Middle Of Nowhere

Entry by: writerIBXVEJZUDO

9th September 2016
Middle Of Nowhere

“Where do you think we go when we die?”
I had been lying in silence and the abruptness of my question startled Ana, making her sit up from the slumped position she had taken on the bed. I felt the sheet pull taught from her movement, its light crumples drawn into tight ridges.
“Nowhere” she replied after a moment’s reflection. “In the ground I guess” she added dismissively. “Where do you think we’d go?”
I shrugged. I knew she wasn’t particularly religious. “Maybe I’ll go somewhere else” I mused.
She laughed, “You don’t get to decide you know.”
I considered this, hoping she was wrong, but knowing she probably wasn’t.
“I don’t think I could bear that” I replied, after another quiet moment had passed between us. “I’ve already spent far too long living in the middle of nowhere”.
She murmured something inaudible and began to move restlessly around the room.
Her confusion was understandable; I had grown up in a southern district of the city, in a neighbourhood that was constantly bustling with the energy and support of a community that struggled and prospered together. After Ana and I married we moved into the block we now inhabit: a tall building at the centre of town. Our street runs down to the river, on one side looking along towards the bridge, the other backing onto a narrow road strewn with restaurants and bars. Their long outdoor patios stretch across the pavement like shadows at dusk, Ana says, late into the evening providing a continuous melody that drifts up to our apartment. Ana doesn’t understand what I am trying to say: for her, together we are surrounded by the ingredients of our lives and the lives of others, but on my own, I am living amidst nothing.
Ana’s keys jangle softly as she lifts them from the table by the door. The sound is comforting and I am reminded of wind chimes, blowing about in a garden. On her way out she passes my mother in the corridor coming out of the lift on the landing. Their exchange is brief and soon my mother is hovering by the foot of my bed. She announces her presence, as if she could be anyone else with that familiar musky scent that she has worn for the past 40 years, and the raised vein on the back of her hand that she places in mine.
I love her but it is difficult when she visits. Alongside a suffocating sense of pity, she seems always to bring news of friends from my childhood, and though she means well, I cannot help but feel compared with their successes. David Moore from number forty-seven - “you remember the Moores?” - had just set up a new company and Jenny Davies and her new husband - ‘the Davies, remember, from over on Clarendon Drive” - were moving again: with another baby on the way the little house on the corner of Eelbrook Road would be far too cramped.
Ana and I did not have any children: I never really considered it a possibility and, though we never discussed the idea, I felt that Ana’s spontaneity would not have allowed her to be tied down by such a responsibility. The care she took of me was restrictive enough as it was. My mother, however, would have loved a grandchild. I felt that she was disappointed in this respect, yet with the extent to which she underestimates my ability to care for myself I cannot imagine that she thinks I could look after a child.
“So what’s this Ana was saying about you being fed up of living in the middle of nowhere?” she asked, walking over to the window. “You better be careful your nonsense doesn’t drive that poor girl away”. The sash made a low rumble as she pushed it up, letting the sounds of the street flood in with the summer air.
I smiled sadly, thinking of Ana and how I would manage if she left me. I wished she could have stayed this afternoon: her cynicism and dry humour always relieve me when I struggle under the sense that my mother is mourning for my life.
The mattress beside me dipped as my mother sat down. Taking my hands in hers this time she asked more sympathetically what was going on.
Feeling sorry for myself I leant against her and drew together the energy to explain. I told her about the blackness, how everywhere I go I am met by a dismal shade of nothing, an absence of light. How I long constantly for some variation. The jealousy I feel when people speak about beauty and how I resent the limits of my imagination for not allowing me to see it too. As I talk with my face resting against my mother’s shoulder, I feel the fabric become damp, sticking to my cheek. I explain my misery that there is nowhere I can go to escape the fact that, looking around me, there is nothing, that I constantly have the feeling that while beside me Ana is experiencing the world, I am stuck in the middle of nowhere.
“Well,” she replied softly when I had finished, taking a deep breath, “Sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere we find ourselves.”
I could sense from her tone that she believed she was offering support, but I was exhausted of people trying to ennoble my condition.
I wished I knew where the greeting card or tea towel was on which that slogan must have been printed, and made a silent vow to find it and burn it.
When I was eventually alone again I lay down on my back, my face turned up towards the ceiling.
Today is a charcoal day, I thought. I often measure my days in their degree of blackness. Today was charcoal. It didn't have quite the hollowness of jet black but it was fragile and was crumbling by the hour. I hoped Ana would be back soon. She lives in a different shade to me. Her life is how I imagine the colour orange to look. Warm and intense, like the feeling of the sun on your back when there is no breeze to cool you down. Full of vibrancy and life, sometimes bright and shocking, this is the colour that I feel is Ana.
I rolled over, and because I cannot escape in space, I escaped in time. The past does not console me much, so I pictured the future. I wished Ana were wrong and that after this life there were another, where she would welcome me into her orange haze and open my eyes to her world. It might be this one or it might be another: it doesn’t really matter where it is, as long as it is in the middle of everywhere.