TRUTH

Truth: you stubborn explorer, you freckled hunter. Always hungry. The first I saw of you was your knees. Your skirt hitched up to the first suggestion of thigh, naked feet resting atop your discarded shoes, legs stretched out under your desk. Your grazed knees bled more Holy than I’d witnessed all morning mass.
You are Truth. I am what I should be. Long skirt to curtain legs scrubbed clean, stockings pulled high. They call this modest; this desperate, artificial purity. Bearing your bruises like halos, every fall is mapped out on your flesh. Yet you do not greet the floor with bent knees, with scrubbing brush or prayer like I. Not to take your place as woman. Your marks are from hunting.
I’d soon recognise you climbing the tallest trees in the grounds, you wanted to taste cloud-breath, to feel your skin prickle like feathers under the sky’s touch. You once dug a tunnel through the freshly planted geraniums. Their roots becoming delicate paths to a suitable grave for the dead crow you found under His classroom window. You told me my veins were paths, my body a map you could compass; another height to scale, another trench to dig.
Hungry. That’s how your eyes first struck me, unfurling into a wild green, watching me, in a PE changing room as dizzy-hot and bustling with sweat as a jungle. There’s the devil in those eyes, in those knees that refuse to bend. But your lips are soft and forgiving as Jesus. Your kisses strew seeds into my skin, and they bloomed wild in the barren landscape of my body. I would wash them off the next morning in a cleansing flood of destruction. You are the only person I have been truthful to. Not in words, but in kisses. I planted a million kisses of my love and you let them all bloom.
We had a home, out of the grand and polished school. A river, a hill of garlic leaves and a rope swing. We found an abandoned motorbike wedged in the water. You said we would clean it up and run away. We both knew the engine was bust but we scraped the mud from its skeleton, scrubbed off the rust, like we could salvage hope from this alien construction of metal. We could run.
But you found out. Him. You scaled my flinches, my scars, my lowered eyes, a spluttered ‘Sir’. You screamed the word my lungs had choked on for years. Rape. It echoed. I refused, begged, lied. Truth, you’re sometimes too painful to hold. Your words sharp as your knuckles. Do you know what you’re punching for? Did you want to mark me more than He had? Beat my bones back into shape.
I cleaned so often I almost shone under the harsh school lights. Thin skin, hard and cold: polished glass. I wanted a reflective body; one that would mirror the innocent Matron looked for. We all just want to be pure. I think it’s impossible, I think we’re all born with some form of dirt lodged under our skin. Mine was you.
I have inhaled you. The dead cells of your yesterday’s skin, I collect with my breath. I became our hourglass, your dust our sand, its steady fall the rush of our river as time drags everything past.
One morning I got to His class and there was ‘God knows what you do’ scrawled across His blackboard, you had given Him a black-eye. I was fixated by the bag of dark blood as He struggled through the classes gasps and giggles, clinging to long division and empty rules. You had done this. I could feel myself bursting apart, as though my whole being had been tied together with my tongue.
I knew you’d intended ‘God knows what you do’ for Him, not me. But it felt like the chalk had eyes, white as heaven, white as your knuckles. I had thought He was God come to punish me, He told me He was. His was my judgement, my Hell. If I let His nails, His spit scrape me clean Heaven would let me in. If I closed my eyes while His weight was on me, I could almost see in the dark, live like a womb: Heaven. You undid my silence. You undid it all.
After class I stalked to our river to find you dangling on our swing. God knew how I felt when I looked at you, like my heart was using my ribs as rungs, clogging up my throat until every breath was you. God knew. You’d told Him, stormed into His class at night, scrawled childish things on His board, beat Him like fists ever fixed anything. You grinned. Proud of yourself? You announced the motorbike was clean, that didn’t mean it would run, but to you it was still a promise that it was time for us to run. Everything was made out of eyes, cells dividing with fat nuclei bulging like irises. He was watching. Holding you meant holding Him. It meant shattering into memories of those clumsy big hands, calloused and thick veined. I didn’t want to be de-shelled, I wasn’t ready to be naked again, His fingerprints still preserved, buried into my flesh with scars raised like fossils. “No.” I had to let you go.
Long after the Matron clicked the lights off you slipped into my bed, feet ice cold on my legs. This is the last time we’d meet. I was pretending to be asleep. You held me tight enough to fuse us. The only prayer I’d ever heard you utter: “Don’t let me go. Don’t let me go?” One hand on each side of my ribcage, your fingers clung so tight. We are all just trying to endure. I imagined my mum’s tears when she saw you, my dad’s fists. All the hurt you cause people, Truth. I wish I could hold you, I do. I would do anything to turn around now and kiss you and whisper “Stay, stay, stay.” I would do anything but actually ask you to.
So I could have kept you, my scraped-kneed Truth.
I thought you’d take the motor-bike with you but it was the river that eventually swept it away. I thought you’d leave scars, like He had. It is easier with you gone. Easier to be pure.

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