This is all that is familiar; this prison and its skeletons, the barren garden, and the gate; the gate, its frame aggressively clinging to walls too high to climb, its peeled paint drawing the shape of a threatening grin, its rusty padlock keeping her in, and the knothole in the middle, like a single eye, watching her as she plots.
She makes scattered plans that she doesn’t believe in; she’ll scale the wall too high to climb, smash the locked gate, eradicate its seeing eye.
Her brain is distracted by the ticking of a long gone grandfather clock.
Yellow macs and matching hats
and days when rain brought indoor games
and laughter shaped her every day
and noses pressed upon the panes,
breathing misty, steamy shapes,
fingers doodling crude cartoons,
dismissing hints of stormy gloom,
while mother in another room
cooked a meal and baked up treats,
and weekends seemed to last all week
and freedom was a word she heard,
and she believed that it referred
to prisoners set free,
but now she knows that it describes
the way life used to be.
She shakes away the memories, looks through her glazed prison window, scrabbling for the gist of her plan. Like all others, it has crumbled, or it lurks in the towering wall, somewhere in the cracks where dusky shadows imitate the faces of those she has known.
But no, the past cannot free her now.
Staying inside where she feels safe, she studies the gate, muddied by splashing rain. She longs for escape, but has no faith in her capabilities, so she waits for something to change; for the hinges to give, the padlock to rot away, the timber to splinter and break; meanwhile occupying her spare time with dreams of what has been.
Years go by. Time paints the grime of existence on her window pane. Spiders weave their webs and hide in wait for flies. Bit by bit, her view of the gate is obliterated . Coming to terms with the increasing murk, she gives up on the window.
Drips from yesterday’s deluge leave a fading patch on the floor. Above it, bright canary coats and hats hang against the door. Scribbles appear in the glazed mist, brightened by a backdrop of trees rinsed clean by a summer shower. She holds a tea party for plastic people with vintage wear and poseable limbs, plays tic-tac-toe with her sister, giggles in teetering shoes and grown-up clothes. She revels in the sound of laughter; feels it teasing her throat. She inhales the scent of vanilla. Her mother calls from the pantry, and she follows the aroma of freshly baked cakes.
Beside the gate, a dandelion breaks through arid land; its brave petals opening to embrace life. The gate swings wide, and the world waits outside for one whose sentence was self imposed. The bolt had not been shot. The gate had not been locked.
Yet, free at last, her spirit eats cake, savouring every last crumb, while in the lonely room, her body slumps, to be welcomed by a flurry of dust motes which briefly float free, and with soft caress, come to rest on her cooling flesh.
The Daily Post #Gate
©Jane Paterson Basil