Deep in the thicket of her sleep, she vainly tries to reassemble the scattered pieces of her life.
They surround her like leaves caught upon thorns. One by one she picks them off and examines them. Does this one come before this other? Is there a beginning? An end? To her they seem all alike, all present at once. There is no time, only the infinite now.
She picks off one piece and looks within. She is lying on her side, wrapped in twisted metal. Centimetres from her face, there is the spinning wheel of a car, the tread of its tyre blurring past her eyes.
Somewhere there is terrible pain. Running through it all, between every piece of memory, the ghastly pain. Pain, and the memory of pain.
She picks up another piece of her life. She is in a pink party dress. Her father bends down to kiss her forehead, calling her “Princess”.
Another kiss, soft and gentle on her lips. But this time her eyes are closed, she cannot see who it is.
It is her wedding day. Dressed in white she stands in the church, her heart fluttering with happiness, next to her charming husband. Over near the font, there is a disturbance… but no, that is a different piece of life: her mother, telling her a story, oft repeated. The baptismal font, the priest, the holy water. And the crazy mad woman, a distant relative, turning up uninvited, having to be dragged away, screaming insane curses at the baby. The shocked face of the priest.
Someone, far off, speaking a word. “Rose…”. Is it a flower? She immediately sees the bright red flower in a series of static, unconnected images: the flower in full bloom, the swelling rosehip, the bud, the loose petals withered. They are like playing cards discarded loosely onto a table, no card following or preceding another.
She sleeps, but yet this is no dream. Again comes the pain. Or the memory of pain. Like a red thread it runs through the warp and weft of her sleeping mind.
She pushes the pain aside, remembers the car again, the shattered car, the snow of broken glass in which she lies, the wheel of another vehicle almost touching her face, spinning, spinning.
Then there is a prick in her arm. How can she possibly feel that prick, a mere drop in the ocean of her pain? The face of the paramedic, murmuring something kind as the hypodermic slides in. And so the sleep begins.
The hypodermic is just the start. Somehow she knows that her flesh is pierced, penetrated, in a dozen places, by the briar thorns. Their shoots, their clear transparent shoots, flowing with liquid, are all about her, tangling her, entering and exiting the piercings of her body.
That word again. “Rose…”
A flower? Or could it be a name? Could it be her name?
At the thought, the leaves, the pieces of her life, suddenly whirl, as though a strong wind has blown up and scattered them yet again, forming another pattern. But this one is no more comprehensible than the last. She despairs of her task. Perhaps there is no sequence, perhaps her life simply consists of these unconnected pieces. Is that what life really is? Is time an illusion? Does one thing actually follow another?
Among the litter, she picks up a discarded piece, to recognise it as one she has seen already. But it has an importance she did not see before.
Not her father’s kiss, but a loving, gentle, kiss full on her lips, filling her with joy. Her lover’s kiss. Her lover. Her husband.
Now at last she knows its place. That is the last piece, the end of the sequence! She has just been kissed, and he has just spoken her name. With this anchor, at last, the scattered pieces begin to fall into place, and the thorns begin to wither.
She opens her eyes and wakes. She is lying on a bed, and someone she loves is standing by her side.
It is as though a hundred years have passed.
by David R Grigg
© Copyright David R Grigg 2012. All rights reserved.