'Lip Reading' by Niamh Boyce

I’ve always been most at home in bed but this one, this one’s my favourite. It holds traces of our love, our skin, our stains. I even love them. That’s how in love I am. I can find no end to the things I love about Andrew and I tell him so, whisper... the inside of your mouth, I want to taste every silky second of it. His ear is warm against my lips, but his eyes stay shut. He used to tease and banter, ask had he married a nymphomaniac. You bet, I’d answer, you bet. I took care to wear nice things, cami-knickers, satin slips, negligees. Thought ahead of what it would feel like to seduce him, to slip beneath his fingers like a dream. Wake up Andrew.

              I know he knows I’m here.

When I fall, eventually, to that place called sleep, the black creatures come to molest me, to search every inch of my body with crab crawling death hands. They want me to join them. I try to scream but my throat is closed. They’re not real, I remind myself. Not real. I get out of bed. Cross the cool ridged floorboards and smooth my palm across the mirror. The reflected face is strange, angry. Go away, she says. Get out of here.

                                                      I’m outside, in the garden.

It’s dark, and so cold. Light from the patio doors draws me close. Something is different. A baby, of all things, is propped in a highchair in my kitchen. Andrew stands beside her, offering a spoon. He’s frazzled but patient. Baby’s white cardigan is speckled with orange food. That child should be asleep.

              I move closer.

Fine hair combs the collar of her cardigan. I want to reach in and touch her, inhale that baby smell. Andrew lifts her from her chair. She spits up. He wipes her chin with a tea towel, kisses the top of her head. Hoisting her onto his hip, he turns towards the glass door and points in my direction. His mouth moves. I read his lips. Look, look, he seems to say. Is it me he sees? I wave but Andrew just continues to talk. Look, look, he’s saying, who’s that beautiful girl in the window? Who’s that beautiful girl? He’s showing the child her reflection.

A woman joins them, the woman from the mirror. She pats the baby then looks directly at me. Her breath clouds the glass when she speaks. Leave us, alone. She draws the curtains closed like the show is over. But it’s not over.  I will not leave you Andrew.

I’ll remain; remain to tousle the thread end of your dreams like the wind does the leaves, whispering and whispering; the inside of your mouth, I want to taste every silky second of it, wake up, wake up, wake up.

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