doesn’t have Facebook. I half think I made her up.
If I mention her to my mother, she sniffs, says
that’s the girl who threw your shoe in the toilet.
The one who scribbled on your school report. Her,
who chased me with dandelions; dandelions meant
you wet yourself. But her, too, who threaded daisies
and wrapped them gently around my head, leaning back
to admire the effect. I never went to her house.
A very strange family. Best not. Being friends with Tara
was a desire I couldn’t understand, like wanting
to touch dark, wet paint. Her hair fell all the way
down her back: coarse, wavy, almost black. Once,
when we were changing for PE, Connor and his friend
walked through the classroom: Tara was topless,
in her lilac training bra. I blushed. Tara stared
straight out at them, hands on her hips, unmoved.
I found it interesting, how she wanted me to suffer.
It was a new experience. I spoke of the incidents
as if of a poltergeist, all the time knowing.
Later, I had nicer friends, good blonde girls like me
who put ten pound notes in birthday cards.
Yet when I remember Tara, I remember
her thin white arms around me, her warm,
Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit breath on my neck.
I remember her licking her finger,
and very quickly, almost tenderly, reaching
and rubbing a mark from my cheek.
The truth is I’m not sure what I did
those mornings they’d leave, my mother
always in a floral capped-sleeve shirt.
I wish I could say I graffitied the newsagent,
or met with a nicotine-fingered boyfriend,
or learned Bertrand Russell by heart. I didn’t
do any of those things, nor the homework
I’d invented to excuse my godlessness.
Alone in the hefty silence, I felt loose
and endangered, like an undone shoelace
or an open rucksack. I’d pace from room
to room, hands tucked up my sleeves.
I’d play snatches on the piano, or make
elaborate little snacks – crackers piled
with quartered grapes and shavings of cheese.
I was like a blunt knife, failing to cut
and apportion the hours. I’d spin
on the office chair, or curl up on patches
of carpet, pretending to be dead.
I might have put on a CD, shaken
my hips to Run DMC, a jerky
figure of eight. I might have filmed myself dancing.
I’d be choosing another colour for my nails
when the key would turn in the lock:
my parents, whole and returned,
having sung their hallelujahs
and walked back through the cool light rain.
Dear Anne Monroe, Healthcare Assistant
I’m sorry that my sister will not let you take her blood
for the operation that will save her life.
Sorry for her ratchety stubborn fear,
which will make you late
for your next appointment. Sorry, also,
for the 16k a year, for the commute
from Clapham North to Archway
where the light is piss-yellow
and everyone is angry. Sorry
for the overtime, for the man who asked,
offhand as if in your living room,
where it is you’re from originally.
Sorry for the ten-minute lunch break,
the gulped-down cheese and lettuce
sandwich. Sorry she is snatching
her arm from your grasp,
and leaping up to leave. Because
the way you kneel in front of her now
is so perfect, how you fix her with
your steady yellowish eyes, fierce
with your short hair and scrubbed bare face
and piercings. You’re just the sort of person
who can get away with calling someone
sweetheart, which you do, and my sister
(not a sweetheart, all bones and edges)
blinks like a newborn animal,
slack now from all her jumpy breathing.
Sorry, because it’s not even 8.30, Anne,
and you’re already magnificent
knowing just how to grip my sister’s knee
so her breathing slows and deepens
and she barely feels the needle as it enters
Bryony Littlefair works as a support worker, carer and fundraiser in London, where she also runs her own creative writing group. Her work has appeared in Popshot and The Cadaverine and is forthcoming at Ink, Sweat and Tears. Find her at learningtointerrupt.wordpress.com or on Twitter @B_Littlefair.