she put out her cigarette, knowing her mother would soon enough see the smoke. she let it fall to the last stone step, and stamped it out with one of her oxfords. she liked men’s shoes. much more practical, much more comfortable. she liked men’s trousers too, something she heard about no end from her mother, who probably heard about it no end from the women of the knitting society and the town council and the gardening committee. their judgments had once been a bother to her, a hurt that arose from shame. but no more. now she was looking down the road of life, ready to walk it, and she would do it in her comfortable and practical oxfords, having no time for idle nonsense.
Idle Nonsense. that’s what went on in this town. she often wondered how long Idle Nonsense had been taking place there…how many generations of gossip and judgement and how is your mare, what do these cost, did you hear about the vicar’s daughter, did you hear about the butler’s son, you know I can’t tell you what the young folk are about these days, my mother’s always had the finest china, they were brothers you know, never got along together, sad business that, yes she was with him all along, down in the cow pasture, it’s a wonder they both weren’t filthy when they got home, oh he’s been sick a long while now, poor man, doctor says he hasn’t got long, did you see my new doilies on the mantelpiece?
she wanted none of it. she wanted blue rivers, ice cold, so cold it almost hurt. she wanted the sun to burn her and teach her how fierce it could be. she wanted a city where something was happening, where people were bright and vibrant and glowing from within with a kind of fire, a vitality, an urgency no one ever felt in the village. she wanted shadows and smoke-filled rooms and carnival lights, she wanted to walk the streets of a place where no one would give her a second glance, indeed, would hardly notice her at all.
she wanted cold gin and a warm touch. she wanted a sense of…of having captured something, having held it in her hands and known it was hers, only hers, that no one and nothing could tear it from her. she wanted music that riveted through her, filling her lungs and her chest with that same fire that was in all the people, even if the fire were made of sorrow. she longed for great feeling and fullness. she yearned to fill up like a balloon, to be so swollen with electric experience that she became weightless, floating away…
it was a warm night, damp and sticky. she shrugged out of her cardigan and put it around her waist. she tapped her foot impatiently, though she waited for nothing. there was nothing to wait for. no one was coming to call. no one was expected at the house. no car was shortly to pull into the drive and glare into her eyes, its lights saying come, come out, look at the world…she wished someone would come. she wished something would happen. something wild and terrible, something so out of the ordinary that everyone would see it, and hear it, and be woken from their wretched everyday nightmares, that waking sleep that drove them to talk of cattle and doilies and before the war.
her mother’s voice came down to her, like sand on the wind. edith, edith, come inside. she twitched it out of her ears and off her neck.
she ran into the fields, and the grass was damp with night-dew, and the warm wind billowed in her hair and her heart began to run along with her, pounding, pounding. she was coming awake now, she could feel it moving through her body, pulsing like a drum. she would do anything to preserve that feeling. how could she ensure its survival? only by running, running, over blackberry bushes and puddles, through the endless grass going on and on and on, and every beat of her heart was a desperate cry:
here I am, and this is living.