Our life started in the deep mountain recesses of a cave, somewhere in the world, we cannot quite recall the exact location. Nonetheless, we have a vague feeling of how it was before it all began, the shapeless freedom, the promiscuous joys of belonging to a layered rock. Then came the cold shock of being separated from
our brothers, our relatives, our lovers, and the electric vibration of creation. Our journey brought us across half of the globe, and in an eastern land we finally saw the light. We were two crutches, ready to be shipped to an Irish hospital.
This time we travelled by sea; from inside our cardboard boxes and wrappings, we could barely feel the maritime, sea-salty air. Occasionally, the rough sea made us dance strangely and madly. We even got sea-sick a couple of times, but mostly enjoyed our unpaid trip.
We finally reached our destination, and lay in a wardrobe for a few weeks. We could hear people screaming and crying, and sense a strong, pungent smell all around us. We did not like the smell much, we preferred that of the sea, but we weren’t given any choice. We had to stay there. And we also knew that our career was going to start soon. We were going to be―or feel―useful.
The first time that we were taken out of the closet was on a wet Sunday afternoon in November, the one on which everybody across town was recovering from the Halloween parties, drinking hot chocolate to keep the feeling of dampness and sadness at bay, turning up the volume of the television because they felt too lazy and contrary to talk to the real, flesh-and-blood people in their rooms. The first to hold us in her arms was a middle-aged African woman, with a limp in her gait and a warm smile on her face―a nurse, as we later found out. She hugged us only for a few brief moments, before passing us on to a girl. The girl was in her early twenties, and she looked around her with a frightened look, like an animal captured in a trap, or a child caught stealing his neighbour’s apples. She said something, but we could barely hear her words, her voice being so thin and ethereal we thought of an angel. She reminded us of the murmuring of distant waters in our ancestral mountain home, long, long ago, before our personal Big Bang… We felt charmed, and desperately wanted to help. But then the whole A & E was shaken by a thunder, and a stream of words falling impetuously around shook us from our altered status of consciousness, and we had to leave dreamland. The commotion had come from a man, and he was holding our girl, Ciara, with possessiveness. She looked around her, almost too weak to react. Her face was sweet, even now, when she could not refrain from grinning a little bit. The pain in her leg was too strong and she could not walk, a dark stain of blood around her eye not helping either. So she was going to use us. The nurse tried to talk to her face to face, leaving her boyfriend―or husband? ―out of the equation, but she categorically refused. ‘We share everything, there are no secrets coming between us’ she said, half- smiling, seemingly proud of their special relationship, of their unshakable love. There was little left to do for the nurse, she showed the girl how to use the crutches and asked her to come back after a week for a check-up. It was then we experienced our first real taste of the outside world. Ciara laid on us gently, but when one of us fell in our brief journey from the hospital to a car nobody came to her rescue to pick it up. We heard the rough, cruel laugh of Ciara’s partner, as she had to bend and collect it herself; at this stage she was laden with tiredness and pain. We entered their home. From time to time, we would hear cries, screams and shouts. A strong smell of alcohol saturated the air, day and night. The only calm hours were between seven and nine every evening, when he would go to the pub.
We were brought back to the hospital one week later. There were not going to be any check-ups for Ciara.
We experienced a strange feeling when a sharp-smelling liquid was rubbed all across our bodies. After this, we were put back into the wardrobe again. Safe inside, we slept for an indefinite amount of time, recovering from our labour. And then, it came a day when we saw the light once again. It was a freezing January morning, the entire city enshrouded in a mantle of snow and ice, unusual for this place. All the sounds and noises were softened, and some people only went out when they were not able to avoid it, afraid they would otherwise slip on the ice. And that was exactly what had happened to Mike, our next friend. He had gone out for a walk in the snow, but had fallen down because of the ice. We were brought into his bedsit in the heart of the city – a small, warm, untidy place, full of personality. He constantly watched TV, or played computer games. At times he chatted with an American girl―his girlfriend? ―on Skype. It wasn’t too bad for us, although he handled us a bit roughly sometimes, and we did not like the constant smell of unwashed socks. We ended up at the bottom of a wardrobe, between shoes and an old sleeping bag, where we were forgotten for who knows how long. One day, Mike, regaining his sense of civic duty, returned us to the hospital.
We have lain in waiting for some time. Now, we are taken out of our shelter again; we recognize the gentle touch of the nurse with a warm smile, a few grey hairs now beginning to show. We are handed to an elderly woman―she is eighty-six, as we’ll later discover―who grabs us with surprising vitality. Although she has badly sprained her ankle, the woman looks cheerful and full of life. She seems happy. Since the day she retired two decades ago she has re-discovered the beauty of life. She belongs to a literary club, goes to the gym twice a week, she plays bridge with friends, and is learning Italian. The woman uses us for two or three days, then she casts us aside with a cry of victory.
We won’t go back to the hospital. We have been flung down a secluded mountain glen, littering the unpolluted, pristine landscape. Somehow, it rings a bell. It feels familiar… almost like coming back home.
About the Author
Tiziana Soverino is an Italian tutor and writer who lives in Dublin, Ireland. Her poems have appeared in anthologies such as Landing Places (2010) and Embers of Words (2012), and in the literary journal Boyne Berries (2012). She believes in the healing power of laughter, writing, and good vibes.