Before her eyes had even opened she could smell it. She could almost see it through her softly shut lids, like heat rising from the hot bodies of cattle on cold winter nights. The stench of her own hair spiralled and swirled around the muggy emptiness of her bedroom. Her hair uncombed, unkempt and knotted on the crown of her head manipulated into a magpie’s nest of if, buts and comparisons fermenting there for weeks.
She wondered how long it had been since she had abandoned washing. Doused herself in foreign smells and scrubbed the domestic rural spaces of self. Her body lay unclaimed for days, weeks maybe even months. The winter all blurred into one for her. Not able to harness her thoughts to understand which darkness belonged to which sun. The musky odour woke her from hibernation this morning, however. Maybe she was too late, maybe she was too early.
Today would be the day though, she could sense it
Stretching slowly like a newborn calf covered in its mother innards. The mess she was covered in, however, was her own. Weeks of stale sweat stained her pyjama top and her bed was covered in the sleet of dried skin and dust. She squinted at her legs in the dim light — her thighs were covered in her own period blood but she couldn’t remember having one this month.
She peered at her bedside table as if she was a newborn bird craning itself outside of its nest. Her alarm clock was hibernating underneath a pile of laundry. Just like a fresh dusting of powdery snow left to melt, the laundry once fresh, clean and folded had drooped and melted into the grey black sludge of other garments gone before it and was spread across the floor.
She reached for the clock, however, recoiled immediately when she realised it was placed directly beside a nativity scene of cups, mugs and bottles huddled together around a bowl of what may once have been a saviour: porridge.
The mould had escaped from the cups and was foaming and overflowing. How long had the fungi been in residence she pondered. She then realised that this was the first thought her brain had processed in weeks.
A whole sentence — beginning, middle and end — all aligned into one like a queue at the Supermarket on Christmas Eve. Patiently awaiting its turn. Her thoughts for the last few weeks had always been crazed shoppers too anxious to get to the check out to be seen, heard or noticed.
She removed the hot, sticky blanket from her like a moulting animal and placed her feet on the icy floor, stood up and almost immediately lost her balance as though she had set foot on an ice rink. When she steadied herself she noticed the bones in her feet ached and her legs had gotten pudgy from lack of use.
She placed one foot in front of the other as she nudged past the mounds of melting dirty laundry overcrowding the floor. Her teeth chattered and she ran her tongue across them feeling a fur matte the surface and a fizzy sensation at the back of her throat. Her body felt a little stronger with every step and she knew for definite: today was the Day.
The Day that on some nights wrapped up in the freezing bones of her quilt she dreaded and moments later, as she sunk deeper into winter, she craved. The long winter night when light was scarce she had cried. Although, to many it would not have sounded like a cry. More like a part of her was dying, rotting, thawing. As though the ice was ingrained in her heart or her soul. A small part of her was breaking, snapping and splintering on those nights and all she could do was scream and writhe with pain. Other days were so dark she couldn’t even make a sound. It hurt too much. It pained her body to wonder. She never thought she’d see a bright day again.
As she crept toward the window she felt her eyes force themselves together. They had not seen in the sun for months. Not since it had all become too much and she had locked herself in here with nothing to do or say. Only ‘celebrate’ the winter like she did — most winters. She arrived at the window the muted light escaping from the curtains and creeping up the walls like vicious ivy.
She pushed the curtain back and the first thing she noticed was how the sunlight hit the disrupted dust that was falling all around her. Like glistening pieces of minuscule confetti. She wondered were these tiny fragments of her splintered self. The sunlight burned initially but after a few moments she blinked and she could see the day in front of her. Some of the city was still uncoloured and unused like the months before but now someone had begun a paint by numbers as pinks, white and greens were peeping their heads from cracks and tufts. She looked down onto the unkempt window box she had planted when she moved to the city. All of the plants had withered and died but one stood there defiantly. The smallest bud she had ever seen. The tenacious tip of a snowdrop.