Literary Orphans

Notes on Wrongdoings
by Rachael Smart


1. Jonny listened to too much Oasis. He thought they were designed for him and he believed staunchly that Brit Pop defined his moody character. He wasn’t even complex enough to emulate being moody or rebellious or lairy with any kind of convincing authenticity. His dad was a photographer and since birth, Jonny perfected the wide-eyes and simpering pout, the James Dean, the portrait face. Yet thin lips can’t pout. He reminded me of a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

2. Jonny studied Instant Management at university and he’s never managed anything instantly – or slowly – ever since.

3. Jonny reminded me of the definition of asexuality. Because of the insignificance of his face and his blank stranger-over-there body, my insides stayed permanently still. Nothing rose. Nothing melted. Nothing ran.

4. He made me laugh hard. A good thing, you might assume. But wild, hysterical laughter morphs into sudden tears at some point. It spills over the emotional borderlines then the laugh retreats in tinny echoes, leaving hollow spaces behind where the humour first burst. Imagine my wrath, when I discovered that his side-splitting comic improvisation was, in fact, rehearsed over many years and all the jokes borrowed from somebody else.

5. His shoes reminded me of fat button mushrooms. Even when he bought new ones, I only saw the old ones.

6. His eyes were blue-black. The only owners of blue eyes that I’d known of that shade were gutted fish.

7. Jonny lived in a static caravan and I’d wake to woodlouse crawling over my face, then find some upended on their fat grey-lined backs, legs writhing, legs pedalling under the wet, cold bed sheets in blind panic. The bath was Jif yellow and it was never lemon clean. The food we cooked tasted of jellied eels, of scrub-green Palmolive soap, of something gone sickly wrong. His clothes smelt of moulding spores and he putrefied all the matters I cared deeply about.

8. Jonny loved eleven men chasing pigskin above all other art forms.  He called me his book-worm, his little creep, his baby-face, his no-nonsense artist, his storyteller, such fond, safe, familiar names that they branded me repellent and smothered my faded voice.

9. Jonny consistently took me to places where I couldn’t fit inside. It is incredibly hard to shrink. So, I mirrored him and dumbed down and numbed my senses until I lost myself in bars, stumbled across unfriendly people in pubs with staring eyes, as mislaid as my own.

10. Jonny drank to stun his own failings and he took me down into empty glasses with him. I staggered up against mirrors which reflected somebody else entirely. It was astonishing to find I was my own wrong fit. Then, once unzipped and cast off, I laid out my tiger skin with jungle-green glass eyes. They looked upwards and outwards, they looked all ways from the stained floor, yet they saw nothing.

11. Jonny always maintained that I was just the same person as when I’d first met him. I watched closely, suspiciously even, for traces of my lost self, I even tried to trick ‘me’ into coming back out the shuttered door with much loved music and books, just as a child hopes on a Cuckoo clock. Eventually, I took to drinking Pinot Grigio that had been iced in the soil-streaked snow stack under the caravan. At night, I wore black, drank deeply, celebrated my own funeral wake and played Patsy Cline’s ‘Crazy’ for the dead girl, on repeat.

12. Jonny decided it wasn’t the right time for him to have children when I found out our daughter was growing inside me, a prawn in a pink bedroom.

13. When I lost our daughter on a silver trolley, he was sinking pints with swede-nosed men, pouring his bloody heart out to them, smoke-throated and sand-paper voiced. They sympathised that he was trapped with a psychopathic nutter, they baahed and booed and conceded at that. They warned him to tread very carefully or otherwise, I would bleed him dry.

14. He called me off my trolley when I was hearing voices, then he went to play five a side football with Sheila and Killer. Listening to the heavy rain pop peas off the tin roof sounded like drumming laughter of the cruellest kind.

15. Jonny shook his head with a sad, judgmental facial expression when I scalped the childhood dolls I’d been saving for the nursery. He said I should up my Prozac dose whilst I skewered their front creases open with cheap fountain pens.

16. Jonny threw me out of his life before he damaged me to death. He sauntered off down his well-trodden path and I fell off the edge of mine. Amongst the withdrawal and medication and surgery and rehabilitation and relapse and mothering and birthing and mirroring, it was sisterhood that managed to get a dead girl up and rising.

17. Jonny and I met accidentally in a supermarket fifteen years after he left. He spoke fondly to me about us, said that it had been so good whilst it lasted. There was casualness, as though we’d just been a ten minute chat in a pub or the slip of a moon behind cloud, perhaps a short uphill sprint or two ladybirds pausing, momentarily on the cool underside of a leaf. Then his voice burred and he said that actually, he still doesn’t sleep well some nights because of the past, because of what he’d done. He smiled as he told me that he’d changed now, his two front teeth still quite criss-crossed and giving him that look of perpetual amusement. He said he’s really quite sorry, that he has a young daughter now, anyway.

18. Jonny underestimated me and now, he overestimates the costs of his wrongdoings.

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Rachael Smart is a social worker from Nottingham with a thing about words. Her work has appeared in Litro, Ether Books, Cease, Cows and Prole. She is hopelessly addicted to the writer’s website, ABCtales and likes to write dark stuff in floppy notebooks with blunt pencils. You can visit her at smartrachael.wordpress.


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–Art by Marina Ćorić