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the sandwich
by louise arnold

I used to be a child once. Can’t remember much about it. Just the bare minimum, sketchy details, out of focus photographs. Lunch boxes and ribbons and sand pits. Everything was coloured like a commercial for fabric softener, all primary colours, the sun insincerely yellow, the grass bright green, the sea deep sinking blue. And rainbows. Every other day had a rainbow, bold and pale colours etched into the sky, stretching and fading at the edges.

I want to go back.

Everything is monochrome now, everything as if it’s still covered in this thick layer of dust, everything bleached. And people still smile and laugh and their worlds still turn, but their eyes are made of glass, like dolls eyes, with nothing far behind them. They’re distant, with their painted on smiles, and their canned laughter which fades into the air when I appear. A torrent of recited lines, plucked from every day-time soap, words stolen from the inside of generic mass produced condolence cards, the head always slightly tilted, the delivery deliberately softened; “So sorry to hear…” “We’re thinking of you” “You can always phone…”. The whole world reading from the same script. I smile politely, and I say the right things. But you aren’t real. None of this is. This isn’t my life.

I dropped the bread for his sandwich on the floor that morning, and I just picked it up and dusted it off and made it anyway. I thought “What would it matter, he’ll never know”. I feel like the worst person in the world for that. Because what if he did? What if he looked at it and saw it had been dropped and thought… If I’d known I’d have used a fresh slice. I should have used a fresh slice. It’s hardly expensive. I should have thought.

I keep trying his phone, and trying and trying it, because maybe somehow this reality can break. He’d just need to answer it once, and that would be it, and maybe, just because I want it so much, it will happen. I keep trying.

The people on TV scream and shout, grief raw and tearing from them, ripping free in earth wrenching sobs. I didn’t. The world spun away from me, gravity loosened, and I heard this horrid laughter wrapping around me. And I realised it was mine. Why didn’t I scream and shout like the people on TV? I hope he couldn’t see that. I don’t know why I laughed. It was a stupid horrid thing to do, but this sound kept falling out of me. Dull eyes, framed red with tears, tilted heads, and there’s me awash with laughter.

I couldn’t even cry for him. Sometimes I worry I’m more dead than he is.

In my memories, I replay and replay, and find ways to make you stay. A sudden intuition, a fever, a broken alarm clock, a twisted ankle, a broken pipe. Smaller dreams, that I said everything I needed to say before you left, that you parted with a lipstick kiss branded on your cheek, a love note in with your lunch, a song dedicated on the radio to you. Smaller still; that I’d made your sandwich with a fresh slice of bread.

So many things I hope you realised, and some I hope you never did.


A work in progress.

more about louise arnold


when it all comes true
from getting published to being published
by louise arnold
topic: writing
published: 8.20.04

lost fairytales
inner city stories
by louise arnold
topic: writing
published: 3.4.04


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