Spiral Stair

Eleven years ago, this was the best thing I’d ever written. My son was six weeks old, and I remember feeding him and getting him off to sleep as I started this.

She stared out of the window, away from the pink bedclothes and flowery wallpaper which so oppressed her. The place felt like a doll’s house. ‘I am thinking about how I would stand up to poverty’ – that is what she would say if he asked. And yet it wasn’t true. There was something so stifling, so predictable in being “comfortably-off”: sometimes she yearned for a spell of black tea and cold corridors.

– What are you looking at? he asked, coming out of the bedroom. It was the wrong question – but then she realised that she had been looking at something – the high stone tower in the middle-distance. She was suddenly curious about it.

– Is that the cathedral?

– Must be, I suppose. He squinted at it.

– I want to see it, she said abruptly.

– Ok. Without a word, he jettisoned the plans they’d already made for the morning, and began to get dressed.

– It’s just, she said, feeling a little guilty, All weekend I’ve been feeling – I don’t know, restless.

– Mm. He was drying between his toes, thoughtfully.

– I knew I wanted something – but I didn’t know what. I just knew what I didn’t want.

– You mean this, he said, indicating the wallpaper.

– Yes, the wallpaper. But it’s not really that. The wallpaper is just a syumptom – an expression of something inside.

– A new meaning to “interior design”, he said, with a laugh.

She laughed, feeling once more how he opened things up for her. The absurd was always possible.

– Let’s go, she said, wanting to seize the moment.

– I’ll get dressed, he said.

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