The writer opens his laptop at 1:38am, his eyes soggy from a working day and his head drained from stacking shelves. He is a prisoner of a fated future. His liberation forms from words, though they can cause splinters sometimes. He smiles as a moth knocks on the window outside in a pilgrimage for light. A story is brewing. It’s not about the moth and its narrow search for a screen, it’s about a woman and the destination her narrow search for materials led to.
Little Miss Caster’s eyes wouldn’t open; a clot of sleep in each eye restricting a scope of the room. She heard the distant whaling of a female, signalling she wasn’t home in her urban retreat. She smelt disinfectant which reminded her of two things; the times her mother demanded a cleansed bedroom, and the times an inky needle had grazed her skin. Designs of Greek gods fought up her right arm and lower back. A phoenix symbolised a rise from a tarnished early relationship and setbacks through middle life. This morning, afternoon or evening it would be hard to rise.
“Hello Miss Caster, how are you today?” a voice projected nearby. The sound of squelching shoes closed in. The voice must have come from another overworked and underpaid simpleton. “Who are you?” Little Miss Caster replied in caution.” I’m just a nurse. Anyway your friends will be here any second, you’re okay to talk?” “Yes but not to see. What have you done to me?” A hand bearing chipped fingernails, previously coated in a metallic red, emerged from under the white sheet. Little Miss Caster started to claw at her eye, her frustration increasing in tandem with the beep of a pulse monitor nearby.
“Now come on stop that. It won’t make the pain go away.” It wasn’t painful, it was an extreme unease at being restricted to just a few senses, particularly the ones she had never really appreciated. “How long will this last?” A day or two was the verdict. A whole day without a phone screen and possibly a few days away from work. Days she couldn’t afford in a financial capacity. Her wardrobe needed updating, she had plans in place for a new car, a phone renewal and a bargain face lift from a dingy house engulfed by weeds.
“Can you order some things for me?” came a response some time later. It was met with a neglectful silence. The nurse’s shoes were now leading out of the room. The pillows lodged behind her neck were rough from repetitive use and too much energy was required to adjust them. She banked on her boyfriend to walk in any second, dragging his beaten shoes along the floor and wearing his standard uniform of grey jeans and black hoodie. He’d fix everything; place the order, fix the pillows, deliver some freshly scented flowers and comfort food. She needed a resolve to the meagre taste of dissolved pills in her mouth.
A company of three or more people clobbered their way towards the room. Unless a unity of doctors and medical students were on their way to use her as a test subject, Little Miss Caster’s family were inbound. She brushed her face with the palm of her hand, moving towards her top and bottom halves, covering any layers of fatty skin on her body. Even in bed she needed to look presentable. There wasn’t a dragging of shoes she instinctively noticed, just a huff from her mother. “You look in pain, have they given you anything?” “I’m not in pain mum, hello to you too.” Her dad stood nearby, hands in pockets, the smell of neat tobacco sticking to his clothes. He always let his wife lead the conversation, and only spoke when he was spoken to.
“Everything okay at home?” “Yes fine, your brother is coming to see you tomorrow. He’s bringing the kids, so he thought he’d give you a day’s rest. They’re concerned about you, want to know their auntie is alright and still her same self. They haven’t seen you in a while.” Here came the tedious speech on time devotion. She couldn’t raise the spirit to answer, instead relaxing her head on its side. “It’s an alright room, the doctor seems nice as well. We had an encounter with him before. He’s said everything went to plan, that the effects would last only a few weeks.” The pulse monitor raised to a consistent beat.
“When is Rory getting here?” Minus the footsteps leaving, silence flooded the room for a second time. Her family seemed discouraged to use their vocals, choosing to rearrange the bedside table, clinking glasses and clutching plastic packets together. “Have you eaten yet today?” “Yes I think I was woken up this morning, I just hope Rory brings some chocolate.” The eerie silence was back for a third time. Her mother cleared her throat minutes later and went to forge a new conversation, Little Miss Caster was having none of it.
“What’s going on? You’ve never been this quiet.” Her mother dragged her chair nearer, resting both elbows on the bed and presumably cupping her hands ready for confession. “He won’t be coming, you’ve had a lot of medication luv. You broke up.” Hearts all around the room sunk. The silence became bearable. If her eyes weren’t so soar, tears would have spilt down her cheeks for the first time in years. A signal flew over her mind of yet another time a cold man had walked in to her life, preaching solitude and donning a fragile mask of someone who could care about her for life.
“So he was just the same as the others then. I hope my friends know about him leaving in my time of need. In sickness and in health hey!” The last sentence wobbled like only a cracked heart can charm. An assurance that her friends and family would be there through this tough period substituted loneliness for rage. “He’s a liar, probably the worst one yet. How many messages do I have on my phone, on Facebook?” Her phone slid off the bedside table. She expected messages of war against Rory, a public outrage to his neglect, possibly even a reporter missing a quote on how sinister the situation was.
She seemed to pass all the stages of a breakup within five minutes. The vivid structure of their time together replayed; how they grew from nothing, created a concrete wall against violent invaders, and how he morphed in to an apathetic and sly man overnight. He took issue with her stance to work first and family later. The ideal partner wouldn’t curb her doing sixty hours a week and wouldn’t snarl at a lack of effort in the bedroom. The ideal partner wouldn’t restrict her spending. He wouldn’t advise against lip, breast, eyebrow, nose, buttock and knee enhancements.
She assumed this was a rant confined to the thick cage of her mind, but her mum interjected quickly. “Stop. Luv you know I’ve always supported you and always will, your father included. But this time we can’t let you assassinate the poor lad. This time it was you.” Little Miss Caster felt treachery was forming on every side like a Queen of medieval ages. “Poor lad? Really? You’re sticking up for him when I’m in a hospital bed and can’t open my eyes? That’s really classy of you Mum you’ve outdone yourself.”
You could hear her mother’s blood boiling like a kitchen stove. Her size 7 feet firmly on the floor, and a nervous tapping on the arm of the chair had stopped. Her father broke his silence for the first time, attempting to pacify a familiar outburst from his wife, but it was all in vain. “You haven’t given him any energy, any time, any chance of forming a successful relationship. You’ve always been selfish, but that has grown since you’ve been with him. You’ve got complacent, he ended it, and we are not standing for you feeling sorry for yourself all over again.
He wrote you a letter when you broke up, which was two months ago, but the drugs wouldn’t help that. He got sick of being the ideal partner, being expected to be a certain way. You quoted about being an individual, but instead you wanted to shape him like he was some sort of machine boyfriend on a construction line. And you say you didn’t want him to advise you? You should have listened to him. Look at your lips….”
“I can’t look at my lips I can’t see!!!”
“What did he say when you wanted to get your lips done? You had perfect lips already. What did he say when you got excited about a new phone and a tattoo? Remember we are working to move out together. He had to remind you of that. It shouldn’t have been something he had to remind you of. He was broken, and for once you did the breaking.”
“Well he still should be here shouldn’t he, I’m Ill.”
“You’re ill but it is self-inflicted. You’ve had an eye enhancement, you decided to give it a go. And for once maybe, you’ll see more clearly. For once maybe, you’ll see what you had and what you’ve now lost.”
One final sentence was paved as the conclusion to the stages of her breakup. “Now you’re finally seeing through another set of eyes.”