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Hot Desk Extract: Louise

Read Monday, 25 Apr 2022

As part of the Wheeler Centre’s Hot Desk Fellowship programme, Vince Ruston worked on an experimental poetic-prose novella. Louise centres around the titular protagonist, a survivor of the car accident that killed her husband. In the following excerpt, Louise is in hospital with serious injuries following the accident. Heavily medicated and in a twilight sleep, she grieves and remembers her love for her husband.

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Those days when. Before. Had just opened my body up to you. How I would hunger for you. To see you, touch you, swallow you up. Have you inside me, all over me, swallow me whole, somehow encapsulate me and pull my lungs right out. How we. Shared the same longing, the same. Intoxication, infatuation, locusts swarming in our veins. Desperate even. For carrion, a scrap or morsel of one another.

In my half-sleep. My heart. Goes to die, crushed red. Splinters in on itself. I feel sour, almost rank with this deadened longing for your touch. Long for you to pull. The air whole out of me. Every cavity. Fill me with your expired breath. How morbid, to want you this way. Cannot bring myself. To the touch. Not that it’s wrong, but. Somehow, it is. I am empty of you. I will always be empty of you. Why am I still. Alive, and you. Not.

What does your body look like now, half a dozen feet in the packed earth? What does your body look like now? I think these things, unbidden, unwanted. Buried in your coffin. Never wanted to be ashes and dust, consumed by flame. Half a dozen deep, wrapped in your best. Shrinking in. Black, white, like a star shrinking. In on itself. A black hole.I wonder. Have worms found you yet? I imagine, maggots in your eyes, seething pearl clusters.

The dream again: your. Body; stiff, blue. Frozen in rigor mortis. Naked in your coffin. Your coffin in our bedroom. I have to make sure you’re dead. I must, I must. They won’t. Bury you alive, not while I’m. Here. The lid not nailed down yet, easy to displace. There you are. Swollen. Bruised. Mottled in horror. Poke your cheeks with a finger. Indent impressed. Not satisfied, up I pull you under your arms, your whole body out and slapped on the floor like a silver scaled fish, after reeling it in. I have to make sure you’re really dead. Open your mouth and press mine to it and press air from my own lungs into you. The only taste back I get is my own, mingled with your decay. It chokes me in fumes, gas.

Waking now, from the deepest pockets of ocean. Dark and floating nothingness, place of non-existence. So quiet, not even blood. Runs in my ears. Slow. I grow dimly aware of blackness. My consciousness rising up through currents to light. In this upward motion I remember dreaming. Flavour of the dream, why has it left this. Sourness in my mouth, a heaviness in my insides? Remember seeing you. Confusion at you, back from the dead? No, you say, I never died at all, they made a mistake. Your face. Neither broken nor bruised. My body. Free with its movements, no traces of pain at all. But you died, I say, they told me you died. Aren’t you glad to see me? Of course I am, and I hold you and hold you. But the ocean grows warm with sunlight. Separation of dream and not-dream is blurred, I become unsure of reality. Press a hand against my shattered ribcage for answers. Quick as a flame, spasms shoot through. I break the surface, wake so quickly my thoughts whiplash. A sheath of grief over me. And you, still gone.

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.