Six am struck and Joan opened her eyes, bracing the sense of despair that had been clouding over her for weeks; weeks that had at some point turned into months. As she pulled back the duvet, those months of sweat, tears, and the occasional (daily) bottle of white wine that had ingrained onto her sister’s pale pink pyjamas fumigated the room. Joan stumbled out of bed, her head beating its constant pounding rhythm that told her you lived, you lived, you lived.
Julie died last spring, a drunk driver hit her on the way to work. Ever since Joan has slept in her pale pink pyjamas and has woken up one hour earlier than she used to because now she cycles the eight-mile journey to work. She could’ve asked to transfer, management would’ve understood, and her twenty years of service would have helped her case too, but she didn’t want to kick up a fuss. And so, she carried on as if nothing had happened. After all, Julie’s pale pink pyjamas were still being worn, they still smelt of human life and there were still some threads of fabric that remembered her beat, that had felt her pulse, that had been damped by her sweat.
Showered, dressed, fed, Joan opened the back door, pushing the handle towards the sky before stepping through and turning the key to lock it behind her. She turned around and stared up into the universe, the subtle pinks making way for the light blues of day to push their way through; but for now, for this moment in time, the pinks were there, and Joan could see them. She could see the moon, the beginnings of the sun, and distant stars that shone so long ago, the ones that had taken years to send their light to her.
Chin up to the roof of the Earth, Joan cautiously stepped down to retrieve her bike from the shed, heaved it up the steps and round the side of the house. She whimpered open the gate and small flecks of paint fell to the ground, lining the floor with a smattering of black dust. Joan pushed her bike forward and twirled round to close the gate behind her, the black dots shifted to create a line where the tyre had driven through them.
She took her seat on the bike and cycled to work. The breathlessness and pain of the first month’s journeys had gradually made way for the slender frame that now glided past the first cars of morning rush hour. Joan’s mind pictured life passing by in its everyday blur of faceless people driving the same cars heading to their beige offices, shouting their goodbyes to a closing door or maybe even kissing their kids goodbye at the school gates. Joan breezed past it all, the wisps of love in the universe, with a pretence of ease in the repeated turns of the wheels that pushed her forward. It wasn’t until she had locked up her bike behind the shop and tried to pry open the door that she realised that none of those usual anonymous rituals were happening.
by Emily Walden