Helen Grant

United Kingdom

18 | Linguist | Anxious resting face

Message to Readers

This has been a particularly difficult prompt for me, which explains why I only just finished it this evening. I would be extremely grateful for any comments/ ideas/ improvements you have, whether they be about the theme, tone, syntax, word choice etcetera. Thank you :)


July 12, 2015

One of the less frequently discussed aspects of death and grief is the mandatory overhauling of one’s interior décor.

I am not just referring to the I’m-absolutely-fine-and-look-I’ve-found-some-lovely-tangerine-emulsion-for-the-downstairs-loo phenomenon, although that is indeed a common manifestation of the idea. It can often be something smaller, like the repositioning of a photograph to the centre of a mantelpiece, or the sudden adoption of lots of cheery bunches of flowers around the room. Or maybe they aren’t cheery bunches of flowers at all. Maybe they are the dismembered limbs of a coffin garland, shedding their eerily wilting petals like some terrible metaphor.

Incidentally, I am currently reorganising my bedroom. In fact, I’m writing this very piece surrounded by the shrapnel and debris of seventeen years of childhood, all in one big pile in the middle of my bedroom carpet. Progress has been sporadic, due to the combined evils of disinclination and distraction, but soon I will be approaching the sorting and binning stages.

Sorting and binning. Coming from somebody who is loath to discard even old French vocabulary tests with doodles on them, these are not easy concepts to get my head around. I have more sentimentality running in my veins than blood cells, and while I would be reluctant to describe myself as the product of capitalism and consumerism, I pin my memories to inanimate objects. How does one go about discerning between rubbish and relic? How can I possibly have the right to look at an ancient, discoloured Barbie doll with a missing foot and deem it – her – extraneous?

I cannot.

Over the past year I have had to endure the carpet of my life being slowly pulled out from under my feet, thread by thread, as if by mice. And almost everything in my bedroom seems to be a keepsake from before.

Here I am, a victim of the human condition: I continue to tell myself that if I keep that pile of History flashcards by my bed, I can stay in the revision era and forestall the exam results day in August. If I save all those old birthday cards I can ignore the fact that we’re all going to different sixth form colleges and will probably never see each other again. If I keep those holiday postcards from my father I can change the fact that he is now happily ensconced in a Bolivian slum, chewing coca leaves and abusing all his friends and relatives, safe in his schizophrenia-induced knowledge that he is the one and only Prophet and holds the key to the Revolution.

If I don’t move that T-shirt my grandparents bought me, vacuum pack it and put it in the loft, I can disregard the fact that since two months ago my grandmother has been in a care-home with brain damage and my grandfather dead.

I’ve tried, and, naturally, I can’t stop or rewind time. It doesn’t work like that. It is like a train whizzing past our platform, destined for elsewhere. We have no control over it at all – but we can stand and watch and enjoy (or resent) the feel of the wind on our cheeks. I can’t change what has happened and I can’t anticipate what is yet to come.

But I can tidy up after it.

Perhaps a lick of paint is in order after all.


I know there's a hanging participle lurking in there, but it's stylistic, I promise!


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1 Comment
  • ...emily

    Helen! Thank you for your review of "Second Star to the Right"! I'm doing edits on it right now, but once I'm finished, I'll come back to review your piece tonight. It's bit late considering the deadline, but better late than never?

    over 5 years ago