You are. You are two cells old–zygote and sperm. You are the miracle. No need to know, only to grow. You hear the heart of your mother and the music soft and far away of human voice. You twist and turn and grow. Safely cushioned, needing no air to breathe, no food to eat, you feel the fluidic warmth press all around you, gentle touches from outside. A sudden, strange rush and pull, tugs you into another place; colder, harder, light–full of faces and needs.

You lie and play at ‘me–not me’, extending a hand here, a foot there, touching together fingers and feeling for sensation. This is yours and also this. You feel it to be so. Touching an object to the side, this is not you, the sensation is isolated. Corporeal identity preoccupies you. You learn yourself and your noises, feet and fingers; learn the smiley faces from above. Dappled light furnishes the ceiling of your world with playful tones and shadows. You pull yourself up from the blanket, stagger, fall and bounce. It hurts. You cry. Not all faces smile. Soap, music, a pink playpen–bars.

Behind the railings there are school books, rule books, unfriendly looks. Playing at ‘me–not me’ has new parameters. Who are he and she and they? What and why are we? You long for the security of warmth all around you. Instead there are ever higher bars to jump and bars to squeeze through–inclusive and exclusive. One smiling face would do. Any smiling face would do.

You see him across a haze of alcohol–smiling. You stagger home from the late night bar. Playing at ‘me–not me’ is not an easy game when there seems to be two of everything. Your companion helps you with the key, then with the stairs, then with your clothes and then he helps himself. No need for names, just needs. For a minute or two the ‘not me’ boundary shifts, and you are one.

The cold light of day has a harder face. You see your mirror image. The mirror always lies. This is your reverse. Straightening up, your head hurts and you moan. You try to wash away the shame with soap–drown it out with music. Knowing his name would help but you didn’t even take that precaution.

You pray for the miracle–not to conceive. How many cells too late, you do not know but there it is. You are no longer alone and he is gone. What can you give a child but rules and bars? It is all you know. What now? Confess to those smiling faces or deny all?

Lying on the bed you play at ‘me–not me’, watching the shadows lengthen and grow dark. Gradually losing awareness of the corporeal, you slip out of consciousness and are no more.

Oonah V Joslin lives in North East England with her husband and cat. She writes poetry and short fiction and is currently working on a first novel.

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Every Day Fiction