Bathymetry by Sally Jonson

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steaming cup of tea, steeping with bag

It isn’t that your memory is full of holes, it’s a hole where your memory should be. A shelf, a drop. Like a trench in the sea bed.

There are some dim scuffs of light, drifting and glowing. Sometimes they rise, flickering like fish. A marzipan mermaid on your birthday cake. Splashing through puddles the colour of weak cocoa. Sitting on the beach, folding your small joyful feet into the warm white sand.

You’re alone in all of them. You try to swivel your mind’s eye like a camera and find the person who sat beside you on the beach, who followed you with an umbrella, who neatly cut the mermaid in two. But she’s a gap.

You visit her from time to time. One day, one of her good days, you can’t ignore the questions prickling in your blood any longer and so you ask. Sitting at her table holding your mug of tea, elbows sticking to the plastic polka dot tablecloth, you listen as she tells you – almost proudly – how many times she hit you.

Focus on the steam rising from your mug as she speaks. Although your hands won’t report the heat, they are burning.

She tells you what a difficult baby you were, what a strange, cold child. How you provoked her. How you screamed and screamed until she shook you into silence, the way you used to shake the picture out of your Etch-A-Sketch, unmaking it.

How she knew that you hated her. Your spite, aged three, picking the flowers from her garden to give her, when they were all she had left to live for.

The way you spied on her with your wet, newborn eyes. One of them. A fresh enemy.

Memories rise: faces in the newspaper, eyes bleeding black marker pen scrawls. Family photographs burning on the patio.

You understand, then. These are glimpses of her shadows, fragments of her titanic fear. She can’t give you back your missing years, or help you map the depths that funnel under your heart. She’s lost too. More lost than you.

She asks for your forgiveness. You don’t know how to tell her it’s out of your reach. It sank with the rest in that wrecked part of yourself, drowned in the silt of her silence.

Meet the Contributor

Sally Jonson is a new writer based in London, UK, with a deep interest in the images we use to understand ourselves and our inner worlds.

Story Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Jellaluna

  2 comments for “Bathymetry by Sally Jonson

  1. Love the way at the end that there’s empathy but without letting go of the acknowledgment of the damage done. Such a delicate balance and beautifully written.

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