There's always the dress. The dress is always there.
Ivory in colour, splendid. It feels cool and like a foamed bath and
newly-ironed bedsheets when I press it to my face. How many years now,
since I've worn it ?
I had my hair pulled up, scooped and pinned. He kissed my tiny ears and
said, "I always love your neck. "
Now he doesn't shave at the weekends and I've let my hair down.
The dress always seems to me, as though it might be able to stand on
its own, if I set it free of its hanger. There is sufficient stiffness
in it, enough of a framework that it could support itself. The
whalebone corset would see to that.
Of course, it isn't real whalebone. My dress was never free beneath the
sea, plunging and singing.
I can hardly claim it is an accident. The dress is upstairs and I have
fetched the knife from the kitchen drawer. The starving knife. The one
that I have watched him, every Sunday for years, use for hacking at a
defenseless piece of poultry. It's a man's job, carving, he'd say,
making a man's mess of it. Hurry up, I'd say, when I was young and
there were jokes, I'm starving.
This is something I have thought about from time to time. I'm too
squeamish to take a knife to myself. The insides of my forearms seem
whiter and paler than anywhere else, just pressing a thumbnail into
them makes me flinch.
But this is symbolic. Take the knife to the dress. The dress that hangs
in that cupboard, reminding me of times and feelings long spent. It
ought to bleed Babycham when I slide the knife in between the whalebone
I don't slash, I slide the starving knife up, savouring the noise that
is like pulling paper from an old-fashioned typewriter. I should have
known this would end in tears.
Sobbing, stitching and forgiving, I patch things up.