“El Carcel de amor, or, The Prison of Love*” by Olivia Salazar-Winspear, Paris

Love and Heartbreak,Paris September 9, 2011 12:32


as shared at a PenTales event in Paris

Listen to the Story!

Amanda grimaced and scrunched her eyelids ; the words on the page had begun to slide away from each other, on sentence conveyor belts. She read them aloud, to her audience of furniture :

« Buddhist doctrine stipulates that sensual desire- a thirst or craving for physical pleasure- will hinder peace of mind. It is a want that can never be satisfied. Desire can only bring suffering. Freedom from desire clears the path to enlightenment ; it is a release from the prison of the soul. »

She surveyed the room. Dusk was creeping into the edges of the windowpanes ; her pot plants cast zebra stripe shadows on the floorboards. Familiar forms grew opaque and thickened as the light receded from their contours. It felt a little bit like a prison, if Ikea designed prison interiors. Which, Amanda reasoned, they probably do, in Sweden.

She’d read the same paragraph three times that afternoon. Laying her hand flat across her waistband, she was surprised not to feel any external evidence of that feeling, that churning in the pit of her, her entrails writhing as if they were working themselves free.

She tried the breathing : in through her nose – too fast, gulped – and then out through her mouth – nervy, ragged. It didn’t help. Amanda eased the book back into it’s plastic dust jacket, slotting the free Lending Library bookmark two thirds of the way in, next to a photo of the Dalai Lama.

Technically, it was a fifteen minute drive to his house, but she made it there in nine. There was little traffic. She pulled up to the curb five metres beyond his driveway ; immediately, the rear-view mirror darkened three shades as the lights in his house went off with three swift, deliberate blinks.

Squinting, she leaned into the mirror : so he was at home. Strange. He hadn’t picked up the phone this evening when she called. He was probably doing some gardening out the back, checking on the delphiniums in their strictly gridded plots. Those bedding plants monopolised far too much of his time during her early evening visits.

Dusk had given way to a soft, violet sky and the garden smelt wet as she walked up to the door. Lacy white blossoms to the side of the path caught her eye : « Love in the mist ». She smiled and remembered the afternoon he’d taught her that, when she was passing on her bike, and she’d recognized him, in his gardening gloves and they’d talked and talked and then she’d been unable to sleep that night, and she knew.

Six knocks, maybe seven, evenly spaced ; Amanda peered through the swollen glass, which valiantly obscured any movement inside. He’s probably making dinner with the radio turned up. She went round the back.

The kitchen door betrayed his darting shadow, hurling his blurry form onto the overhead projector of the insect-proof screen. Adrenaline prickled at the skin on her forearms at this image. She lingered at the door, her stomach waiting in her larynx, lest he reappear.

Underneath her shirt, the churning had abated and suffused into a warm glow. It grew warmer, fiercer, until the heat forced her to move away from herself, to pace the garden, glancing about for tools, tricks, allies in her mission.

In through the nose…. Out through the mouth. When she was inside, near him, she’d feel calmer. The step ladder was propped against the back wall, directly below the chimney stack. She laughed at her stupidity: it was a sign. A sweet prank.
A nod to the time she’d called him Romeo, on the veranda, and he’d blushed, embarassed.

Her hands pressed into muddy mortar as she held her bodyweight with her upper arms, slowly bending her elbows and feeling the pressure shift; her jeans were skimmed sandily on both sides as she lowered herself in. As she felt the warm brick encase her hips, she imagined his hands, in the same place. The grip tightened. She shuffled: first in her hips, then in her
shoulders. One arm seemed to slot into an invisible groove in the brickwork – it tesselated and stuck like the last remaining piece in a puzzle.

She tried to tilt one side of her pelvis forward, but like a salsa debutante in an overlit town hall, she thrust a centimentre, then stopped. She was hot now. She’d been flushed before, exhilirated by her reckless plan, her lover’s dare. But perspiration had smeared it slightly. She was hot and she was stuck, a stationary female fossil fuel. Burning with desire, potentially explosive, but ultimately, very stuck.

*Inspired by the headline: “Woman Dies While Stuck in Lover’s Chimney”

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