Over the last year, our Writeability Goes Regional project has included a remit to uncover and showcase the work of some of Victoria’s regional writers with disability.
Enjoy this extract from ‘Hunger’ by regional writer and 2013 Writeability Fellow Kate Hood…
She saw further than others and knew it. Her creeping paralysis had destroyed some things and enhanced others. Time was short – the Motor Neurone had taken care of that – but she had no patience for the idea that she should accept her lot. No patience for the idea that she should allow her life-force to simply run out. Suddenly there seemed so much to do and no way of bounding anything in time. How could it be possible to make a deadline when one had no way of knowing when the Angel was coming? It seemed impolite!
It occurred to her that she had to find a way of spreading her remaining senses, so that she could see and sense and feel more. In her mind’s eye she lapped at a pool which could never quite quench her thirst, and what had started as a prickle of frustration – the kind felt by a child who is never given quite what she wants – had become the hunger of a monster which could never be sated. The nurses tended to her physical needs but were uneasy with her deep stillnesses and remained once or twice or thrice removed. The gap between their perception of what was ‘necessary’ and what she wanted had become a gulf which they could not look into, with deep waters raging through the canals of the Grand Canyon of her mind. Her power might split the world asunder.
Her eyes told all. She needed so much more.
Now that she knew she was dying, now that the paralysis had crept all the way up to her neck, she found that regret was useless. She had a yearning for a conversation that would propel her forward into the future; she wanted to know how to live like this, however briefly. She wanted answers to questions that had never been asked.
‘The Mad-woman in the attic’, she thought. They saw her that way. Untethered and Incapable. She made no decisions any more (which was a relief – she had no desire to deal with mundanity and that was all that was left); whatever power she had had over her earthly life was gone.
But something new was happening. She lived utterly alone in the turret of her own imagination and breathed rarified air. It was intoxicating! She looked down upon the thing that was her body. Her beautiful body which had produced six children and had been worshipped by a significant few, now was encased by vinyl padding and metal parts, and had become part of an irrelevant motorised obelisk which was tended by others, but not in the way she wanted. She wanted sex as she had never wanted it before, she wanted to look into the eyes of another – man or woman or elvan creature, it no longer mattered – and see desire. Just the thought of it made her shudder with a pleasure she had never experienced before.
Her husband came and visited every day, which kept the habit of their fifty-one year old marriage alive. Their conversation was rudimentary – they talked about the hospital food, the nurses and how he was getting on without her at home – but there was a tenderness in their exchange that had not been there before and at times they fell into a silence which allowed her space to retreat into her new parallel universe. She knew that he had come to prefer his life without her, and had days of real pleasure, eating nothing but baked beans and listening to the cricket, sitting in the mud-brick house which was literally crumbling around him. She didn’t care. Her own pleasure and privacy was becoming important to her. Now that every second of life counted, there was no room for surface exchanges which yielded nothing. She only used them to get what she needed.
One night, after she had been toileted and put to bed, she lay awake in the dark for hours, breathing and listening. She heard distant voices and imagined the corridors of the hospital – endless vinyl and muted lighting; she saw herself as if from above, walking and walking.
She rounded a corner, and suddenly, there were stars! Great flashes of light exploded around her and the very air shimmered. It was as if she were breathing gossamer. She stopped still to take it all in, eyes wide and skin tingling, and felt the floor beneath her move like an animal. She got down on all fours and rode the night out slipping and sliding down a great undulating verge; whooping with delight as her speed increased; and she funneled her energy so that she slipped and bounced off the padded walls of the now rounded corridor and scythed through the air head-first at breakneck speed. Now there was no corridor, just the delicious purple night expanding around her, with lights exploding in the distance and beauty all around…
In the morning, she remembered nothing. She came to with a wet flannel on her face and a straw being stuck in her mouth so she could drink her tea.
About Kate Hood
Kate Hood received one of Writeability’s inaugural Fellowships in 2013 and was one of six emerging writers who showcased their work at the Writeability Salon at EWF (Emerging Writers Festival) on Sunday 1 June, 2014. You can read some of her other work on this website, including extracts from ‘Ruthie‘ and ‘Unbearable Care‘.
© Kate Hood 2016
Writers Victoria acknowledges the generous support of Perpetual Trustees for the Writeability Goes Regional program and these commissions.