As usual, dinner choked her and she ate barely anything. Sam didn’t notice but poured her more wine. She drunk some white. Then some red. As usual, she went to bed drained, pincers at her temples and took paracetamol and ibruprofen, and valerian because otherwise how would she sleep? Sam was still watching TV. What was on TV tonight? Nothing. She quietly packed a bag and wrote him a note. 4.40am every day and she was wide awake, mind churning churning, options like the doors off one of those unending corridors – is the answer here? or here? What even was the question? When the alarm goes off her body ached, her eyes leaden. One foot in front of the other, shower, wake the kids, make breakfast, put on the face, do the hair, say goodbye to Sam, take the kids to school, late again, tutting stay-at-home mums watching her as they gossip before going for coffee or to walk the dog or clean their clean houses. Go to work. Endless emails, like the fairytale with the self-filling purse only with the opposite effect. The fuller the inbox, the more drained she felt. Rushing to get the task done for the vague thanks she’d get, providing data so that someone else would get the praise. What did it all mean anyway? Who wanted those endless stats? What did I do in work today? Nothing. Rushing to get back for school pick-up. Late again. Angry teacher talking to her as if she was six. Driving home with the kids, “what did you do in school today?” “Nothing – what’s for tea?” At home, the overflowing laundry, the pointless cooking of tea – prodding of broccoli, shovelling of pasta. What did I do at home today? Nothing. She tried to put all this in the note, waiting for the valerian to kick in and took more painkillers. When she left, who would even miss her really? Exemplary employee, caring wife and mother – just functions. They’d miss the functions. How could they miss her? She had been lost a long long time. She tried to put it in the note, but it was hard to put it into words. She wasn’t sure what she was writing. The next day at 4.40am, she slipped out of bed and out of the house. She got to the coast and wondered vaguely if she’d shut the front door. She imagined the house – wide open, wondering where she’d gone – the overflowing laundry, the untidy rooms, the toys crying “organise us!” and the fresh air blowing in whispering “she’s gone, she’s gone” and the children and Sam sleeping on and on until they woke and tried to remember what she looked like and life going on without her. She got to the coast and looked at the harbour bridge shiny in the dawn.She didn’t remember it being so long, the end was barely visible, the other side of the harbour mouth hazy and clean. She didn’t remember it being so narrow, only room for her. Weren’t there buildings on the other side? Where was the traffic? Maybe it was always this quiet at 4.40am. Was it still 4.40am? No it must be later, time for the alarm to go off. Surprising there is no traffic. She starts to walk across the bridge. Why am I walking? Didn’t I bring the car? Never mind. It’s peaceful here but looks even more peaceful there. The buzzing, the humming, the relentless noise of her mind is silent. Nothing can be heard, not the sea, nor the wind, nor the town behind her. Is the town behind her? She doesn’t want to turn and look – the other side of the bridge is more inviting. There is a person coming towards her, as vague as the bridge, it is calling to her. It must be shouting because it’s so far away she can’t tell if it’s male or female, but the voice is like a whisper, she closes her eyes to hear better. “Not yet,” it says, “Go back, go back, here is some strength, go back, go back” and rain starts to fall on her from the clear blue sky, “come back come back” and she opens her eyes and Sam is holding her, his tears falling on her face, and she is in her bed and he is holding her and he has her letter in his hand, crushed against her, and he has her letter in his hand, crushed against her with its scrawled words: “I’m lost. I’m so tired. I want to sleep forever. Find me.” And he is whispering “you didn’t wake when the alarm went off, I didn’t know, I didn’t know” and he pulls her up to himself, crying into her hair and she steps back off the bridge and into his arms.
Copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission