I am Annie, a good wife and woman with skills in cooking and cleaning, and in sensuality.
This is my story of the broken heart.
We were married on a Tuesday, when John was in full health and the sky was murky, white and pink, like the soft belly of a speckled rodent.
John said, ‘Annie, we will be very happy. I can tell,’ and then he held onto me, and his hands were all around my body. John licked his nice soft lips for me to kiss.
The guests were watching us, at The Brass Cross, and even though I didn’t have very much English, and I did not yet know these faces, I repeated, ‘Very happy,’ and John held up my arm, like I had just won at a football match.
John said, ‘Will ya listen to that then? She says she’s very happy!’ and all of the people sprang out of their chairs clapping. Those were the words that the people had been waiting to hear.
There was no sadness on this treasured day, except when we left The Brass Cross, and John fell down onto the floor and ripped a small part of my yellow-white dress.
John was spluttering, ‘Annick, fuckin’ ‘ell, help me up, Annick,’ and I looked down on him in amongst the cigarette butts and the bits of glass that shimmered like romantic stars in the sky, and I said, proudly, ‘That is no longer my name, babylove. My name is Annie, Annie Dodd.’
But John, my babylove, he was laughing strangely, and saying, ‘Annick, Annick, very thick, ha-ha-ha,’ and even though I had not seen John light a cigarette, he suddenly blew out some smoke, which quickly disappeared, or was sucked back in, like silk, or a lizard tongue.
John had a very good job as a caretaker in Paradise Block, the same building that we lived in. But even though I wrote to Mamma to tell her all about his work and his motivation, it was a bad situation, not good, because John told me that he had a big pressure with having to fix up the whole of the block by himself. The building was built very cheaply, with windows that will fall out all by themselves, and damp and mould as thick as fur, a cat ghost creature that will slink into each and every flat.
I was so soothing and I asked John, ‘Why don’t you have a different job, or you could retire and get a state pension in two, maybe three years? Then we would spend more time, we could visit the English countryside, the green hills.’
But John said, ‘I’ve got to keep you now. I’ll be workin’ ‘til I die, just to keep you happy,’ and then he got very angry, picking up a heeled shoe and throwing it across the room, saying about burdens and how things were different in the United Kingdom, especially where we lived, in Clutter, then accusing me for wanting to live in another place called Plum Regis. John said that he was married to Paradise Block as well as being married to me; there were so many sacrifices that he had, and he could not be taking me to countryside parks, the places that I particularly wanted to go, because he had no car, and it was to cost an arm and a leg on the bus.
It seems so soon in our childish marriage, but this was the time that John began to tell me about the big pain he would be getting in his chest, a knife stabbing, over and over, even though he was young, only 64 years of age, and about how this added to the pressure on his mind. John didn’t want me to be worrying, so when I wanted to help, he would be telling me to be quiet: ‘Shut up! Shut up!’ he would yell.
I told Mamma that John didn’t want to put a strain on me.
All the same, it was only a few years in the past, when I was still Annick, living in my little yellow-white room, that my own dear Mamma had watched my father die slowly. He was ill for a long time, turning first red, cracked and sore-looking, like a stubbed toe, then seaweed-green, shuddering in the corner where my mother kept him, until finally he was blue: dead.
I was frightened for my John—what if the exact same were to happen to him?
‘John!’ I would say, ‘Please, won’t you stay with me, where I can preserve your precious health?’
But John couldn’t stay right by my side, because he had to work; every single day, and then he had to go and visit The Brass Cross again, to take away the stress of his very existence.
Of course, in my mind I wasn’t making a problem, but John said that I was a problem without even trying because when he would come home, I would be sitting in the front room with the lights off, like a fucking ghost, sitting there and giving the creeps. But, and I didn’t even tell my John this: when I had not been out all day long and not ever spoken to anybody, except a man who had rung to tell me to buy an insurance package, I just wanted to see my babylove and be close. (It is a secret that I spoke to the nice insurance man about John’s chest pain and all of my worries. I spoke to him for such a long time that I ended up giving him the long number across John’s credit card.) I was so frightened because I was thinking all about John’s precious health. I was thinking of the horror of being alone and free.
Oh, how afraid!
Anyhow, it was late and dark and I didn’t want to worry John, so I just said, ‘I thought you might like me to wait up for you, to have a love-fuck.’
I showed John my breasts by pulling down my pretty nightgown that Mamma had bought for me, for my wedding night. The nightgown was especially for sensual purposes.
That was when John said to me, ‘What is wrong with you, woman?’
And then John fell onto the sofa, wheezing and clutching his chest, and I saw that now, even my sensuality could cause a risk to John’s health, and I immediately left the room, packing away my love-fuck gown in a trunk while I listened in horror to John’s strange choking sounds, watching his lovely shape through the glass in the bedroom door. I decided that I would put everything that could kill John into this trunk. John did not like me to have secrets, but I knew that this was for his own good, and I kept the key on a little chain around my wrist. For now, it was just the love-fuck gown; so delicate and pink in the darkness, a dangerous jellyfish, floating in a black sea.
I held John’s hand during the examination. I could see that he was frightened, that he was scared of his death, just as my father had been.
The doctor was a woman. She had soft plastic gloves and constantly wrote things on her computer. She wore trousers and socks, like a man, and a little white jacket with three pens, red, green and blue, in her top pocket.
The doctor said, ‘This is very serious,John. If you don’t make changes to your lifestyle, you’ll be in serioustrouble within six weeks.’
I gasped in horror and repeated what the doctor had said: ‘Six weeks!’
John turned to me and said, ‘Shut it,’ and then he turned to the doctor and said, ‘I’m not even ill. I’m just stressed. I’m under a lot of pressure. It’s just me, fixin’ a whole block of flats, no one to help.’
John was pulling at his shirt collar as if it were too tight. ‘A hundred and twenty-seven flats, I’ve got,’ he carried on, ‘and all of them got their plumbin’ goin’, goin’, gone. The walls are bustin’ their own plaster, I don’t even know how they’re doin’ it. Every day, I’ve been getting a call from someone: “My ceilin’s comin’ down on my babby’s head, my water pipe burst on all my best clothes…”’
The way John was talking, I was imagining Paradise Block as a terrifying sea animal, twisting all of its parts from one shape to another and bursting in and out of the dark water. John was sailing on a little ship that was like to the death trunk, and on the shoreline was the green English countryside. I stood there, shouting into the black waves ‘Look out, babylove!’
‘I’m sure I couldn’t do it,’ said the doctor, very respectfully, but John just scowled.
‘I’m sure you could not,’ he said, bitterly, ‘it’s all very well when you’re safe in your nice fancy office, you know.’ He was pulling his collar again, ‘Is it fuckin’ hot in here or what? You’re not saving on your heating bill, that’s for sure.’
John kept talking over this woman doctor’s head, to the wall with the poster that showed a healthy heart next to the unhealthy heart.
‘I’m not ill,’ John repeated, ‘my heart looks like that one, not that one.’ John gestured at the wall. ‘You’re using fear tactics to control me,’ he added.
The doctor looked surprised. ‘I know this must be a strain on you, John,’ she said, ‘But I have to tell you, being ill does not mean that you’re a weak person.’ The doctor smiled with encouragement. ‘And you’ve got a lovely wife to look after you.’
I said, ‘Yes, John,’ very quickly, trying to hide the fact that I had been staring at the doctor’s pens in her top pocket: Red, green, blue. I had been thinking about my nightgown in the darkness of the death trunk.And then I looked at John’s face, which was turning pink around the edges, although the middle part was still very white and mottled except for his poor nose, which was covered in little veins.
‘We can start by implementing a few changes to your lifestyle,’ the doctor said.
She got up and started to look through some leaflets that were displayed next to the good vs. bad heart on her wall. John looked small and so sad, like a little boy in his smart shirt. John had been standing over me, saying to me while I ironed the shirt, ‘Make sure you get all the creases.’ I didn’t know why he needed to be looking so smart for this little health visit in Plum Regis, but then, when we got onto the bus, I saw that John had even done up his top button and that he was combing his hair behind his ears with his big hands. I realised that my John wanted to impress the doctor.
But then, when the doctor began to talk about diets and vegetables, John started shouting straight away.
‘What do you fuckin’ know?’ John yelled, ‘My ma smoked ‘til she was eighty-five and ate whatever the fuck she wanted. She had no problems! I can’t be doin’ with this, I want a proper doctor!’
The surgery door was on special hinges so it didn’t slam like the doors do at home.
I sat with the doctor for a few moments, feeling very uncomfortable. How could John only have six weeks left? I was trying to calm myself; there was no need to get too excited and fraught; maybe this really wasn’t a properdoctor, but a fake, assisting doctor. She must know that surely John couldn’t die this easily? John was solid and strong, like a lovely safe enclosure that I was to live inside of forever.
In my head, I was standing inside of the death trunk, wearing the dangerous jellyfish gown.
‘Listen,’ said this doctor. I must have been looking very upset because she put her plastic hand on mine; she had not yet taken off her gloves. ‘Maybe you could make some changes for John. It’s not too difficult. Do you cook?’
‘Cooking is one of my special interests. I cook and clean,’ I said, nodding.
I didn’t tell her what else I did as it was inappropriate, and I was thinking fondly of the little kitchen where I was making good cooking all of the time. Mamma would be working on training me to make foods when she heard that I was to be married to an English man named John Dodd who lived in a magical place called Paradise Block. She would show me the plate. ‘You think this is good enough for Mr Dodd? The English gentleman?’
Then Mamma would laugh cruelly and make me start again and even again until the dish was looking perfect. It was a shame that John only wanted takeaway meals and things from the microwave.
‘Well, what John really needs is less fat, less red meat, less salt, and no sweets or crisps, desserts etc. Do you see?’
The doctor handed me a little leaflet with all of the foods that John was not allowed. All of the foods were looking delicious for John.
‘I see,’ I said, studying the foods and trying to memorise them, these were the foods that would make John die. I would have to be so careful!
‘You can take these leaflets away with you,’ said the doctor, reading my mind somehow, ‘And we really want to reduce John’s alcohol intake, so if you could encourage him to stay at home, maybe have a weaker lager if he does have to drink.’
‘The alcohol intake could kill John,’ I repeated.
‘And any stress you can remove, if John can get away with doing less overtime, that would be a really good idea,’ said the doctor, her face was sincere. ‘He says that he’s maintaining a whole block of flats?’
My phone started ringing in my bag and I knew that it would be John, feeling angry in the car park.
I said very quickly, to confirm, ‘Are you a doctor?’
‘Yes, I am a doctor,’ said the doctor, looking as if something was funny. The doctor took off her plastic gloves and made herself busy to hide her smiling. I saw that she had very nice manicured nails and no wedding band.
‘And you’re sure all of these things will make John more sick? You have forgotten nothing?’
I fanned out the little leaflets that she had given me to make sure she could see them all.
‘That’s right,’ said the doctor, and now she put her naked hand on mine. ‘I’m sure that with the right support at home, John can reverse some of the damage that has already been done.’
‘Thank you,’ I said, smiling brightly at the doctor, but then my smile went away because the doctor was watching me, and it was then that I realised there was something really wrong with my John, and every part of my body cried out, oh no! Would John be taken from me? Where could I go to live then? And whom could I love with all of my heart?
Outside, it had started to rain and the room got dark. I watched the raindrops on the glass for a moment with the doctor, both of us standing up, almost side-by-side. There was a tree and already the water was dripping from the leaves. I saw that the wet tree was dark black, holding out its arms, like a man wanting to grab something from the air.
‘Look after yourself, Mrs Dodd,’ said the doctor, very softly, ‘you’ll get wet.’
The doctor smiled at me in a strange way, and then the smile fell down and she sat in her chair and got close to her screen, typing words very fast. When she looked up again she was surprised-looking that I was still there.
I tried to stop John from going to the pub that same evening, but he just said, ‘No woman will ever control me,’ and he was off again, running through the rain that was silver. The rain was falling so heavily that I was seeing John in quick flashes, as though he was running through the droplets, as though these droplets were parting for him like curtains, all the way to The Brass Cross.
While John was gone, I did some searching on his computer about heart problems, and the things that could kill my babylove, and some other legal things about marriage to be practical, the terms and conditions for the insurance that I had taken out; and then, just for myself, I searched, ‘What does heartbreak feel like?’ because I wanted to know, just in case the worst thing imaginable was going to happen, and I would have to act as the grieving widow.
I hid the leaflets very carefully in the trunk, as well as the complicated letters that had arrived from the insurance company, and went to look in the kitchen cupboards for all the things that might kill John, marking each sack of doughnuts, the packets of Surely Jacks biscuits, each tube of blood pudding and every tin of super strength lager with a small black heart.
There was a gas leak in the building, and John was out every day for so long. He said that lives depended on him and I told him, but John, what about yourlife! I kept expecting to see green smog coming under the door and filling the flat, but it did not happen. John came back every night, he looked grey under the electrical light, but I knew that if I saw him in the daylight he would be looking green.
Seaweed, my John was drowning!
I decided that I would make John a dish that my mother had taught to me. The dish was made from fine baby squid, stuffed with pork and pickled vegetables, a delectable and tricky meal. This was one of my father’s very favourites, so rich and delicious, I remembered how pleased he was when my mother had cooked it for him, those mossy teeth he showed.
I had to place most of the items on order from the butcher’s department, where the butcher looked at me very suspicious, and I was thinking that he would not serve me at all. The butcher wears a bloody apron and has a tattoo that says ‘100% British Beef’ on his arm, which always makes me think that he may cut into his own flesh when I make an order of some steaks. When the bell rings, the butcher comes out from behind his plastic curtains and looks at me. Before the plastic falls back into position, I can see where he sits on a deck chair and watches a small television, which is positioned on top of a metal cabinet. The butcher takes up my shopping list and looks with more suspicion, holding the list between his forefinger and his thumb. This is where I have learnt to take out John’s credit card and place it silently on the counter.
I spent the morning chopping the pickled vegetables, the slimy Amanitamushrooms, orange where the colour had been taken away from them, and looking a little bit alike to the death cap mushrooms that Mamma used to collect to grind into powder for the killing of rats and other things. This orange colour changed when I began to cook, and then they looked pale, like blind eyeballs or snails. I was pleased with these new grey mushrooms, as I did not want John to think that I was trying to poison him, my babylove! There were two more jars now, gherkins swimming in green water, like sleeping crocodiles and leaves of cabbage that had become thin, nearly like wings or the skirt of an angel.
When the sun had moved to the other side of the kitchen, I looked at the clock and wiped the blood of the mushrooms off onto my own apron, pouring the red meat into a hot pan. The fat started to screech when it hit the oil, and for a moment I was frightened, but I quickly calmed myself. I took out the squid. This part of the recipe was the biggest challenge and where Mamma had always shouted, ‘You see! You’re not fit to be any old man’s wife!’
Mamma liked to hit the back of my hands with her wooden spoon.
I cut away the little squid legs, slightly greenish, reminding me of Mamma’s varicose veins; they stood out, so angry and proud. Mamma said that those veins came from carrying me around when I was a baby inside of her, they were all kinds of sharp angles, but so delicate when you touched them, like the tubes of a heart. I had some marks of my own now, I had seen that there would be some lines around my eyes, a couple of grey legs like of spiders standing up from the place where my hair parted, but never mind, vanity was not so much of a matter. What mattered now was that I would treat these squid with as much care as I would treat John’s heart and then, I would make the perfect dish.
There were eight squid, because I knew my John babylove to have the biggest appetite when he was coming back from work. Here was the first, which I picked up with my tongs and crouched over, pushing my finger inside the plastic seacave; it was bouncy, and I was cleaning out some bits of sticky plasma. Holding my breath, I lifted the squid a little higher and, with my face underneath it, I poked at the end with a single toothpick until there was a hole, so that the vegetables could breathe inside and didn’t become a mess of sludge.
Next, it was a time for the stuffing, the most delicate part, and I turned off the radio so that I could concentrate very fully.
So strangely, I was thinking of Mamma again; she was saying to me, ‘This man will not love you! He will treat you badly! Like a dog!’
I felt my hand shaking as I put the first portion of pork and vegetable into the squid’s body, and then I kept having to look behind me, into the room that was there, perfectly normal.
I was thinking that the meat was piping flawlessly into the plastic-like body and then the squid was escalating neatly around it, a little lung, when suddenly, the pod burst, and the meat began pouring out of the tear, hot and wet, and I could see that it was the wrong thickness, that it was just watery red.
I laughed to myself, do not be too full of confidence, Annick! But in my head I had called myself by my old name, and this made me feel shaken, even more. And it was the same, I kept on feeling some presence behind me and I thought to turn slowly, to show that I was not afraid, but when I got all of the way around, I could see that I had made a huge mess in the kitchen, and the pile of dishes and pans was a huge black shadow beside the sink, and of course! You are not a wife, Annick! It had begun to rain again and I did not dare to look outside, to the troll trees where the plastic bags caught in the branches waved like flags: the English countryside that was grey.
The second squid burst, more exciting this time, because I had seen that John would be home in two hours, and maybe he might even come home early. I knew that I must have something for my John, my babylove, that my skills cooking, cleaning, sensuality,would please him, so I tried to make the mangled white bodies presentable, on the cleanest plate that I could find in the cupboard, it was only chipped in one place. I put the squid in a kind of pile, four on the bottom and then three, one balanced carefully by itself, and the juices from the meat and vegetables dripped down in tears. I wiped the blood from around the meat, so that the plate stayed white, and then I stood back to observe my dish.
I sat on a chair and looked at the food for quite a long time, now and then dabbing at the white plate as more red juice leaked down out of the dish, making sure to save the very bright whiteness.
John came home at 10.45pm, and that was when the dish had gone very cold, even though I kept heating it so it was steaming again. Now the bodies had begun to turn yellow from the reheating, and they looked sticky, like glue or a wound that is bad. After a few hours, I had given up on cleaning up the red, so the septic bodies were swimming in juice like crimson.
‘Babylove!’ I shouted, and I ran to turn on the kitchen light, in case John would be angry with me for sitting in the darkness again, ‘I have made you a delicious meal.’
I smelt his smoke but he did not follow my voice and John, my babylove, he must have been so tired, because he shouted to me, ‘I got kebab,’ and nothing more.
And then I could hear him going away, into the shower, and I heard him turning the water on, mumbling to himself, and staggering a little while he was taking off his clothes, and, where the room was bright now, I saw that the rain was falling on the window, very heavy and fast. My hands were bunched and I unclenched them doing some calming breathing, but I could hear thunder rumbling from far away, and I saw that there were veins standing pronounced in my hands already, and that my fingers were red and hard, dry, old woman hands: where was Mamma?I was looking at the rain that was slapping the window so angrily that it seemed it might be a person, wanting to come right through, and I remembered my father, the prisoner in his little sickness room, and then, when the lightning flashed, I saw John’s heavy shape, moving around in the front room. John put on the television very loudly, and the shadows began to jump around in the silver light, surrounding John like sea monsters.
I slammed the red mixture, and the little white bodies all together and into a ball, the legs spurting out at some strange angles, red still inside. I looked at this shape, red and white, fatty and like it would be living, surrounded by old rubbish in the pedal bin, and I realised, look there, Mamma; this mess looks so very much alike to my John’s human heart.
I made a test one night.
John would always be saying that he didn’t like to take his pills, so I said, ‘John, John, you must take your pills, my babylove,’ and I kept on saying, like a good wife, even though he was watching his favourite film,theDie Hardfilm. He still has a VHS player that he uses for this only film and he repeats the lines to himself, very serious.
‘John, John, John,’ I said, ‘you must take your pills,’ until finally, he shouted, ‘Don’t tell me what to do, you bloody bitch,’ and he threw the pill bottle at me and it popped open, just like that, and then the pills leaked all over the floor.
‘John!’ I said, and I looked down at the little white pills, and thought, oh no! The pills are dirty now; those pills will probably do my babylove more harm than good. So I threw all of the pills into the bin.
When I saw my babylove John stamping around the kitchen in his slippers a few days later (these slippers are one of the things I have kept, I hold them close in the lonely nights) and pouring out drawers so that all of the items were a mess across the kitchen table: all the work items, thick gloves, twine that was twisted like an angry face, many, many papers and notes that John had written to himself, then a blue ball that bounced away and into a dark corner, and I said, ‘What are you looking for, babylove?’
And he said, ‘Where are my fucking pills?’
And I said, ‘I thought that you didn’t want them, John. I threw them into the bin,’ and it was then that John stared at me for the longest second and I saw that his face was really bright red already, and then, while I was watching, it turned even brighter red, it was like a blistering boil, and John grabbed me, and shook my shoulders—he squeezed my flesh tightly.
‘You bitch,’ he whispered, into my face, and some of his breath went into my mouth. And I thought for a second then of what Mamma had said before I left to marry John, maybe John wasthe same as my father, just a son-of-a-dog bastard, but then I remembered; this was my John, my babylove!
And later, when he wouldn’t let me have any of the fish and chips and iced yellow donuts that he had, that was alright to me, because I wasn’t that hungry anyway, and I thought about what the doctor with the soft gloves had said about me taking care, and how the rain had fallen so fast on the surgery window, the tree with the black arms, and I just gave my love John that extra portion, and I poured salt and vinegar on the chips so that they were all soggy wet and sparkling, just how he likes them. And instead of watching the Die Hard man saving everybody’s lives, I sat and I watched my babylove eat all of that food, looking at the little dribble on his chin and the sticky around his mouth and wishing and hoping for him to get better soon.
I couldn’t sleep, and every night I watched John snoring and grunting so sweetly, and wondered, will his heart stop tonight or tomorrow morning? Will it stop while he fixes some plumbing, or at The Brass Cross? Will John die in my very own arms? I spent a lot of time looking at the items in the death trunk, and reading the leaflets over and over. I had to know the items off by heart, so that I could make John eat all of the right foods. Cooking, cleaning and sensuality. I added other items to the trunk, some powerful bleach, and a letter that had been delivered from the kind lady doctor that asked for John to come into the hospital for a check-up, and a repeat prescription of pills. The paperwork inside of the trunk was now quite a lot and I looked through the sheets, checking all of the terms and conditions.
I was scared that if John collapsed outside somewhere, he would be rushed to hospital and surrounded by all of those fussy people and the nancy boys that he hated. I could sense how angry that would make my babylove; he hated to be told what to do, to be forced into spots that he was not happy in.
John just wanted to live his own life; he wanted to be free, that is what he told me.
In the end, it happened on an ordinary Sunday, while I was cleaning the oven. John had not gone to the pub that day because it was very grey outside, and swamp light went across the front room. The storm was over but there was wet in the air when I opened the window. There was a tea towel that had been drying on the sill and it was still soppingly wet. I saw John laying back on his reclining chair, like a toad, my babylove.
The oven had been needing a very good clean since I had arrived at Paradise Block and, even though John was not interested in eating the very nice meals that I would be making him (he would have his own tastes, I know), I wanted to keep the oven very clean.
John was watching the television and eating a television lunch meal, which I had assembled for him. Steak and chips with blood puddings, a food that does not look red like blood at all, but is black, dark like an eye.
The oven was very dirty and I wondered at myself for letting it get so filthy and disgusting; what had I been thinking about? I began by loosening the dirt that clung to the bottom of the oven, right inside. There was a smear of red sauce on the front of the glass, so sticky and perfectly formed that it looked like it could be lifted right off. I became obsessed by this cleaning although, I will have to say, I did hear something coming from the front room, a little like John was calling me from where he was sat, eating his steak, his chips that had come from the bubbling oil in a deep fat fryer. I was fingering this red sauce, the orange part where it was thin, and the deep red where the sauce was thick, and I considered to myself that the sound was almost definitely coming from the television. I started to hum in a gentle way, and I thought to play Whitney Houston on my phone. I needed to get the job done, and cleaning is one of my special interests, so I became very busy and engrossed.
When I pulled the tray out of the oven I exclaimed because there were little pools of fat around the rim, gathering in, thick and yellow. I must have been cooking many greasy foods for John babylove, because the tray was filthy with fat! Again, I was hearing this strange sound, strangled and angry, but I was so engrossed, removing the fat and thinking about how Mamma would look at me if she could see me now, scratching with a scourer, and then with my fingernails, a little frantic, when the fat would not move; I wanted to wash it all, to hide the yellow of the grime. My fingers were slippery now, and the water ran away from them, like I was wearing a protective plastic glove. I was transfixed, hearing those yelps only slightly, and watching droplets of water sticking onto my hands, my wedding ring was a crystal amongst many other sparkling diamonds, all looking like other, different lives.
In our flat, the telephone was in the kitchen, so I soon saw John, my babylove, dragging himself along the floor, where he would be flipping over onto his back, like a big fish, caught in the black wave, and saying, ‘Annie, help me, please.’
Of course, I turned off the tap right away. John was green already, not the green that I had expected, but a murky sea-deep kind of green, with purple edges. John’s eyes were bulging.
‘Oh John!’ I said, ‘Your heart!’
And John grabbed my hand, but the fat had made my skin so slippery that it slithered right out of his grip, and I ran until I was backed right against the wall. That was only a few steps because our kitchen was very small.
John stretched his arm towards me, ‘Help me!’ he said, ‘Help me, Annick!’
For a moment our eyes were together, but then his outstretched arm, which was waving away, distracted me. Oh such sadness I felt, that same arm that had, for so many times, held me still, in a gentle caress, as John did the sex-acts upon me. Cooking, cleaning, sensuality.
Red, green, blue.
Annick, Annick very thick.
Tears were springing into my eyes, running down my face, until I had become quite wet in my grief, but this seemed to make John angry, my babylove, and he went into a mad frenzy; all kinds of swear words came out of his mouth, and some yellow spit, as though the fats were all coming out of him, and I felt very afraid then, because I was not sure whether he could stand up, even though he was flat on his back holding onto his heart.
‘You bitch,’ John said, and these were the last things I ever heard from his mouth, because after that he quickly died.
I finished cleaning the oven with more tears exploding from my eyes, and when I was nearly done, I saw a small, decaying tentacle with dirty yellow rot squeezing out of its suckers. The tentacle had turned grey-blue, and it was disgusting, but I kept looking at it, remembering Mamma, while I scooted around John’s body and to the pedal bin, where I dropped the disgusting item and shut it away with the rest of John’s heart, all covered in beer cans and newspaper, plastic containers from takeaway dinners.
I am Annie, a good wife and woman with skills in cooking and cleaning and sensuality. This is my story of the broken heart, cut into pieces.
I did not want to keep the flat in Paradise Block, and when John died that day, the weight of his thrashing body on the floor made some more cracks appear on the walls, all over the ceiling; the flat looked as though it would burst open and fall to dust all around me. John’s dead body was there and then all of the cracks, the heart in the bin, and the oven, still dirty, so I took the bank cards, where John keeps all of his money and savings, the precious earnings from his caring for Paradise Block, and I left with my things in a black bag. It would be so tragically lucky that the nice insurance man had given me such comfort on that lonely day, just when I was starting to suspect the worst, because then, when that money comes to me, I will be able to buy my own flat in Plum Regis, just how John would have wanted it.
I still speak to John, my babylove, and I remember all of the things that he would say to me, the times that we might have had together, in the English countryside, the seaside, shopping at the gardening centre, which is what could have happened, if he had not been forced to go to The Brass Cross every day of our lives. I remember John, as I wanted him to be, the English gentleman, and then, in my head, we are so happy together— John is my sweet babylove.
In the nighttime, I wear my love-fuck gown. I put my feet into John’s slippers and up onto the dashboard of the silver car that I bought in John’s memory. John was always complaining about how he could not afford a car and how this was stopping him doing the things that he wanted to do. He told me that we would go on all kinds of trips if he could have afforded a car. And now, it is as though John is travelling with me. I will be stopping high up on a green hill, when the sun is setting, watching out for my babylove’s spirit, anyplace amongst the trees. From this little park on the hillside, I can see a lot of planes flying over and I watch their bellies and arms, imagining that I will fly away one day, not back to Mamma and my yellow-white room, but to some other place.
On the day that John was to be buried, I saw my babylove in this park. He was as a young man, smoothed away, not green or blue or red, freckles were across his cheeks like a handful of sand. This young-man-John was leant up against a rusted yellowish-coloured playing frame, but looking very smart and professional, wearing the uniform of an air pilot. We were watching the planes together; this must have been a special interest for this young-man-John. I waved to him and he raised one hand, held it still and smiled soft.
The rain is sometimes falling, but the raindrops are away from me, sliding down the body of my car, or on the windscreen, and the light comes in spikes. I look at my shimmering hands as I touch the runaway drops on the windscreen.
Still, I do not get wet.