Sam Rose is a writer, poet and editor living in the UK with her partner. Her work has appeared in several publications including The Bamboo Hut, Poetry Pacific, Haiku Journal, and others. She is also the editor of Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine and The Creative Truth, and is currently studying part time for her MA Creative Writing. In her spare time she enjoys learning Swedish and eating chocolate. Find her on Twitter @writersamr and at http://www.writersam.co.uk.
She lives in a house with no mirrors. It’s not that she doesn’t want to see herself; it’s just that she doesn’t need to. She knows what she is. Her steel grey Honda Civic sits in the driveway. Some days she’ll take it out for a spin just for the hell of it, with no particular place in mind to visit. She always comes back. She is sometimes spotted driving around the outskirts of town, a strong smell of weed wafting out of the driver’s side window. A ‘think bike’ bumper sticker peels away at the corners, and a ‘child on board’ sign hangs in the back window. Sometimes she wonders if other drivers think she is smoking weed with a baby in the car. The only baby she has is a thought which is slowly growing inside her. It has been blooming for a while, but more recently it has begun to take on a life of its own.
She wants out. She is like a fly turning circles in the air, right next to an open window. A fly that sort of looks like it wants to get away, but isn’t really trying at all. Where would she go? It’s a big world out there for a fly. She might get lost if she left the safety of indoors. But still the thought grows.
Sometimes she turns off the television and tries to see herself in the glassy black reflection. She spots the outline of her hair, the rims of her reading glasses as they catch in the light. The faint glint in her eye. Sometimes after she has dragged a comb through her hair, she kneels down in front of the television and peers at herself. Is her hair straight? It’s probably fine. What does it matter if it isn’t? It’s neither here nor there. Whatever that means. Sometimes she feels like that – neither here nor there.
She lives with a man. He is gentle and warm – in temperature, as well as demeanour. He floats around the house and opens all the windows to let the breeze in. If she finds a spider in the bath he catches it in his hands and releases it in the garden. He knows how to fix things, like leaky taps and electrical problems she daren’t try to tackle. When she is sad her dutiful man fixes that too, by wiping her cheek with a soft flick of his thumb. It’s as if his thumb has a lasting effect that puts a shield up and keeps the sadness away for months at a time. Or at least that’s how it used to be. He is six foot five, and thin. His hugs are bony and soft all at once. Sometimes his back aches and she tries to fix that, though she only sort of knows what she is doing. He murmurs a polite thank-you for her efforts.
She is a dog person but he is a cat person. He likes to feed strays and give them names he thinks suit them. Patchy and Wizard are his favourites. She walks the neighbours’ dogs sometimes. The Labrador recently had puppies and she went to see them. She smiled at the tiny bundles of fur as a ball of jealousy grew in the pit of her stomach. She chastised herself for accomplishing less than this dog despite her years. Then chastised herself for being jealous of an animal.
The man she lives with is an artist. Sometimes he paints pictures of the dogs and the cats. Sometimes he paints pictures of women with gaping holes in their bellies. Sometimes of men curled up in balls in big, empty rooms. She tries not to read too much into it. But sometimes when she is sad she turns away from him so he can’t see her damp cheeks. She thinks she doesn’t deserve the healing properties of his gentle thumb, and he doesn’t deserve to feel obligated to provide it. She has nothing to offer him in return.
She considers leaving her cashier position to work at a nursery. She could retrain, go to college. They could probably afford it. It’s not like they have lots of mouths to feed. She thinks about it for a day and concludes she wouldn’t be able to face it. She doesn’t want to go to college, she tells herself. She doesn’t want to deal with other people’s screaming children. She tells herself to stop thinking about it and carry on like everything is normal.
The artist draws a picture of her in pencil and charcoal. She is wearing a black dress and staring out of the open window at nothing. Her face is overcast and her hair is being blown around her eyes. His drawings of her further eliminate the need for a looking glass. She sticks the picture on the fridge but it doesn’t feel right, so she puts it in the boot of her car. The artist is out. He has left her a note to say he has gone looking for a neighbour’s lost cat. The cat is young, he says. It shouldn’t have been let out of the house so soon. It needs to be rescued. She wonders why he has taken his backpack with him. His toothbrush is missing from the bathroom.
She packs her own bag. All her weed, cash, her notebook with the picture of border collies on the front. Jeans, some t-shirts, her comb and toiletries. The thought that was growing in her belly, now ready to be born. Those are all the things she needs. She closes all the windows. Outside, the thought comes to life as she revs the engine of her Honda, and backs out of the driveway one last time.
Sometimes she thinks about the house, standing empty except for the occasional cat prowling the garden, looking for the artist. But she knows she will never go back there, and she knows he never will, either. On the way out of town she buys a compact mirror.