“I’m just doing the recycling!” She shrilled up the stairs.
(The present tense, why the present tense?)
That necessary warning. Her mind entertained ideas of her husband otherwise beginning to look for her, possessed by that slow nauseating creature we like to call compassion. Of course it was entertaining, for she knew it was idealisation. In the slowly unravelling reality pf the morning he would most probably be still curled in that half-embryonic position of assumed innocence, attempting to conceal the swollen s gut from too much wine on an empty stomach the night before, delaying the ‘get up’ for work. He could assemble what was ‘ready’ in less than ten minutes – what he called an ‘art’ he assumed pride for, considering the rest his others had so significantly faded.
Typically, there was no answer.
She slammed the front door behind her as she went. She pretended not to care that she was still in her ‘nightwear’ – clothes even wholly ambiguous in cut or material still managed to attract a certain extent of scorn from a passer-by. It was a similar process at work. She had stopped ironing her own shirts as the creases became almost a kind of entertainment for her once precise mind to wander into.
The recycling was light today – just a wallet and some coins. Other days it had ranged from all items of household furniture, ornaments, even jewellery which seemed to wink mockingly in the dilute light of the morning as she handed it over. For Paul was always waiting, there at the kiosk, this hands expectant, efficient, It was half-because she wanted an extent of silence, his silence – regarding the desperate nights scattered over the years in which she had crawled to him, dragging her own limbs over the gravel of regret.
She still wanted the silence, yes, as unsaying, she went through the process of recycling. Metal coins became a glass bottle, melted into the already mangled flesh of her palm. She made a marked effort not to touch his hand as he passed it to her – though his eyes had passed the point of contact; she could feel them fixated on her neck.
She crossed quickly back over the road, through the gate, up the path she and Alex called ‘their own’. She scrabbled the cap from the glass bottle and took three shaking mouthfuls, felt the familiar burn. Burning, burning – as if executing the act of taste. Just doing the recycling, turning up the heating in the mornings. It was as simple as that, she said to herself, as she slipped the bottle behind the plan pot edging the door.
She could walk in wearing that re-washed smile, and as the minutes began to trickle, she would be able to laugh, make breakfast, clean, make up her face – even an ironed shirt. All the right information.
All falls into place with recycling.