Alice in the bath

First published on Emotional Alchemy Magazine. 

Thoughts pervade, on par with cymbal clatters and the dishes you’ve left for too many nights and the potato starch has attached itself, limb by limb, to the pan. One dream circles, once and round again. In the middle of a day – a daydream noon – I find myself rooted to the spot. I find myself staring up, bleary eyed at an old terraced house, indistinct in its architecture; it could be any period; it could be freshly painted and the paint could peel in sunburn flakes; I could be anywhere. Yet, the sun shines high and blissfully ignorant. 

A little girl waits for me. Her dark eyes usher me onwards before her hands clutch mine, lead me forward into the middle townhouse. The paint peels, sunburn and skin. And she disappears. A shadow, a figure, a flimsy strip of black lace disintegrating into the damp mottled walls. But in the dark, her hollow eyes follow me and lead me simultaneously. 

Thoughts pervade, on par with nightmares dressed in silk, washed in honey and milk. 

A mother – my mother, perhaps – smokes and stirs a bubbling pot above a blue flame. The room smells like a funeral; chemical and floral. Goodbyes fermenting as rotten fruit. We eat in strange silence in the presence of men – faceless and nameless. Dark eyes settle and sink. My skin itches. Peels. Sunburn. 

One girl sleeps downstairs, I hear her voice as she sings and strums. Minutes pass and an ecstasy is reached.

A mother smokes, tips back her head and laughs; inhales pheromones and the hearts of men. 

I feel mine palpitate as my skin shrinks closer to the bone, clammy with night sweat even in a daydream noon. This dream circles – vulture like – above my head. The weight of an albatross, clinging like muggy air, around my neck. 

The only light emits from the stove’s blue flame, the static television – kaleidoscopic black and white – and the upstairs hallway. I ascend the stairs. Float towards the back bedroom with a lock on the door and no windows. Light flashes across a screen and the motel quality light bulb swings by my head. There is a bed, a desk, bath already full. Dull dishwater. Scumlines around the edge but the heat invites me. I descend – fully clothed – I shrink. Alice in the bath. 

My sleeves constrict around my wrists; my breasts wither to pinpricks, cold in the evening; my jeans cut my ankles but the water is so warm. I cup my palms, lift the water to my lips like brandy and knock back the memories held in each soapy bubble. But there is no soap and I remain unclean – shrinking sopping wet. 

The weight of an albatross, clinging like damp to mouldy walls, around my neck. 

I sink – submerge myself – swallow the bath like the sea and wonder why I am here. I wonder why I do not have a home and why the hallway light is so bright and why I never hear the mother – perhaps, my mother – come up the stairs. My cries echo in porcelain. A daydream noon.

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