‘Her’ Outside

 In Short Stories

This story explores how we can be present and absent to ourselves; whether we are a home to come home too or whether we leave ourselves out in the cold…..

I am looking out the window of my home, without really seeing anything. My eyes see, but my mind is not involved. My mind is busy within itself, constructing, comparing analysing and remembering.
I am standing there and my mind is quietly and gently distracted by a movement outside the window. First the mind starts connecting to what it is seeing: and indistinct movement up and down in red and black, which as it becomes clearer shows itself to be a little girl in a red coat and black shoes, skipping and running. Then my mind starts registering the sound which is the tapping of her shoes, muted through the window pane and the high tingling of her singing voice. The picture becomes bigger as my mind turns away from its inner machinations to connect to what I am seeing and hearing outside my window. The little girl moves around a winter bare tree in the garden.

My mind connects with the concept of chill and I suddenly realise that the room I am in is cold and very still and that my body feels slightly numb. My mind sojourn has made the return to my body feel like a coming home to a cold and disused house after an extended holiday.

Where are we now?

How long have I been away? How long has my little one been outside and ‘unminded’?

I take note of her again and see that she is standing still, very still. I can’t see her face but I can see from the droop in her shoulders that she is tired. As if she notices my attention she turns around and our eyes lock. Her gaze is rebellious, petulant but at the core lonely and frightened. I feel guilty instantly at letting my mind wander for so long and rush to the door, quickly turning on the heater as I go.

On opening the door she trudges in, past me into the hall. I am about to greet her in a sing-song voice, realising just before I do that this would be an attempt on my part to gloss over my absence; let’s pretend it didn’t happen. And she’s waiting, remaining mute, waiting for my decision; to gloss over or not to gloss over.

In case of ‘gloss over’, she’ll keep walking silently to her room and shut the door behind her. In case of ‘not gloss over’, there is a chance of warmth and genuine togetherness. I choose the latter and instantly the heater kicks in. Wordlessly, peeling of her little red coat, I listen to the sounds we are creating and wear them like a warm blanket enveloping us both. The house starts to feel cosy again and I can feel her little body relax and soften. I take her to the couch in the living room, where not that long ago it was cold and devoid of real life; where I was looking but not seeing out of the window.

I light a candle on the table in front of us and we watch it flicker while we lean into each other on the couch. I can feel her breathing, her body moving up and down; ever so slightly quicker than my breathing. She looks up at me and I turn my head to meet her gaze which is curious and questioning. Her eyebrows are slightly raised and her mouth little open. My gaze must answer her question as her face relaxes and her mouth sinks into a smile. I realise she was checking where I was, there with her or off again in my mind. My eyes would have shown her I was right there with her; experiencing the sitting together of our bodies, our minds present and cuddling up together as well.

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