  1. “Do you think you might have a split personality?”

So you’ve been diagnosed with Depression/Anxiety/PTSD and someone takes it upon themselves to google other mental diseases that they can prove you have, in your sick, sick mind. No, I do not have split personality. I’m pissed off like every other human being.

  1. “That’s it, I’m calling the doctor.”

Experiencing mild frustration that I’m not where I want to be in life, that my shoes are too tight, or my Uncle Nesbit asked me why I’m still single last week, is not a legitimate reason for you to get worried. I am not planning my suicide. I am concentrating on not telling the next person who smiles at me with a cocked head to fuck off.

  1. “Ssshh, she’s a sensitive person.”

I’m right here. I literally hear it every time you say that. Two things:

1) Why is being sensitive such a bad thing? Like there’s some chink in my emotional armour? There are no ‘I can take it’ points in life. Just sayin’.

2) No conversation filter in the world is going to protect me from the harsh realities of life. Chances are my thoughts would scare you a lot more than yours would scare me. Go wild.

  1. “I know exactly what you’re going through.”

You do, do you? So you also have a shaving rash reminiscent of wildfire in your pants thanks to an impromptu D.I.Y session last night? No?

Don’t assume that people are in a certain type of pain that day because they’re on medication. We get backache/headache/general misery like the rest of you good people.

  1. “I have a friend you would LOVE.”

Is it because all crazy people have the same taste in books, films and music? Mental health is like the common cold, so, we all feel the exact same when we have it, right? Seems legit. Send them over.

  1. “It’s all in your head.”

Sweet Baby Jesus. You’re right. You brilliant bastard. I’m cured. All in my head, HAR HAR HAR.

  1. “You take after Great Aunt Consuela”

Who? The creep who collected dead birds and smelled like soup? We look nothing alike! Ohhhhh, because she was a manic depressive who killed herself? Ahhh family bonds. Fam-il-y bonds.

  1. “Have some perspective.”

Where has my perspective gone? Weird; it was here before I saw the traumatic event; it must have slipped out my pocket whilst I DIED INSIDE.

  1. “Smile, it might never happen.”

Thank you. Thank you for reminding me of that meaningless fucking saying that serves no purpose other than to piss everyone off. It already did happen, you fucking moron. Now leave me alone to silently contemplate what I missed from my shopping list whilst juggling a screaming child and a box of discount Monster Munch.

My Problem with Peyote

by Ramsay

My Problem with Peyote.

Peyote. What we should have done was put it in the boiling water and drank it like tea but Little man-having took the trip once before- said we’d stand a better chance if we tried to break it down in the pestle and mortar. By grounding it up, it would metabolize that bit faster. ‘In enlightenment’ Little man says, ‘Every second counts’.

You anticipate the bitterness, the nausea after ingestion. This, you tell yourself, is completely normal. You tell yourself; if it’s good enough for hysteria, it’s good enough for me.

Peyote. Where it is found, is in the shrubbery. Its’ roots underground give birth to a shoot through the earth and it spreads like a crown. On the crown are little deformed buttons. We cut these buttons off, dry them and ingest them. ‘If it grows on God’s green earth’ says Little man, ‘how in hell can it be unholy?’

It was done. We waited for the up but got restless after a while and headed to the old cinema hoping for a couple of birds or a fight at least.

We smoked the first couple cigarettes outside of the picture playhouse, dumbfounded and bored of waiting for something. After an hour of no effects we thanked God for the stash of dried shrooms in the glove compartment and ingested the lot between us. We were back on even turf, I knew what to expect from the mushrooms and relaxed whilst I waited for the feeling to wash over. Little man danced from foot to foot, looking around with red eyes.

This, you tell yourself, is the fuel for great art. You tell yourself; if it’s good enough for cancer patients, it’s good enough for me.

The white lighted sign with the film listings buzzes above us. No feeling but sinking hope. What I’m praying for is some spiritual awakening, what I’m really praying for, is a reason to live.

Little man begins to hum Mary had a little lamb. Then he’s rubbing his chest as he sings it soulfully to me, and I can barely breathe from laughing. There’s an edge to my laugh and I know I’m coming up from the way I stand on my toes, and Little man’s manic grin.

The man from the cinema comes outside for what must be his cigarette break. The orange glow from his smoke, it warms the atmosphere of the world. It’s hot the way a bonfire is hot. Blowing silvery smoke into the dark street, He turns and faces us, his eyes like dark holes. Little man looks at you with the same panic rising in your lungs, but it only gets worst, fear bought along his good friend paranoia to the party. A number of things happen in the space of a few seconds which serve to make you want to run away, and simultaneously, pin you to the spot. What happens to this cinema worker’s eyes; is they grow darker until they are black planets, twirling in their sockets. This popcorn makers’ tongue, it drops out of his mouth down to this chin and swings like a pendulum.

Little man’s not dancing anymore. Horror arises in both of us. We’re taking that trip, the one you hope doesn’t happen. We smoke, driving to find a new source of light to keep us warm.

We’re on the edge of something horrific, teeth rattling from the cold climbing through us; Little man parks the car with a soprano screech outside the flat. Half on the lawn, half on the drive. Not bothering to take the keys out of the ignition, we crawl onto the mattress on the floor and turn on the TV. The pink light on the screen drapes over our heavy bodies like a heated blanket. We’re smiling at the tingling In our hearts.

‘Do you feel that?’ He says, dribbling into his ears. Looking to the ceiling.

What he tells me when we are laid on that mattress, like twin foetus’ in utero, is that they used this on the suspects in the Salem witch hunt. On the women during labour; all that screaming and crying in childbirth, It got a little much.

The walls of our one-bed nicotine stained room, they start to pulsate. How an incubator breathes for those tiny babies. The floor beneath us shifts in geometric shapes, collapsing in on one another like the waves of the sea. We realise that we are tuned into another frequency, there was no conscious decision to see the figures running inside the walls, or the shadows that loomed over our clammy bodies; we simply had changed the channel.

Peyote drags you into yourself like it is the skilled hands and you are the origami.

You snap into consciousness after five hours or more in a time vortex. The vortex is sticky the way a spider web is to a fly. The realisations you made there escape you the way a good dream does to an alarm clock. All that is left is the bobbing mattress and the pink vibrations. Little man’s face presents itself to me like that of the Cheshire cat. First his mouth, then the rest of him. He comes back from the time vortex a few seconds after me, and with the look we exchange, I know we are on the same level. That’s when he opens his mouth and tells me he’s been back in time. When you ask;

‘What did you do?’ He tells you he was a shadow like the ones running around our walls.

‘What did you do as a shadow?’ You ask him, half watching the dark figures circling the room.

‘Something unspeakable to a man in a church yard’.

Woman in the Wind

by Rose

The church clock strikes eight, so those villagers who are awake know without checking that it is six. A cock crows. A body lies across the doorstep of the church, a line of crumb-carrying ants marches across the fedora covering its face. There is a serene, momentary quiet after the chimes cease. A figure glides past the church wall, before the silence is cracked by a baby crying.

The figure picks up speed and pushes a large navy blue coach pram over the cobblestones. The cries start to bounce along the air as the wheels speed over the lumps in the road. Her black stilettos navigate the rise and fall of the stones with ease as she strides onwards, diagonally across the middle of the square, her fitted jacket accentuating her perfect figure. She fixes her gaze at the empty bench in the far left corner, oblivious to the noises spurting out of the pram.

When she reaches the bench, she does not sit down. Instead she turns her back to the pram and fixes her stare on the green door ahead of her.

Whoever she is waiting for is testing her patience, as she fidgets and adjusts her scarf, tucking her long hair into her roll neck sweater to stop it blowing over her face. She adjusts her skirt around her thighs and checks the time.

Ten minutes pass and the crying stops. This new silence is broken only a few times by some bikes crossing the square. The green door opens and a woman with curlers in her hair, wearing a long powder blue silk dressing gown, stands in the doorway. She beckons the woman towards her but the woman shakes her head and looks away.

The woman in the doorway reaches for a long fur coat from the coat rack and a large grey fur hat. She puts the coat over her dressing gown and slips off her slippers in favour of long leather boots. She starts to button them up the sides and the woman by the bench looks at her watch.

She doesn’t make any eye contact with the lady in the fur as she approaches, and as soon as the pram has been handed over she tightens her belt up a notch around her thin cotton jacket and marches back across to the church on the opposite side of the square. She isn’t as sure-footed this time, and her cheap heels start to wobble, getting stuck every few paces. She starts to stagger and reaches a bench just in time to let it catch her weight. Her feet look narrow and birdlike, and the plastic black shoes look as though they are painted on her feet as they twist into the gaps in the cobbles. Her toes wrap around the stones like an eagle gripping on to a perch.

Her scraggy hair has come out of her roll neck sweater on one side and she tries to adjust it and wedge it back while she tightens up the rag of a scarf she found, and heaves her shoulders up and down, inhaling deep breaths of icy air, and exhaling steamy bursts. She bends forward and rummages in her pockets. She pulls out a photograph and holds it in her blueing hands. Her breathing gets faster and more frantic and she pulls off her gloves to rub her thumb over the photo. She rubs the baby’s face over and over again before collapsing forward with her head between her knees, gasping for breath.