The First Time I Felt Dispensable

I’m really enjoying getting back into writing. This month the topic our writers’ group was given was: “The first time I felt dispensable”.

So I wrote this during my lunch on Thursday (it needs work!):

The First Time I Felt Dispensable

She wrote me down in Autumn and the clock on the mantelpiece of her room counted her from the blue of the evening into the streetlight-orange night. She wrote me down and her heart was wide and her words were deep and true. I was long and honest and lyrical, a capture of college memories, and I was full of love.

She gave me to him the next morning, cold and clean and bright. The station platform was damp from the shoals of recent rain that had come in below the overhanging shelter. Their breaths ghosted in the early air.

He put her bags on the train, all packed and practical for her new city and life across the sea. She said:

“Sure, you’ll be able to come and see me all the time. It’s really not that far.”

He nodded, and said:

“Yeah, absolutely, I’ll be over every three weeks,” before his words trailed off into redundancy.

So they kissed and they hugged for long minutes. Then she handed me to him, wrapped in an envelope that had his name on it, an ellipsis of red wine and a kiss: a map of who I was for, and how and when and by whom I was written.

“Read it after I go,” she said and she stepped up onto the train. “And keep it with you.”

The train left and so did he. He went home and made tea to warm and calm him. He sat down in his chair, and opened the envelope. He read me from my first page to my last, taking in the flourishes and the functional, and his tears were quiet and brief. Then he took out his wallet, folded me up and put me inside.

I went everywhere with him: to his habit-formed places with habit-formed friends, to his new job, to his nights out, to his hungover breakfasts, to family lunches. And I was with him in the lonely nights when he took me out and read me from my first page to my last.

I came with him when he went to see her, journeys by railway and through the air to her and her new world: stolen, sporadic weekends that they lived together.

Winter went and spring came and his visits were now less frequent; their conversations emptier; their kisses more listless; their hugs more lonely.

I was with him when he kissed another for the first time, as a bar’s lights and darknesses moved about him. And I was with him when he met the other for lunches, and in the evenings, and when he tidied his house before she came to stay.

At the beginning of summer, the long phone call, and his voice was by turns apology, and reason, and business, and temper, and then finally silence. After a long time in the silence he took out his wallet and removed me from it. He read me from my first page to my last and I lay in his unmoving hands until the clock on his wall had counted him from the streetlight orange night into the blue of the morning.

Then he stood, and went to the books on the shelf on the wall. He chose an old one and opened it in the middle. He folded me up, placed me within its battered, smoke-scented pages and closed me in it. And then he put it up on one of the shelves near the top, high and far from memory: the first time – and the last –that I felt dispensable.


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