Short Story // Something Understood
Forest in winter, forest, side-by-side. Side-by-side walking through forest in winter. Forest fringes, branches twining knotting receding, the if-i-look-straight-at-it-i’ll-never-look-at-anything-again-sky. The spaces between trees branches twisting knotting receding. Forest in winter, forest, side-by-side. Walking. Mum and I. Talking. The comfort of forest anonymity. Bodies huddled and occasional gentle-collide, engaging and disengaging, marching, feet off-ground for a moment look! Look! We are flying all snowman magic instant-now joy, sadness beneath, sadness that
we can’t glide forever above the forest-dark. Forest knows our secrets, knows our pain, a hurt far beyond our comprehension. Forest hoarder. Memory-trace pain, fossil-trace feet. Walking, hurting, within the forest-thick.
Trees unravel, forest-thick recedes, light blinters pierce forest-line, meadow, meadow approaches. The spaces between trees yearning for that light, that sun light, that pure light, that impossible pure light.
Out of forest, winter, meadow, side-by-side. Walking. I am saying there’s something I want to tell you … listening she what is it? mumbling how policed I felt into straightness by dad when he was alive other words stumble always assumed me straight… his boys club chat about women and girls… all the affairs he told me to keep secret … She is struggling what do you mean? stuttering my desire beyond one type… drifting what are you trying to say? are you not happy with Hannah? Frustrated I’m trying to tell you I’m bisexual
I’m not sure what you’re trying to say
Cleft. Branches disengage, voices lessen. Walking side by side. Not talking not talking, words failing. Out of forest, winter, meadow, silence. Light piercing: we cannot see faces, we are looking at mud-churned ground, smells of bark decomposingrichdark, illuminated by frozen-winter light.
Forest-return, out of meadow, apart. Nothing to say, all quiet. Just animalhoof-thud-squelch of footsteps on the path as we keep walking, no chance of gliding now, just trudging on, unceasing, walking somewhere walking anywhere, hoping our bodies might find a way to understand one another when the words fail. Our bodies less huddled now, less side-by-side, we are walking towards something walking towards anywhere at least we think we
are but really we have no idea at all where we might be walking no idea why we are lost in the forest-thick again.
The mud-churned ground swallows us, no more gliding above the forest-floor, dragged beneath the surface with
the fossil-trace bones of all the mums and sons that came before.
We drive back home in silence; the words have failed.
House, the family house, house like forest, secrets-hoarder. Pain-hoarder. No anonymity here though, none at all. House calls out with its haunting, in the limitless-dark, knows exactly what it is hoarding inside its walls. All the hurt that fathers cause, when they are alive, and when they are dead.
Mum’s room: she is trying on jewellery, then we are trying on jewellery and we are hands brushing by her mirror, elbows on varnished-wood, the chest her mum my grandma gave her, earrings dangling and twinkling in the afternoon’s winter light, magicgrace twinkling from the reflections as the light splinters pour through the window, hits the mirror, our faces close, side-by-side.
The mirror is silvery stream: there, on the other side, a forest-clearing, mum and me, moonlight silver bathed, trees cocoon-twined around us. We are there-gorgeous and dazzling. Moonlight calm. This side: comical “I”, masculinised. Neither here nor there. I’m not sure what you’re trying to say. I remember there before, 12-year old menotme and mum trying on her clothes and jewellery, intimacy and mystery, secret silvery worlds, whole worlds together opening up in the forest-clearing. In the memory-trace gorgeousness I am witness to her secret world.
In the instant-now I find one earring, faded cross with vinewrapped round, exquisite-terror-apple-to-be-eaten-so-glorious! its weight tilts my head gently to the side. Mum gentlesmiles, tells me to take it to enjoy it while I am away. We are gorgeous in this instant-now. We are here and we are there-gorgeous and dazzling, side-by-side.
She is trying to understand. She is trying to listen. Eyes gentlelocked, softening, saying nothing. Saying nothing at all. Salt. Slow. Salt. Slow. Slow-salt tears. Hers, mine. Slow-salt-eyes. Enough words for now.
The spaces between trees branches twisting knotting receding. Forest-dark, forest-clearing. Forest-thick secrets.
The spaces between trees. Side-by-side.
Jack Young is from Nottingham in the U.K. and currently lives in Barcelona, where he is co-founder of multilingual literary collective Anemone. He is interested in writing that crosses boundaries of genre and form in order to open up new spaces. In these spaces he tries to articulate the fractured nature of experience and loss. He is particularly interested in the translations of memory and trauma and the lacunas- such as silences- that exist between these translations. His current writing focuses on identity; familial relationships and care. He also works with young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, where he develops arts-based critical pedagogy with a particular emphasis on multilingual filmmaking, applied theatre and creative writing.