Monday 26 June 2023

'To Have Him Back. Back, Back and Back' by Mairead Robinson


She nods when the coroner folds back the crisp white sheet, whispers, ‘Yes, it’s him,’ as her eyes close, and in those few swaying moments before she falls, she sees, on the inside of her lids, that he rises from the steel slab, walks backwards through the swing doors and sprints in reverse along the pavement, glancing pedestrians parting for his rewind to the dank-scented woods, where someone found him, and called the police.

He sits, knotty spine against tree bark, and he un-plunges the hypodermic, plucks it with a soft pop from his pulsing vein and casts it aside, then rising, skinny-legged, he strides back, back, back, to the filthy squat with its stain-sagged mattress to scoop tee shirts and jeans into a duffle bag. He kicks the door shut as he leaves and reverses home, pushing through the kitchen door with jutting shoulder blades and slides upstairs to unpack and refold the things she’d left clean-washed in his drawers. He climbs into bed as the sun rolls East to sink out of sight over Chinese fields blooming with poppies.

Back, back, back, growing smaller, to a teenager on his bike, standing on the pedals as he whizzes uphill to deliver packages for a tall furtive man with a pocket full of dirty notes wrapped in elastic bands.

And back, back, back to a lazy picnic afternoon when he hops up, sun-freckled and grinning, grabs her hand and pulls her, laughing, to the languid river to see them wriggling and darting, while up-stream, a needle-eyed heron stalks. She rummages through the hamper, finds a jam-jar and rinses it clean so he can scoop the tadpoles, and she twists the screw-lid tight, so they can’t spill.

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