Small steps #flashfiction
With depression, small steps matter. Tessa takes small steps… flash fiction by Anjulie Te Pohe.
My mind skips, my mind skips, my mind skips over the same old things: the crack of thunder, the wipers frantically swiping away the rain, the plume of smoke and the sickening smell of iron. I curl up in bed under layers of stifling blankets. I know I should be doing something: cleaning, showering, exercising, going to school or even leaving this room. Countless tasks stack up in the corner of my mind. I focus my attention on the dull pattern on the underside of the blanket in an attempt to distract myself. The shapes blur together into a familiar image: two cars colliding and wrapping together in a disjointed embrace.
A blazing light burns the image away.
“I’m going to make lunch and I’d love for you to join me,” says Mum.
When I don’t reply the light is snuffed out and her heavy footsteps recede into the kitchen. She switches the radio on and it’s accompanied by a host of sounds. Later a sugary sweet smell meanders into my room, urging me to move.
Leaving is a long list of small overwhelming tasks I’m not sure I can accomplish, but I have to try. I unfurl myself and peel back my blankets. My sweaty odour washes over me and I wrinkle my nose, ashamed and disgusted at myself. I push myself upright and put one leg, then the other, out of bed. I straighten myself and step through the clothes blanketing the carpet. My bare feet meet the cool Lino floor and my hand, the nearest wall. I run my open hand across it and the corner presses into my palm as I turn into the next room.
Golden light streams in through the window, casting a zig-zag of shadows across the floor. Mum stands with her back to me, her dark hair pulled tight into a ponytail. She spoons some of the pancake mixture out of a bowl and it sizzles when it hits the pan. The smell seeps into my skin like honey.
Mum turns around and she brushes the back of her hand over her nose. “Hey, sleepyhead. Lunch should be ready soon. But first, I think you need a shower. It’ll make you feel better.”
I give her a smile. It’s forced, but it’s something.
I set a new course for the bathroom. I run my hand over the wall at first, but I find I don’t need something to hold me up so I let it drop.
In the bathroom, I underdress and step under the showerhead. The water beats down on me as if trying to push me down. I hold myself up by sheer force of will and go through the motions of washing.
Outside Mum is sitting at the table. I plonk down beside her and a real smile settles on my face. I take some pancakes, smother them with butter and honey, and eat. It’s as if a shard containing all of my horrible memories is drawn out of me and warmth pools into that spot. I don’t know how long this feeling will last, but right now, I don’t care.
“So what do you think?” asks Mum.
I lick my lips. “They’re delicious.”
Mum grins at me and we sit, eat and talk until we’re content.
“This story is about a woman battling depression caused by an accident. I wanted to show how hard it is for people with depression to, at times, do anything. For Tessa, this is the beginning of her coming out of that. Today she gets out of bed and maybe in a few days she’ll go outside her house. Recovery is not a linear process, but this is the start of Tessa’s journey to recovery.”