Literary Orphans

Drowning by Alice Simmons

She is wires and blood. Chemicals and water erode her. Where her body once lay there are bones and skin but her eyes are gone, dusted over. You ask her if she would like some water? A sandwich? A bullet in the head? She strokes the back of her hand and tells you the doctors want her dead and the nurse he touched her, touched her inappropriately.

Okay, which one? She points out a young man with dark eyes. You approach him and apologise. You ask if he touched your mother. He sighs. You sigh. You apologise and return to her. She tells you that you don’t take her seriously, it was always dad that you preferred.

A woman starts screaming two beds down, howling, she thinks she is drowning.

Mother opens her mouth and swears. Tells the woman she’s a fucking cunt, to shut her cunting mouth. You know this isn’t your mother. She takes a breath and you think she’ll begin the torrent of words again but she reaches for her juice box and latches her lips around. For a while all you hear is the sound of her straining to suck.

You tell her that Lola’s home for Christmas. Lola who? And Max has bought back someone new, for the holidays mum. Her head presses forwards and she takes another sip. They’ve said they’ll visit tomorrow, you’ll all visit tomorrow. She asks if you’ve bought them a present, a present from her. You think she may have mellowed. Yes, you’ve sorted the presents.

She asks if you hate her. No. She disagrees and tells you a dream she had dreamt the night before, you took a pillow and held it down on her face. A doctor told you to do it, the whore doctor who wanted her dead. The room was dark and you took the pillow from her bed and looked her in the eyes. She waited, she didn’t think she was scared, she was more confused, perhaps surprised. The pillow was in your hands. You pressed it to her face with no struggle, no fight. Her body relaxed into it.

She looks at you without blinking for a few seconds too long then her words slip out with an upward inflection which is the only way you know that she’s asking a question. You don’t understand, you’re not sure you try. So she asks if you can get her some more grapes. Yes. Purple not green. You tell her you’ll pick some up in a few days, when the shops are open again. The nurse tells you visiting time is over, you can come again tomorrow from 2. Mother almost lifts her hand to reach for you but it falls back to the bed unused.

Wrapping your scarf around your mouth you step outside. The wind lashes across the parking lot, catching you in the face with such force you struggle to breath. You think you might be drowning. Then you’re in your car with Oasis switched on, dreaming of leaving, until you’re gone.

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Alice Simmons is a British writer and recent graduate of the University of Nottingham’s English and Creative Writing course who currently works in communications. She has recently been published in the New York magazine ARTPOST.

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–Foreground Art by Steven Gray

–Background Art by Giuseppe Milo