October/Panther

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I wrote these pieces in my second year of university in Brighton (2014). They were published (sort of) in the short fiction anthology that year. Last night someone told me I needed a reality check, and it made me miss this time a lot, which is ironic because at the time I was writing about missing a time before that. It was an exciting time and I met *someone*, and even though they said I sounded like a wannabe Sylvia Plath it still felt like everything was possible and new. Uni was a hot mess but it was exciting and green and it was the first time I’d ever really felt like I belonged anywhere. You know you’re having a bad day when you start sounding like a watered down Holden Caulfield, yikes. Anyway, here they are.

October

I stare at my phone. It is a piece of cosmic rock filled with a wish that I made to a sad sky over and over and over again.

***

Where are you now? Are your feet on or off the ground? Are you free yet?

By the light of the moon you looked so beautiful, but down here there are only street lamps and energy saving bulbs. Putrid. Stale. Inhospitable. On a good day it was just enough, but in October you closed the door. You left stains on my sheets and your name on my pencil case.

Sometimes it feels like the city around me is retching, heaving, to spit me out. An old woman glares at me across the bus, the rain blows horizontally by the sea, and a passing car drenches me in muddy water. I am so raw, these days. They are all made of salt.

Autumn is your favourite season, and now when I look out of my window I can see autumn and I know that you would love it.

Every time the autumn leaves fall I think of you. I can see you in the sky and the breeze and in the shade. I see you in my breath in the morning.

Stars shining bright above you and the stars seem to whisper something that I don’t quite know yet. I don’t want to know yet.

***

I let it ring.

Panther

I once read or heard somewhere that Sylvia Plath referred to her mental illness as a panther. Maybe that’s how Ted saw it, as he marched through her wildness prepared to slay the creature, machete in hand, doomed but forever determined. But even I know that panthers are nocturnal. They can hunt better in the dark. The point, anyway, is that for a long time the word was scary and lonely. Something that weighed me down in turn weighed the word down and vice versa. Does that make sense? It’s hard to explain but when something from The Jungle Book makes you feel a bit heavy and sad it’s easy to wallow in it but that’s not the point. The point is that on one Boxing Day when it was dark and cold you told a joke and the word didn’t feel so heavy anymore.

“Knock knock?”

“Who’s there?”

“Panther”

“Panther who?”

“Panth-er no panth, I’m going thwimming.”

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