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A Heavy Burden

by Rosie de la Mare

Two nights ago an obese man sat on my chest and jolted me from the comfort of my dream. I tried to push him off his perch but the dense weight was too much. I heard the wooden floor creak beneath my mattress and I pictured the ceiling in the room below bowing like a fawning courtier.

I realised he was probably naked but all I could see was this man’s back; a cold, greying mound of skin, framed by enormous handles that could no longer be called “love.” There was no hint of a human form. No jagged edges.

A sweet, pungent smell surrounded him and I struggled to breath.

“What do you think you are doing?” The man boomed, without turning round. His words remained long after he had spoken them.

“Excuse... me! ...Shouldn’t... it... be... ME... asking... YOU... that... question?” I eventually gasped.

“Surely you haven’t forgotten?” he replied as he turned his head to face me, pushing his body deeper into my chest as his shoulders twisted. I felt no pain. Instead of the vicious, greedy face I was expecting, his face was beautiful. It reminded me of a flower, one whose name I couldn’t remember. One I knew well. It was just on the tip of my tongue.

Staring into his face, I tried to work out what he was doing, blinked — and the weight lifted. He disappeared. And so did the smell.

I could breathe again and returned to my dreams.

The next morning my chest hurt and I expected indentations from the buttons of my pyjama top, like reverse Braille on my skin. I brushed my fingertips over my skin, feeling for clues as to why this man had visited me in such an obscure manner and told me off.

My body was clear of any marks and a foreboding followed me for the rest of the day. It must have been a dream, but had I really forgotten something important? There was nobody to ask anymore because my beautiful, darling wife had died many years ago. Left me alone in this house.

Last night the same thing happened, only this time the weight was heavier and the man was shouting “You forgot! You forgot!” — repeating it over and over like a small child bouncing madly on my chest, getting louder each time until the words whooshed around the room. I could see them swirling around my head, bouncing off his back and hitting the wall above my head.

The smell was suffocating. But I didn’t fall back into the safety of other dreams when he suddenly disappeared. I found myself awake, sitting up with my head in my hands and tears rolling down my cheeks. I remembered.

Before my wife, Lily, had died, I made her a promise at her deathbed. She loved her namesake and I told her I would fill our house with lilies on her 50th birthday. She would have been 50 yesterday.

Copyright © 2008 by Rosie de la Mare

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