Satin Nightwear for Women Irregular
by Elisabeth Ingram Wallace
The walk to the Allotment is wet and full of cats, taut muscled screams darting under cars. It’s clunky, carrying all the bulbs she hoarded in one plastic bag, a bin-liner, stretched to a thin translucent skin.
When I get to her plot, I plant them. Ten halogen, twenty-two bayonet, and thirty-seven screw bulbs.
The ground around me is worming, and when I walk away the earth shatters.
I take her two nightstand drawers full of polyester nightwear to the wasteland behind Lidl. Giant white French knickers, black slips, a blood red chemise.
The labels are cheap and Chinese and the brands don’t translate. ‘Queen Silky Unique’, ‘Satin Nightwear for Women Irregular.’
I squirt lighter fluid, drop a lit match. When I walk away the sky bites and coughs through me. I can taste the perfume burn, her tight satin cling.
Her cookbooks next; one-hundred and twenty-three.
One is handwritten.
Her life in cakes, pages clotted with butter, her fingerprints, still. Two sheets stick, crack open an echo; a Rorschach of coffee, spilt decades ago – cockroach, demon, shadows. Her face.
Next day, I walk past it, already displayed in the Oxfam window. 99 pence.
For three weeks, I walk home a different way.
I walk the long, wrong way home and think of another window, the one in the hospital. I opened it wide. “My wife is too hot,” I’d said to the nurse, “she needs air.”
But I needed air. I didn’t want to be alone in that room, with her last breath. I wanted it out.
I tell everyone. I am OK.
Burying her is easy.
It’s just filling a hole. Burning her up into sky, and walking away.