Makarelle Winter 2021/22: 'Love is Love'

The Beautiful Nurse Philautia by Dini Armstrong

With hindsight, the telephone was less than six feet away from me, but it might as well have been hidden at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, encased in a steel container filled to the brim with concrete. No mobiles in those days. I felt the slick wetness on my cheek, gritty with fibres from the living room carpet - where I had woken; my bruised mind echoing the crunching sound of cheekbone hitting table edge. I had fainted. That much seemed clear. Less clear was why. I was eighteen years old, should have been hap- py and healthy, but I was still outgrowing the kind of childhood you read about in your pa- pers, the kind that makes you shake your head and go Poor thing, she’s fucked before celebrating your winning hand in the game of life with a sip of fresh hot coffee. I was working hard on my understanding of the concept of love. I hated the word. Love was the word my abuser, known as my brother in an alternate universe, liked to throw around, along with my limp body. ‘I can’t help myself; I love you too much,’ he’d pro- claim. My mum later swore that I must have been lying because what kind of mother would not have helped? Only a monster, that’s who, a woman who didn’t love her own child. ‘But I do love you, and I would have helped, so you must have made this up,’ she’d concluded with a sigh of relief. I noticed that the telephone cable was closer and could be within reach if only I managed to straighten my body and stretch all the way across, my fingertips extended. Not the curly part of the cable, the part that is attached to the receiver, just a straight length of cable, black

plastic, plugged into the dark green phone itself. I heard the clicking of the fingernail of the mid- dle finger on my right hand, the one closest to that lifeline, when it tapped the plastic without gaining any traction. I had drawn my own conclusions. It did happen, therefore she did not love me, and a person whose own mother cannot love, is unlovable. That’s just common sense to a girl who does not find the strength to love herself. Who, when a urinary tract infection turns into a fever, routine- ly endures rather than intervenes. Who will con- tinue to mask her emotions as she has always done, as she has learned to do since she was a little girl, who still has to go to school, who still has to laugh with the other children, who still has to twist her face into a dead- eyed ‘cheeeese’ face on family photos. Nothing but a source of pain on any regular day, I detested my body an- yway. Why help it? My fingernail found its way under the cable and managed to pull it forward enough to grab hold. I yanked hard and the phone clattered onto the carpet. The receiver had fallen off its cradle and the impact must have pushed the rotary dial be- cause I could hear the dialling sound – a melody of short beeps, as if trying out different pitches, before finally settling on drawn out, calm repeti- tions of the same note, indicating that connec- tion with another phone had been made. I guess a different person might have prayed by now, but faith would have been too far a stretch, and I settled for giving myself permission to hope, which, believe me, was a miracle in itself. ‘Brown residence, 5 -2-3-5- 6?’ The an- drogynous voice floated out of the receiver like a

Makarelle

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‘ Love is Love ’ 1/2022

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