I didn’t plan to hurt her. That’s important. I’ve watched a lot of police shows and courtroom dramas so I know that intention makes all the difference in a lot of these cases. It’s the difference between a couple of decades and my entire life. The difference between voluntary manslaughter and murder.
I have the key now. Ten years of wondering, respecting her privacy and, shamefully, searching, and now I finally have the key. Every year I thought about the box, or more specifically its contents, but I never hoped for this.
The room was always dead.
Spongy carpet, a cheap mattress.
The mirrored wardrobe that failed
to create space.
Curtains too big that stroked
the never made bed.
But it was his room.
Between hitching breaths and deep sniffs
the rain hammered the roof and windows.
Surrounding me, covering me,
weighing me down, empathising.
I looked back but only saw
a door draped in shadow.
Then outside, never to return,
the downpour cooled my face.
Climbing into the car, I prepared
for unwanted conversation,
clutching a bundle of clothing
that felt far too small to be
all that was left.
Now his room too was dead.
There was little for me to take
because I was never really there.
My instinct was to bolt.
Every loud noise alarmed me.
The drill brayed and I kicked involuntarily.
‘Woah, there,’ he said softly.
He tried to soothe me
but I knew he wasn’t afraid to hurt me.
He was in control,
and I had no choice but to submit.
This piece was published in CityLit’s ‘Between the Lines’ anthology, and printed on the elevator doors.
You are standing in a small, mahogany-panelled room, empty except for a simple wooden chair in the corner. You can see that it is overcast outside; the single window throws in little light. A faint odour like musty cloth lingers quietly in the background, bringing images of clothing left in the washing machine for too long or an overused raincoat, but disappearing upon a sharp or questioning inhale. From the next room, you hear a dull thud like a dense ball of soft fabric dropping to the wooden floor, unalarming and gone before you can determine its cause. You can taste the floury, starchy flavour of an unseasoned dough that does nothing to excite the senses but merely provides bulk or sustenance. You do not wish to continue chewing but the thick, wet, bland mass refuses to disintegrate.
Opera has never been my strong suit. That is not to say I don’t like it but, woefully, I am a) not a singer and b) of my generation; my attention span is average-to-poor and my untrained brain wanders while one teeny tiny point is laboured in a seven minute aria. Imagine my relief when I found out that Tansy Davies’s first opera, Between Worlds, was only an hour and a half long. I could cope with that.
If opera is what I don’t know, what I do know is a decent amount about Tansy Davies. Davies’s boundary-blurring art music with references to Prince and Stevie Wonder formed a chapter of my undergraduate dissertation, so I was excited to hear that she had composed her first opera. What I wasn’t so excited about, though, was the subject: 9/11. For Between Worlds, Davies and librettist Nick Drake worked together closely to plan the story they wanted to tell, at one point in Davies’s house in France drawing a plan on 25 feet of wallpaper. The duo wove the drama and created the characters using the messages sent on September 11th released by WikiLeaks.