A hand. That is what I remember. Its warmth on my skin. The soft skin hidden within the curve of my thigh. The place I like to fold my own hand at night. It’s cosy there. Warm. Comforting. It feels safe. I don’t know how I feel about this other hand being there. It’s just there. Like the memory itself is just there. It reminds me of helping grandad move after Gran died. There were boxes and boxes of paintings and old books, decorated pot plants, little mother-of-pearl bowls nestled in thick swathes of newspapers, and a huge Japanese fan. I was amazed.
“Where’s all this stuff come from?” I asked my dad.
“What are you talking about?” He answered. “It’s always been here.”
And so it had. I looked around and saw the outline the fan had left on the wall, the dents in the carpet made by the pots and the pale yellow rings on the side table where the bowls had sat, immobile, for years.
This memory feels like that. I can remember it, but I’ve never looked at it. I’ve never wanted to. There are some objects you want to blend in, to become part of the furniture.
“What can you see?” the hypnotherapist asks.
I scrunch my eyes even more firmly shut.
“Nothing,” I reply.
I can hear her re-crossing her legs. The hiss of cloth rubbing against cloth and the creak of the chair as she shifts from one side to the other.
She asked me when I came in where I’d like to sit, where I’d feel the most comfortable. I was excited that at last, after two sessions of just talking, we were going to try some actual hypnosis. I chose the armchair opposite the window. I liked the old-fashioned flower print, partially covered by a purple plaid. Soft and velvety to the touch, I stroke it now, burying my fingers into its folds. My hands are sticky.
“Let’s go back to the cot,” she says. “What does that evoke for you? Anything at all?”
A hand. That is what I remember. A hand that presses into the fabric between my legs while I pretend to be asleep.
I shift in my chair. “I’m not sure how this is going to help me stop smoking,” I say.
I can hear the accusing tone in my voice. An edge.
“Are my questions making you feel uncomfortable?” she asks.
“No,” I answer.
In the end, I tell her about seeing my cat get run over by a tractor. How I then couldn’t sleep without a night light until well into my teens.
I pay her, thank her, book another appointment. I already know I won’t go. I’ll find another way to quit smoking.
But I can’t forget.
I hesitate once. A few months later. It’s Christmas. I’m helping Mum prepare the plates in the kitchen. I’m arranging the roast potatoes into neat trios while she finishes cutting the goose. I nearly say:
“Mum, did you ever hire a babysitter when I was a kid? Say, before the age of four?”
But I swallow the words with a gulp of wine because the worst that could happen, the absolute worst that could happen, is if she answered: “no”.
Peggy Lee was born in the UK but raised in the south of France. After completing a BA in modern languages and an Open University degree in English Literature and Creative Writing, she moved to London in 2016 to work as an editorial assistant for a trade magazine. She then spent a year working part-time as an assistant for a literary agency and publishing house, and part-time as a bookseller at Waterstones Piccadilly. She is currently doing a creative writing MA at the University of East Anglia.