gray by slingshotmama

10 Jan

John tried deliberately to remove the stubborn metal dust from his hands, rubbing the soap into a lather, rubbing his skin raw and red. It never worked, his fingers seemed to retain a permanent blue hue, a reminder that he was stuck here. That he would never be free.

He felt old now. His beard, heavy with sweat, made him look more creased and damaged than, maybe, he actually was. He didn’t know anymore. They didn’t celebrate birthdays, or the passing of each year here. John barely managed to keep hold of the number of days that had passed since he came here. Most days, especially today, he forgot where “here” was.

The air was smoky and gray, just like his hands, just as permanent. The sloshing water calmed him, eased his mind, helped him remember. He closed his eyes and thought of her. Her dark eyes, almost black. Her red hair which created a halo of curls around her shining pink face. Her soft belly and pillow-like breasts. He remembered the reverberation of lullabies he felt on his cheek when he rested there, small and fragile. Her scent was sweet and floral and left his nose aching. There were no flowers here, never were. Just endless grays, endless shadows, and always, always the sound of the water.

John’s lips were cracked and dry. Hoping to impart some moisture, he licked them. The taste of salt clawed at his tongue and he was pulled violently from his reverie. It was always the case. Whenever he came close to remembering her name, the exact image of her face instead of just pieces that created the whole, he was stopped. What was stopping him, though, that was the question. But he never had the time to investigate properly, never had the energy. Nearly every hour was taken up with the seemingly useless task of grinding metal, a job designated solely for him. He didn’t know why. He didn’t know where the metal went and never noticed where it came from.

Three thousand six hundred forty five days, give or take hundreds of days. That is how long he’d been here. He laid on his cot, exhausted physically but his memories, or more accurately, the want of them were prying at his mind; a prisoner trying to vain to pull open the bars of his iron cage. He rolled on his side and, after digging his thumb into the decaying wood for the three thousand six hundred forty sixth time, began to count the existing tally marks.

The memories pushed through his dreams, black and curling at the edges as charred photographs. His mother was there, wonderfully large and looking very soft. She was just out of reach. There was a boy, too, small and sharp-looking, bones protruding through thin ivory skin and he was being pulled, pulled away from her by big, hairy, dark-colored hands. He was clawing at her yellow blouse desperately. “Momma,” he was shouting in his little boy voice, “Momma.” Again and again, each time more painful, each time more agonized by the fact that she would not answer. She was not even moving. She was sleeping, too asleep to notice him being taken away. He tried reaching for the little boy, tried to hug him, comfort him. How can you allow something so small to hurt so badly? Why wasn’t she waking? He was so loud. As close as he felt he could not wrap his arms around the boy. And then he wondered… was she dead?

John woke abruptly. His face was wet with sweat and tears. He was shaking. He tried recalling what he had just seen: dark hands, yellow blouse, someone screaming, and then everything disappeared. He was left only the hollow in his heart.

Feeling heavy with sleep, he washed his face.

He drank his coffee.

He arrived to work.

He grinded metal.

He arrived home.

He washed his hands red.

After thumbing the three thousand six hundred forty seventh tally mark into the wall, he turned to his side, listening to the water, his only lullaby, hoping tomorrow he would remember more than his name.

One Response to “gray by slingshotmama”

  1. ingridfnl at 12:22 am #

    This is just beautiful.
    I love your descriptions… the detail. Thank you.

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