Image adapted from: photo by Peter Drier

(An everyday tale of love and marriage)

”Be mine.” he whispered, ”You are my chocolate coated limousine, my deepest bungee jump, my highest school yard leap-frog, my cool breath in a heated discussion, my hot water bottle at the frozen peak of mount Everest, my favourite cheese grater, my mix of perfect concrete.

”Stand on me, and crush my brain with the power of your sub-atomic love bomb; your over-exposed throat; your agile knife sharpener; your ready whittling and all of those things that you hide beneath the tittle-tattle of a thousand silences.

”And I will teach you to ride on the back of a butterfly as it flits from flower to flower; to scale the heights of fishes underground; to extract kettle fluff from the painting of the Mona Lisa; to build an atom from an elephant; to ignite the stars using a broken toothpick and an excerpt from Handel’s Water Music; to do all of the things that I have learnt from centuries of studying rotting carrot heads and the birth of synthetic fabrics.

”Come, share my bent nail and take the lonely word-processor from my empty heart. Be my new baked bread, my ocean of sky, my everything reduced for one day only, again and again, for ever and ever ’til death do us part amen. I’m begging you in B minor. Express a quiet acceptance of fate. Let me love you.”

(He wanted to win me,)

”I don’t like your tone!” I cried. ”Do not try to possess me, or I will extract your teeth with a sledge-hammer. I will destroy your father’s estate. I will make the tax office refuse your rebate. I will tear down your house. I will drive your Mercedes into a wall. I will kill your computer with a rash of vicious viruses. I will burn your books. I will break your bed with my passion. I will trifle with your affections and leave you raw and heartbroken. I will undo you.”

(I told him that I liked things the way they were.)

”But we could be a perfect match, like Morecambe and pistachio nuts, like strawberries and the little plastic blocks that you screw on to hold modern kitchen units together when you buy them from places like B&Q, like bread and hair remover, like a hammer and a list of things that pair up nicely.

”We could tie the tangle, dance the fandango, slide into sheets of satin on a brave raft of reality. We could build a barn and raise the roof, and fill it with glass and china and soft furnishings and small sharp metal objects. We could make tiny things with ten little fingers and ten little toes, that grow and go. We could wave them goodbye and turn to each other and say ‘It’s just us now,’ and ‘You go and sit down in front of the telly, while I make us a nice cup of tea.’ We could relax. We could retire and grow old together. And when the moment was right, we could die in each others arms.”

(He was just an ordinary bloke really,)

”Oh, I see,” I said. ”That puts a completely different slant on it. It sounds very nice. We’ll get a sensible semi-detached property in the suburbs. We could have quiet nights in, playing tiddly winks and tic-tac-toe. You’ll have to take your shoes off as soon as you come home from the office, because I don’t want you getting the carpets all dirty. When the babies come along, my mother can come and stay, to help me out until I get on my feet again. I expect I’ll need a nanny. They’re so useful, don’t you think? When we retire, we can move to a cottage in the country, and grow roses around the door. You could take up vegetable gardening, and I could join a bridge club. Yes, I’ll marry you.”

(I was seduced by his offer of security,)

When I accepted his soft, downy proposal, I thought to drown my passion beneath it. I thought it could save me from my nature.

He expeditiously discarded the word-smithery with which he had won me, and replaced it with practicality and rationalism. He lay carpets and furniture at my feet. In my hands he placed cooking implements and cleaning products. He tucked yet more gifts in hidden places: rank, balled-up socks under the bed, twisted tubes of toothpaste and bad smells in the bathroom, crumbs of toast and smears of marmalade in the butter dish. In the morning, his loud laughter and readings from the newspaper tangled my thoughts. In the evening the noise from the television killed my creativity. At night the heat from his body chased sleep away.

(However, he soon irritated me.)

After a while, I extracted his teeth with a sledge-hammer. I destroyed his father’s estate. I caused the tax office to refuse his rebate. I tore down his house. I drove his Mercedes into a wall. I killed his computer with a rash of vicious viruses. I burned his books. I broke his bed. I trifled with his affections and left him raw and heartbroken. I undid him.’

(We parted company.)

These days, in winter, I keep myself warm with many layers of thin clothing, and thick blankets, and I sleep through the long hours of the night. In summer, I wake up each morning with the dawn. I am eased into a calm consciousness by the daylight, as it soaks through the thin skin of my tent. Overhanging trees dapple a caramel silhouette onto the cream canvas wall that protects me.

My passion is consumed.

(I prefer being alone.)

© Jane Paterson Basil


13 thoughts on “Promises

    1. I don’t know what’s going on with my replies – I posted a reply to your comment last night, but it’s not here.
      I wrote this last October, and I have no idea where the inspiration came from. It’s my favorite of all the short stories I have ever written, probably because there is a bit of me that would like to be that woman..


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