Her Day A Day
A story about someone you know
The wind picked up and the night was suddenly colder than it had been. She shivered. The dead leaves rolled over and over, playful in their skeletal lightness. They rushed away and dragged the dead year with them, still gasping. She watched it slide like a shadow over her feet, a gasping fish of old time, dying in the fresh air of the new year.
She took a deep breath of that fresh, new air. It didn’t feel that different. She stepped back inside and closed the door.
She shook the rain off her hat before stuffing it into her coat pocket. Her fingertips touched something hard and she pulled it out to look at it. It was a white stone, round as a marble, white as snow, rough as sand. She held it in her palm and watched it rock gently back and forth. Slowly, she wrapped her fingers around it. It felt cool.
I wish, she whispered. I wish. The stone grew warm in her hand.
She presented her arm to the nurse and felt the short, sharp, sliding pain of the needle’s intrusion. It slipped from her arm like an apology and left behind a bead of dark red blood. “So beautiful,” she thought. The nurse wiped it away with a square of gauze and pressed a band-aid onto the tiny hole into her innards. “A well,” she thought. “A cave,” and imagined a cave as red as blood, pulsing with life, oozing drops redder than garnets which fell to the floor like rain.
At the drugstore, she was surprised to find a coupon for
toothpaste lying on the floor. “New toothpaste,” she though. “Something new.”
She browsed the aisle, admiring the silver and white boxes of clean promises
stacked up like a child’s white pine blocks. The box she chose felt heavy,
heavy as ice. She imagined chewing ice and shuddered. She chose a different
box, equally heavy. Heavy as sand. Heavy as bone. She did not imagine anything.
At work, she sharpened pencils again. She lined them up, all
in a neat row, black tips shining, pointed enough to kill, smelling freshly of
wood and paint. They made a yellow life-raft on her desk, floating on the sea
of grey formica. She laid her hand over them and then moved it forward, feeling
the pencils click on their hexagonal angles as they reluctantly rolled over and
over, her hand like one of the stones in
Christmas tree down, there were so many needles on the floor that she wondered if they would sweep into a pile large enough to sleep on like the children in the stories just before they were eaten by the witch. She thought it would be a strangely comforting thing, to sleep among the smell of pine needles, knowing she was not yet devoured. She swept them up and threw them out, a small pile of sharp dusty needles, smelling of stale holidays.
The snow that fell was halfhearted and didn’t stay. Apologetically, she stepped on each silvery patch and hastened its departure. Water dissolved most charms, she thought. Running water is best, but any water will do. Her feet made water of the snow and her walking obliterated the only magic she would see that day.
8 January“I have a blog, you know,” Bill said, stopping at her desk. He picked up a pencil. “This needs sharpening.”
She pushed her hands into her pockets on the way home from work and felt again the strange rough roundness of the pebble she couldn’t remember ever picking up. She rolled it between her thumb and forefinger. In the sky above her, the stars wheeled, the clouds groaned and a dragon lifted its scaly head and yawned.
She walked by a shoe shop and stopped to see the shoes on show. Such shoes, she shrugged and slipped inside to see more shoes, all much the same.
She eyed a pair of boots with toes so pointy that she was certain she could keep a small flask or rolled up tape measure in there as well as her foot. She left the store when she couldn’t imagine why she would want whiskey or a tape measure in her shoe.
She pulled the covers up and knocked a pile of stuff off her nightstand with the edge of her blanket. Sighing, she flopped back out of bed and picked it all up. Some coins, a used tissue, a broken pencil and a pebble. She rolled the pebble around on her palm with the fingertips of her other hand, feeling its small weight, so small that she might have held nothing at all. She put it under her pillow and went back to bed.
That night she dreamed of fire.
She woke up sneezing. Some things are better handled in bed, she thought. And giggled before blowing her nose into the used tissue she found back on her bedside table. Then she rolled over and went back to sleep, wandering through the miasma of morning sleep until she found the dream she had lost in the sneeze and buried herself in it.
She sneezed again, more loudly. Perhaps someone would send her home so she wouldn’t have to decide. Bill looked round the corner of her cubicle.
This time when the dragon appeared, a golden-red gleam in the grey winter sky, she was considering whether to buy coffee now or whether she’d wait and drink the coffee at work. He tapped her politely on the shoulder. She brushed off the touch of his curving silver claw without looking around, as if she were brushing a spot of rain off her coat. The dragon admired the fall of her hair, the strength of her back. He expelled a long, warm, dry breath that swirled around her like a summer breeze. She smiled in relief and went in to buy coffee.
“You know,” said her mother, “you should get one of those big balls to sit on instead of a chair. I saw it on television. It’s better for your back.”
She wondered if she were following someone or if someone were following her. She tried not to step on the cracks but grown up feet make it so much harder, make it so much more likely that she would break her mother’s back. Flinching with each step, she tried not to hear the crack of bones in the distance.
She washed her pajamas and taking them out of the dryer, she buried her face in their soft warmth. Stripping out of her rumpled clothes right there in the dim damp basement, she put on her warm pajamas and wriggled with animal pleasure. “This,” she thought, “is what life is for.” Her heart sliced sideways; she stopped smiling and went upstairs to fold the rest of the laundry.
She bought olives, tissues, capers, toilet paper, bleach, tomatoes, bright red chili peppers, soy milk and pasta. She wanted to buy wine but remembered that she was in Pennsylvania. She bought grapes instead. And vinegar. Then she went home and ate four pieces of toast before going to bed.
The dragon followed her as he did almost all the time now, like the air she walked through he was simply there. A smell. A thought. He curled around her and teased her hair with his breath so that it curled like milk in coffee. He warmed her feet like a cat under the desk. He kissed her eyelids like sunshine. She found that she was breathing like someone asleep. Slow and deep. Like an ocean of breath.
This time the snow was more determined and made white the blanket of its desire, holding all like answering questions in the darkness its voice a whisper of possessive pleasure. She placed her hand against the window pane and felt the cold hand of winter touch her back, hand to hand a holy palmer’s kiss. Pulling away she saw the warm outline of her hand shimmer and fade.
She wore no coat, no hat. Warm as summer, she turned her face to the sky expectantly. She had heard a sound like the fluttering of wings, like the wild flying of angels and the wind blew around her, soft and forgiving, not a winter blast. The sky was clear and blue as robins and she laughed at the wide wide wonder of it. When the dragon appeared she only laughed again. It was, she thought, just right. She lifted her hand towards his coiling shape and swooping down towards her he suddenly dissipated like smoke blasted by a fan.
So did she.
She came and went like a light turning on and off sometimes she was just at work, just at home, sitting, standing, eating, washing, such ordinary moments, add them together they are only what they are no more no less just that. A string of commas like pearls around her neck.
Sometimes she was a cipher.
Sometimes she was elsewhere.
The wind the heat the fire and smoke all rushing all standing like silk like sliding through the air on red satin ribbons her hair and dress were red as red as blood and fire and she was in and on and with the dragon the fire roared through her fed her ate her burnt her saved her what was today but nothing a breath of smoke a blink of a great eyelid the time it takes a tree to grow the time it takes a leaf to fall.
Like stepping off a train, like stomping off the snow, like closing the door so the cold can’t get in, she returned.
“Good weekend?” said Bill, his eyes somewhere else. She nodded, then shrugged. She felt the beginning of tears in her eyes and wondered why. “That’s great,” said Bill, his eyes on Penny, who swung her hips and giggled. “Great,” he said and walked away.
She pulled her hands into the sleeves of her cardigan and wondered why she was so cold. Huddling deep into the folds of the wool she noticed that it smelled slightly of smoke and wondered why. Then she wondered why she was wondering about so many things and unfolded in irritation. She wasn’t cold if she didn’t think she was cold. She didn’t think she was cold. She shivered.
She opened her desk drawer, looking for a pencil. There were ten. They all needed sharpening. She thought she remembered that she had a pencil in her coat pocket. She did. It had no point either. There was also a clean tissue and a white pebble, so round and smooth it might almost have been a marble. She looked at it for a moment and then returned it to her pocket. She collected all the pencils and began sharpening them, the shavings falling onto her desk like snow.