beauty, fiction, women

The World Is Held In My Sights

They say Weezy had been reading palms out of her caravan for a hundred years.

I had to walk through the upper part of town where the smooth gums of the beach bled into the rotten dentistry of the industrial district. Businesses that still made things sat next to abandoned buildings with broken windows, sealed with notices of eviction and repossession.

Nelsons Column jutted upwards, stained and scarred like an ageing lover’s erection. A desperate pilgrim paying homage to a cheap prophet. The sky was the grey of a detuned television and the wind came off the ocean, cold and sharp enough to make me wrap my coat around me against the chill.

There was no one there apart from the seagulls and they would keep my secrets forever.

The hole in the fence was still there, hidden by bushes thick with thorns and oozing white berries. As I slipped through, one of them cut me across the back of the hand, sudden and deep enough to make me gasp. I used the sleeve of my jumper to arrest the bleeding. Pain pooled in the joints of my fingers and I grimaced where the wool stuck against the wound.

Her caravan squatted at the end of the park, flaking and yellowing like a fungal infection. The door was ajar, and from inside came the strains of classical music, the deep swoop of strings.

My eyes prickled with tears at the memory.

Holst’s The Planets. Jupiter.

It had been playing the first and last time we were here.

Leanne, Rebecca and me.

We were restless and bored to the point of madness. Thick make up to hide our chins and cover our acne, hair back-combed and sprayed into stiff plates at odd angles on our heads.

Wanting to know what the future held.

Eileen, Leanne’s aunt told us about Weezy. Her reading had predicted Alex getting the job at SeaTrax and Roo getting bitten by Kevin’s dog on the cheek. We hid our excitement behind our scorn but Eileen, flush with drink and good humour, told us where to find her. UB40 came on the stereo and she bumped her hips and sauntered off to see who wanted to dance with her.

She did not charge for her readings. We found the newsagent that sold us cigarettes and pooled our money together for a packet of ten.

She smoked without pause. Her hair was the colour of cigarette ash, wiry and sticking out at odd angles. A cardigan hung off her thin shoulders, mottled and torn from years of wear without being washed. Leanne gave her the packet of cigarettes.

Gnarled fingers scraped at the cellophane, smiling to show her blackened teeth and receding gums, red from infection.

There was no ceremony. We presented our palms; she traced along them with her index finger and handed them back to us. It had all the ritual of a drunken argument in a kebab shop.

‘The world is held in my sights.’ she said.

Her voice was a rusted hinge on a broken door, it made my teeth vibrate as she looked at us.

Leanne would have two children, raise three and nurse a fourth.

Rebecca would swim further than anyone she knew.

The room was blue with smoke. My sinuses stung from the acrid tang and she scratched her chin with her left hand. She had a scar there, silver and diffused by time and the contrast with the yellowing leather tan she had year round.

‘You, my love. You’ll come back to complete the circle.’

Leanne, happy with her prediction, cackled and rolled her eyes.

‘That’s bollocks. She’s going to fucking uni.’

We left with nothing for our troubles but headaches and stinking clothes.

We drifted into the future, not believing a word of what she said.

I went to college. Leanne went out with Liam, who would be a policeman, like his dad. He had a child of his own and they became an instant family.

Rebecca worked at the holiday camps.

I went to university. Leanne had twins. Rebecca went onto the cruise ships as part of the entertainment team. She got her Equity card to do that.

I came back for her funeral.

She had gone midnight swimming whilst on a break from the ship. She never came back.

Swam farther than anyone she knew.

I came back for the funeral. Leanne was not there because she was in hospital. She had adopted Liam’s son, the wife of a good policeman and the mother of twins. She thought she would have her third, and after a fashion, something was growing inside her.

She was in hospital having chemotherapy for it.

Her fourth and final child.

The funeral was cheap pints drunk too fast to taste and hushed, stilted whispers punctuated by soft sobs.

Leanne passed away holding Liam’s hand, warm and rough in hers. She whispered to him not to cry, aware it was all he had let within him to do.

I walked into her caravan.

She cackled and raised her hand, showing me the scar in the same place as my wound.

A slow humming began behind my eyes and in my sinuses, thicker than the cigarette smoke had ever been.

‘This world, experienced as it is, receives only indifference.’ she said.

My words came up my throat like bolts of slick vomit.

‘Is this the future?’

My eyelids drooped. Exhausted from having fought for better than this and lost doing nothing wrong.

‘It’s already here in clumps, like dogshit on a playing field.’

The ground rushed up to meet me.

I awoke in the chair, the crawling need for nicotine compelled me to make a cigarette. The young woman in front of me reached into her pocket and pulled out a packet of twenty wrapped in the cellophane. She smiled at me and left the caravan.

I watched her leave.
They say Weezy had been reading palms out of her caravan for a hundred years.

It feels so much longer.

It feels like forever.

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