Friday 19 April 2013

'Vivienne' by Kylie Grant

On Sunday mornings, in preparation for the day ahead, Vivienne has a hot bath. She likes to get in the water when it has not yet had a chance to be still. She does not sit down straight away. Instead she stands, and with her fingers, follows the rivulets of condensation running down the walls, each trail breaking up as the water is diverted, creating unpredictable routes. Once satisfied, she sits.

During the bath she reads a poem out loud, her voice low and reverential. Her favourite poems are the ones where the words sink beneath her, hiding in the shadow of her body, dirtying the water.

Afterwards, Vivienne spends an hour choosing an outfit. She will also choose a hat, and because she lives in England, it will inevitably be a rain hat, one that can be tied tightly around her neck. There is nothing worse than losing a hat.

At two, Vivienne attends her local community centre where, in a room on the top floor, she strips naked. As she is placed in position, five others enter the room. There is almost always no talking, only the scuff of trainers on lino and perhaps a gentle cough. Vivienne’s been doing this too long to still be moved by her nakedness, and being drawn does not hold the same fascination it once did. She now comes only for the view. From the window Vivienne can see a garden below. It is the garden of her childhood; wild, green and full. For two hours she watches the restless trees and the shivering grass, the flapping laundry and the fluid movements of people, until the class is over and she dresses quickly, avoiding the keen eyes of the artists, and shows herself out.

Once home she eats a small dinner: bread, cheese and ham.

At seven she begins to remember.  She remembers her mother’s hatred of rose bushes, and the spring she ripped them from the earth, and then the small pond at the bottom of the garden where she went to watch frogs mate and cried at the cruelty of sex. She remembers the arch of twisted branches in the winter, the tang of rain on her tongue and the burn of the sun.

At nine, she begins to forget.

Vivienne sleeps well on Sunday evenings. She has filled herself up only to empty herself once more. Her dreams are quiet. Her breathing heavy.

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