There is a gap in the treeline reminding me of a door. I don’t stare at it because I have never cared for doors. Light, in just one instance, struggles to make its way past the cluster of leaves and stays on the other side, the side I cannot see. However, I suspect moving further up the bank would grant me greater vision. Still, I don’t move. The sunlight is often too much at this time of day anyway- always low in the sky and dying arrogantly. The cold can have me instead. And of course, it does. It’s not that I necessarily concede to the winter wind, I hardly say oh yes, freeze me but the cold translates even silence into negation. Doesn’t it?
My baby boy cries. His tiny legs look like they’re kicking out, thrashing as a wild boar does, fighting at the cotton blanket around him. I continue in my own peace and mutter, deliberately, I don’t mind, it’s all fine, and I don’t, I don’t mind anything in the world. Only am I thinking- when will it be midnight?
His wailing continues outside of my personal quiet and my shoulders bear the brunt of this sharp Icelandic evening. When I was a child, I imagined coldness would have died before I grew up. Is that not what it is to be young, I mean, achingly young, to believe age carries the ability to minimise the brunt of frost, that with time bodies become immune to cold. My Grandmother gave me her gloves to wear in the park once because I’d forgotten my own. I didn’t think her hands would suffer much, they would not go blue like mine, she would not go cold like her granddaughter- so young and innocent. The babe, sobbing, ceaseless. He feels the cold but doesn’t even know the word – so what is his right to cry so hysterically? It is nothing other than a sensation to him.
Gradually, the sun falls on its last legs. My proof God is fiction, right there in the sky. The light stops behind the trees. Surely should it not burst through treelines and drown me in warmth? If His design were adequate, should it not drown us freezing ones in what we need to be drowned in? I was cold when I was first told about God, too. In a Church, mid-December. Singing simple little hymns, trying to mask my jealousy, terrified the others could smell it on me. I was jealous of them all, everybody else in the church and the world, for I wanted to be His only child. Adored in my unique humanity, given everything like a brat. I was twisted even at six. I knew if He truly loved everyone, then He truly loved no one.
The baby doesn’t cry at this moment, only whimpers in small cat-like murmurs. The hysterics will begin again soon though. They always do, but the sunset’s beauty assails. Fog carries inside itself an element of the unknown, which is lost with urgency as soon as it smears the waters icy surface. Think of a pianist. Think of his hands, having composed wonderfully intricate and revered music all of his life, suddenly fingers crippled by arthritis mere days before his transcendent masterpiece meets completion. And he never can finish it, obviously. This is the only way I can describe how fog touches the water. All fog touches water this way and shall do for evermore. I, too, have been touched like that. Touched and lost a great dream afterward.
Do you know, Freyja, you shouldn’t eat so much and you shouldn’t eat it all so messily? Both parents had scowled at me with fury. I was eight years old and around my little dry lips was a thick mess of dark red sauce and between them long strings of pasta hung out. My cheeks were bloated like a fat dog’s, but I continued, stuffing my hands with sweets and cream and chocolate and whatever else was on the table in front of me. I kept going, hands full of food flying to my mouth and back to the plates, and when my sister left her fish I ate that as well. Later, as night lapped into morning once more, as though one were a river and one were a bank, I thudded into the bathroom as it all came back up again as vomit. I made sure to be loud as I retched and retched, clutching my belly and sniffling, the tiles cold on my scared skin. I hoped my Mother would hear and either rattle me or hold up my hair and kiss my cheeks. Singing it’s all right, it’s all right but she didn’t come. And I don’t love her very much now, not like I used to, and I think it’s because I remember that night. Everything adopts a nihilistic quality when you cry for somebody and they don’t come. You give yourself over to a default apathy, which is of course the ugliest and easiest thing.
Screaming from the edge of the lake; the child is upset again. When will there be just one moment without the damn sound of bawling? I want- I think- dawn. When everyone is either silent or sleeping. The night deafens with its noise. Baby, just shut up, please! For your Mother- please be quiet! You cry, you cry, you cry, nothing changes you.
The sun now just a white circular bone- it takes ages for me to realise that in fact it’s a freshly born moon. Sun is gone. I am dizzy, full of milk, and hungry. I will fish tomorrow. At first light, when there are red marks on my skin from how deeply these rocks dig into me when I’m laid upon them. Sleeping.
He screams and this time the shrill sound bleaches me thoroughly. I stand and walk to him, and I look and wait, wait for him to look at me too. He does eventually, with eyes that- for me- are just right. No other eyes I’ve seen are as right. If I were to take a single photograph into the ground with me or with me into cremation, I would take a small polaroid of his darling face. I stand there and love him. Simply, unmoving, loving him. Then, I feed him milk, holding him against my chest for a very long time after he has stopped suckling. His mouth smiles and his hand grabs my thumb. I think this means he forgives everything I haven’t done. I run his small waves of hair through my fingers.
Upwards, at the high point of the bank where the treeline is, we become a huddle together. With its ferocity, the wind has blown some of the branches free and the gap is so wide I couldn’t possibly mistake it for a door now. Just a wide open window with light streaming through. Of course, it must be city light. City light or moon light. I hold up the boy so that whatever light it is- it finds and warms him first.
Once he smiles at me- beautifully and innocently toothless- I rest him on my belly, which is a fairly soft place to sleep on. I would say as good as a bed. I lay back on jagged stones, arms crossed like wings over him. There isn’t one sound in the universe but my baby’s breath. Behind us the magnificent aspen breaks further in the breeze.
Kaylen Forsyth is a writer from Cumbria, England. She works with Spark Movement/PBG, an online platform dedicated to articles on gender and racial injustices in particular. Inspired by writers such as Hemingway and Woolf, and poets such as Celan and Sexton, her fictional wrtiting focuses mainly on different human relationships and ultimately- the human condition.
Image Credit: Lukasz Szmigiel