Sunday, November 06, 2005

the taste of living

Enough. Enough of this day. Her work was done enough, the cat was fed enough, the night was late enough and so it was time to close the door. Shutting her bedroom door with a soft click behind her, she stepped out of her shoes, let her feet sink into the soft carpet and, standing still, she savoured the nearness of the end. The painful pleasure of knowing it was over. There would soon be no turning back. Not once she made the decision to let it go.

Sloping across the room on her way to the en suite she glanced briefly out the window, casually flicked back the heavily brocaded pink silk curtains, touched her nose to the icy glass for half a breath, then closed her eyes as she turned away from the world. The wind howled against the glass, ever the determined and graceless bully. Enough. She had closed the door on the world and soon wouldn't be able to open it again regardless how long and hard it howled for her to care or to carry it.

She nudged the bowl of orange spice potpourri out of the way, leaned tiredly on her forearms, and gazed into the bathroom mirror. Touching her hair first, feeling the smoothe healthy hair and the rough wiry white ones, she drew one hand across her newly wrinkled forehead and delicately fingered the soft, sagging skin around her eyes. When? Gently, she pushed up and back the useless flesh slowly amassing under her chin, sighed, and let the hand drop back down on the faux marble counter. There was nothing more to explore or crave or reject or reach out to. Enough now.

She looked down at her well-used hands for a moment before she pulled herself up straight and lifted them to her mouth. It took her a couple of breaths before she could start, willingly but joylessly, to begin to taste them. The finger she had pointed at the child was bitter and still stank of accusation. The finger she flung up at the bus driver who turned the corner too sharply for her liking smelled of excrement and was both acidic and salty. The thumb she banged against the doorframe in the ladies room at Zeller's still felt hot against her tongue and tasted of metal. The side of the palm she scraped against the cheese grater when making dinner was salty with a hint of the lemon zest from dessert. Both palms were full of him: musky, maddeningly sweet, tasting deliciously of the thighs, the groin, the belly she caressed on her lunch hour. All the other lines and folds and fingers were the same: a common blend of disappointment, incompetence, and regret. Enough of that.

She reached under the counter and pulled up two thick, fluffy bath towels to catch any of the mess that didn't wash down the drain and prepared to let go entirely. Nudging open the levered hot water tap, she breathed, "Good enough," put her well-used hands under the scalding water, and forced herself to hold them still. As they began to melt, the layers separating and falling away, she watched the colours of the day reveal themselves...the purity, the passion, the resignation swirling white, red, black... Through the haze of steam she witnessed time present fall out of her grasp and drain down into the past. Seeing the mistakes and blunders and "I wish I dids" and "I wish I didn'ts" and "I didn't get enoughs" flow deep and fast into forever-ago, she cried, heartbroken. Then she gave thanks, relieved.

Finally, nudging the hot water tap closed with her wrist, she used the towels to gather whatever parts of the day and her part in it that weren't so easily washed away and tossed the whole mess in the trash with yesterday's leftover mess. Smiling, she shook her head to muss up her hair and laughed at the useless brush on the counter as she passed it on her way back to the window. Nose against the icy glass once more, she smiled at the stupid bully, luxuriating in the freedom from the folly of trying to hold back the forces of nature. Turning her back to the wind, she shuffled contentedly toward her warm and inviting bed. As always, she sighed a great heaving sigh of gratitude as she dropped blissfully down for a wholly unburdened rest. She looked to the left as the cat meowed at the door. "Too bad, Jack. I can't give any more and I can't take any more."

Rolling her head to the right, she looked wonderingly at the hands she had laid out for her tomorrow. She wondered what kind of life she would make with them. She wondered how they would feel. Were they hard? Cold? Kind? Strong? Capable? Clumbsy? How much could they hold? How mightily would those hands resist letting go when the time came? Every day her hands were so very different there was simply no knowing their unusual ways and unique worth until she put them to some use.

Stephanie K. Hansen


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