By Fiona O'Connor

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They moved house after she came out of hospital. She thought the neighbours knew. Pregnant again, on a new estate at the edge of fields, she was blank here, tabula rasa as the grey cement pouring over the soil and the fields turning to stone.

She couldn’t remember a thing. Perfectly normal, the doctor said after her procedure: a standard series of electric shock treatments. Her memory was gone; they’d given her Valium.

She set herself to her penance, rearing her last child, preparing to meet the next. Her husband worried; they’d come through a nightmare but where was she? 

On the first day she went to her kitchen and stayed there. Its window looked onto a green hill mounting to a cloudy horizon. She sat looking out, cigarettes purling smoke from an ashtray, little bottle of tablets never far away.

When the kids came back from school they could not reach her.

It was all new here – shiny chrome handles on the white-painted doors – white-coated as those who had held her down. But she could not recall.

These new rooms didn’t scowl at her like in the old house, although the furniture was the same: this Formica table, a wedding present; sky-blue, ringed with steel. Her doctor had pried her mouth open with pliers. The wedding photos somewhere, veil lifting in sea breezes, smiling, film star smile. Thick rubber he’d rammed into her mouth. She’d lost her teeth. White veil lifted by spring breezes. Rubber bit in her mouth. She couldn’t remember a thing.

A Monday morning in 1970 after rain; the children at school, her husband at work, baby asleep. House is cold-lit and silent. Horses graze the fields. There is birdsong she doesn’t register.

Surrounded by green, nothing stirs on the new roads.

She sits mirroring the shifting moods of light, capricious passages of clouds in from the sea, gathered in darkness, closing over them now, florid, grey. Another long day, all the small gestures, all the long wait.

She can’t remember a thing. She’d wanted to leave, she couldn’t get up. Her hand grips the cold metal handle, its message travels up her arm.

She was strapped down. She opens the door, hears birdsong, standing at the threshold trying to think. She’d wanted to leave. She steps out. Held down, it had to be, her husband crying, the bruising afterwards. No one here knows.   

House is big behind her, and all the other houses, standing behind her. She looks to the brow of the hill, what is beyond?

Above clouds unravel: pale porcelain patches revealed where clouds let go.

As a girl she would lie down on grass. Blue sky, Virgin’s raiment she remembers.

Lying in the grass not wanting to move – sea breezes playing over her legs, her arms, far above: the clear cold Heavens.

She had wanted to leave. Standing now at the edge trying to think, tears running down her face, ‘blue,’ she mouths, as though kissing the sky: ‘Blue,’ she hears herself say. ‘Blue.’

– Fiona O’Connor