Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Shaking The Leaves Off By Mary-Clare Newsham

When I say it was the best of times, what I mean is that we were in love, and back then I still thought that was enough to save a person, and that buying warm bread from the market and eating it with full fat butter and ginger beer in the park and then rolling down the hill together was medicinal enough to cure all of those things that I didn’t understand.

I think maybe I did worry about him. The irritation and the drinking. Every time I woke up in the night he would always be awake too, and when I moved closer to him I could feel his heart was beating too quickly and his skin was sweaty even though he was cold. But then he’d wrap his arm around my waist and I’d think, what a strong protector. How steady he is. How lucky I am. You find ways of excusing things. And this is what a real man does. Protects his wife, defends his family, keeps a steady hand. For most of my life, I believed that, I lived with men who were solid, stable, secure. Who would stand at parties with one hand on the small of my back and the other holding a beer and they’d talk and joke with my friends, and afterwards let me fall asleep on their chest to the sound of their slow beating heart. I still don’t claim to understand this new life. But the bitterness has gone now. I no longer miss the lightness and the narrowness. I have learned now to enjoy exploring the wide and expansive dark.

I remember when the panic attacks first started, the resentment of having to leave parties with blushing apologies, I remember being furious with him when he sat down in the street, hugging his knees to his chest and saying not again, I thought I was better, I thought I was better now. I remember saying get up right now, people are looking. At the beginning it was too hard to live with, but you always adapt to the darkness eventually, and your eyes see things in different, though sometimes more terrifying ways. On the best days there was stillness and smiling. On the worst day there were blades and bottles, I remember lying down next to him on the bed and feeling him shake and cry against my steady chest. I remember there was a woodlouse climbing the wall and on the radio the song was saying – If we all went back to another time, I will love you over. I will love you over.

This love is softer and sometimes it feels like that means it is rotting faster and more likely to turn to dust soon, but mostly it feels like comfort and warmth, mostly it feels like sitting underneath a blanket hand in hand with him and watching the shadows shrink and grow on the walls.

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