Traces of You
In 1980 you go out with Justin Vaughan in his beat-up old Honda with the cracked leather seats and he drives you to a concrete bridge that crosses an A-road outside town. He takes out a metal canister and spray-paints his tag in large black letters that are impossible to decipher. ‘Here, have a go’, he says, passing you the can. You shake the can, spray a smiley face in a circle, the paint dripping from the bottom edge like a beard. You feel guilty about the criminal act you committed for years afterwards.
Two days after your first child is born, you realise that the bleeding still hasn’t stopped and you can hardly stand up anymore even though the midwife said this was normal. You stagger to the bathroom and it feels like the blood has rushed up to your eyeballs. You sit down on the toilet and you don’t remember what happens after that but when you come back from the hospital your husband tells you the bathroom looked like a slaughterhouse but he did his best to clean it up. After a while you redecorate but there will always be some of your blood on the underside of the skirting board.
When one of the children is a toddler you plant an acorn together in a flower pot. You re-pot it every time it grows too big and wonder what on earth you are going to do with it because there’s no room for an oak tree in the small garden of your semi-detached house that backs onto the small garden of another semi-detached house. When the tree is five feet high, you go out one night with a shovel under cover of darkness. You plant the tree in the centre of a grassed-over roundabout, which you continue to drive past for years. Nobody ever removes it.
For years you make packed lunches for the children, your husband, for yourself; hundreds of ham sandwiches with the crusts cut off, cheese and pickle rolls, tuna mayo baguettes. There are forty metres of cling film on each roll. You get through a roll every six weeks or so. Sometimes you think briefly about the balled up film not decomposing in a landfill somewhere, how those remnants will outlive you by centuries probably. But there’s nothing you’ve found that keeps the sandwiches as fresh.
When you die from an unexpected cardiac event, your colleagues at the company where you worked for thirty years hold a memorial service in a local chapel where they all light a candle and reminisce about things you said and did at work. They club together to buy a picnic bench for the back courtyard where they eat their lunches. It has a small plaque engraved with your name. One of them puts a pot of geraniums in the middle of the bench which they water and replace each year. Nobody knows that you hated the smell of geraniums.
Rebecca Field lives and writes in Derbyshire. She has been published online by Riggwelter Press, Spelk fiction, Reflex Press, The Daily Drunk and Ellipsis Zine among others. Rebecca also has work in several print anthologies. Tweets at @RebeccaFwrites