Life in the Garden

by Cooper Young

“You mustn’t dwell on it, dear.”

That’s all I get when I try to remember what happened. All I find. My husband’s voice. My mother’s voice. The doctors’. That nurse, the one with the mole and the odd eye and the smile that told me that whatever it was she was sorry it happened to me. “You mustn’t dwell on it, dear.”

Like I still could.

Did I once?

Did it hurt?

Did it hurt nearly as bad as not remembering now does?

When I lie back and stare at the cracked plaster over the bed and hear him breathing next to me, when I search and search what’s left of my mind, it springs up like a hedge. I can’t break through it. I can’t even see through it.

I wonder sometimes if there’s a cliff just on the other side of it, one I’d go careening off and then I’d fall until I’d shatter like glass at the bottom. I wonder what it would be like, to shatter. I wonder sometimes if I’m shattered now.

But there’s nothing beyond those words: “You mustn’t dwell on it, dear.” Like I still could.

No one will tell me. “You mustn’t dwell on it, dear.”

No one will let me get close. “You mustn’t dwell on it, dear.”

They’ve built me a safe little garden for my mind, and I mustn’t dwell on what’s outside it. I can’t, not on the things outside.

There’s nothing in the world that can stop me from dwelling on the wall, though–on the fact that it’s there. On the fact that there is an outside. Maybe they think that’s better. Maybe they think I’m safe tangled in the thorns. The thorns hold me tight. The thorns catch me when I stumble toward the edge of reason. They are the edge of reason.

And whatever I did, whatever was done to me, I guess I have to dwell on that. On the edge. On what I still have.


Written as an entry into the Trifecta Writing Challenge, Week Sixty-four.