• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 12
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Untitled [your words weigh heavy]

Your words hang in the air between us for one dazzling instant, before they prise my lips apart and force themselves inside, roaring down my throat and into my lungs. They’ve stolen my breath before I’ve grasped what’s happening.

Trying to remember what the nurse said to do in this situation, I exhale hard, and cough them out, directly onto the scales. They sit there, glistening with mucous, pulsing.

You lean over to take a look. You seem surprised by their shape and texture; you’re proud, perhaps, of the way that - between us - we’ve given them life. Meanwhile, I try to slow my breathing, wiping spit from my mouth with the back of my hand.

You’ll have to feed them, you say, before closing the door.

I’m not about to let them die so I pick the words up from their weighing cradle and put them to my breast. You don’t come home that night, or the next.

For the next year, I suckle and nurture and try to soothe your words. Of course, their hunger cannot be sated nor their displeasure eased. And each week that goes by, the scales tell me that they weigh more. My arms weaken from carrying them with me all day. My skin becomes sallow, my bones brittle. The nurse comes. She gives me supplements, checks my inhaler is in date.

Every once in a while, you walk up the path unannounced, to check on your words.


Untitled [your words weigh heavy]

You demand that they are put on the scales, to see the increase in weight, pound by pound by pound. I’m no longer of interest – it’s only your words and how I tend them, now. Leaving a little money for food eases your conscience, and you don’t stay long. You don’t need to. Your voice is always here, crying out for my attention, taking up space in my house, leeching from my body.

The nurse has been teaching me how to bring up your words, and how to care for myself. She has seen these types of words before and knows what they can do to a person when they grow too heavy.

So this morning when you saunter through the gate and up the path, I place your words on the scales for you. I show you exactly how much they have grown. And then I push your words towards you so hard that you stagger back and fall to the ground, winded. Your words land on your chest with their full weight. Your face turns puce as I give your words back to you.     

I close the door on your gasps just as she told me to, and call the nurse to let her know it is done. Then I sit down and when it comes, I listen to the silence.