We’ve been sitting here, in a set square of renters’ magnolia, for three hours. And my fingers are pinching together, moulding the space where a cigarette should sit - that plume I’d suck deep inside, silencing everything… savouring, then exhaling down through my arms and out of my palms, like purifying stigmata.
But I’ve quit smoking. For the good of my health, at his worried insistence.
So, I sit and listen to him some more, comfort the man I love through relapsing crisis, obediently revisiting well-worn techniques. I make him a paperchain of coffees (decaf, of course), set out along the table. Doubts and accusations dress-up his darkest thoughts, and catch the back of my throat, acrid. He’s stuck on the same verse of a song, over and over, lost deep inside an ash-grey well. He cries, folding in on himself like a broken deckchair.
Finally, he relents to sleep, beside me on this worn, colourless, couch that we have yet to replace. I mentally list the outstanding odd jobs, side jobs, and big jobs in order of importance, wishing I could strike them off like matches. When his body lies heavy as a sandbag, I trickle myself off the seat, and out of the room.
I head to the backdoor, with my secret clattering around in my pocket.
On the doorstep of the damp night, stars flicker under a duvet. I inhale deeply through my nose.
I count to four, pause for seven, breathe out through my mouth for eight. I repeat the process several times.
My anxiety threatens to choke me. Burning embers squabble in my gut. But I need to be the strong one, I can’t let myself break. He can’t know how much I’m suffering; how afraid I am of my own thoughts. I hold on to my secret, and push it down, like tobacco packed into a pipe.
Issues 4 & 5
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