Friday, 5 July 2013

Closing In by Daniel Gothard

half full or half empty?

It wasn't breaking and entering. He was still paying half the mortgage and the utility bills; surely he had a right to be in the house. 
You want to leave, Christopher. So I want your keys,’ Claire had said, two days before. She told him she was going to stay with her parents for the weekend; she needed time to think – away from him; away from all of it. He wanted to come home now – separation had been a big mistake – but that was just dreaming.
He had a spare key, but felt like a criminal. Claire had trusted him not to come back without her presence – he saw himself as some hunched creep in the night – as he collected two photographs of them in Florence, by the RiverArno and the Uffizi gallery; a small, framed sketch of Claire done by her sister two years before.
He also decided he would take some grass from the back garden; a clipping from the sage bush, something that might live on; something to nurture.
And he pocketed the Roy Lichtenstein postcard from the side of the fridge – after a swig of blue-label Smirnoff from the freezer – the one that said: “M-maybe he became ill and couldn’t leave the studio!”
He went upstairs and sat in front of the three-way mirror, which sat on top of her chest-of-drawers. He looked this way and that: one face, three angles; soon gone.
Christopher picked up the plastic tube of strawberry-flavoured lipsalve which Claire compulsively applied in the winter months and began smearing it on his lips – round and round, until the greasy feeling touched his nasal septum. Then he sprayed a shot of her Chanel perfume on each of his wrists. He wanted to look in the mirror again, but it felt wrong now; like treason.
He had left Claire because they had argued about marriage and having a child. He had overreacted because of panic – that his life would become too committed. Then in the crippling quiet of self-reflection he realised what an undiluted fool he had been. And now he had the prospect of nothing; no commitments, and no dependable future.
So he opened the bedroom windows, as wide as he could – the net curtains flapped back and forth, as if they were telling him to get out. He got undressed and lay on their bed. Claire’s bed now.
He saw her bedside glass: half-full of old, graying bubbly water – which he drank quickly. The outside of the glass was still slick with her handcream-smudged fingerprints. He put it in his jacket pocket.
Christopher found three old hairs on Claire’s pillow and made them in to a circle on his right palm. He kissed them; put them on his tongue and swallowed them. Her DNA was in him now.
Then he began watching her freshly ironed blouse on the wardrobe door dancing on the breeze.
He watched it, unblinking.
And waited.

About the author: Daniel Gothard lives in Oxford with his wife and three children. He has a CertHE in creative writing from Ruskin College, Oxford and an MA in creative Writing from Bath Spa University. He was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Writer of the Year Bursary in 2009.
Daniel has previously been published in: Mix, Eight Hours, The Poet Tree, The Puffin Review, Postcard Shorts and Paragraph Planet. His short story Bursting with Love has recently been published by Ether Books.
In 2008, his novel Relax and Swing was published in paperback.

Image: (c)