There was one time when I took the old bus home, the one I used to take before the divorce, and when I arrived at our old house, the one that was sold after the divorce, everything was as before. Key worked, no-more-ex, daughter and son, and I headed for the fridge. I spread them all out: humous, quizzical salads, slabs of meat, beady-eyed olives, and I ate them. To eat is to think, but not too much.
At night, I think: I shouldn’t be here, in this not-good place. I hear them tiptoe to the fridge, open its big mouth to stare into its light. They’re looking for pieces of souls, for time-machines, for yogurts of their heart’s desire. And they’re spreading sticky gloop over last pieces of bread. Will I need to worry about the morning milk in this new-old place? If I stay here, the world will break.
Elsewhere, in the place in which I hadn’t taken that bus, I am proud of myself. Work-cold, money-tired, mind-worried, but proud because I am not this-here. And the kids are stronger. These-ones-here are trapped in being small, too likely to hurt again. I can’t afford to dwell here, and he’s breathing beside me as if we can be trusted. Oh, the kitchen tap that drips all night, help me, rid me of the crawling thoughts.
By morning, I’ve grown mind-thin, thinner than the frost on the windows, colder than the floor. I’m so thin, I soul-slip into my ex-not-ex’s body. My hands are his, my big landlord feet. I stomp across my old time. But what of his own gossamer-self, loping around the room in angry rings? By afternoon, my daughter’s my son, my son is me, my husband is my daughter
This arrangement helps us through the time-warp. We drive to Aldi and stock on innards of beasts and prophetic yogurts. We make meals so intricate we don’t need words. We plan to understand each other. But this new life is hard. Everything snags. Soon the darkness will spread again. From the fridge to the washing-machine it will spread, and our days will be mean and brittle.
There will be another time, tucked in for now, unreachable, except by daily school-runs, nightly terrors, croupy coughs and antibiotics, mess-ups at work, the time when I don’t take the bus. In that other time, the past will behave. In that other time, I’ll take another bus, walk to my new house, the one we rented after the divorce, and read my children a story that’s half-sad and all-happy. I’ll tell them of our bodies that imprison us, our buses that befuddle us, our pasts that tempt us, and the fridges that hold our secrets. I’ll make them all into adventures, turn them into trolls, hide them under the bed, and I’ll make sure that never, no matter how unsafe, will they fear any of them.
Roppotucha Greenberg is the author of a flash and micro-fiction collection Zglevians on the Move (TwistiT Press, 2019) and two silly-but-wise doodle books for humans, Creatures Give Advice (2019) and Creatures Give Advice Again and it’s warmer now (2019)
She lives in Ireland