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With the Monster Around My Neck

With the Monster Around my Neck
Petra-Jane Rihan


Cold, icy air fills my lungs.
I FEEL the nurse’s fingers on me.
But yet I don’t feel anything.
The lights bright but all I see is dark.
I recognise the feeling of the illness wrapping long fingers round my wrists and holding me hostage.
I’m in my hospital bed, I know where I am but I’m not present. I feel the hard bed and flat pillows beneath me but I’m floating.

Machinery clicks and clanks and runs its engines, trying to treat me.
“She’s slipping.” Nurses are speaking around me but I can barely hear them.
“She’s going.”
Words dance around in circles above my head, I want to grab them, tell them to stop, tell them to make sense.
A dark monster has its hands around my neck, a car I got in too long ago and now it’s driving so fast I can’t jump out.
But I’m slipping.


I’m holding on, god, I’m so scared. I feel the big dark monster wrapping its arms around me and telling me,
“It’s safe. I’m safe. Don’t fear me. I’m good for you.”

Cups clanking.
Back in time.
All the way back.
Clock turned back
It’s graduation and we’ve thrown our hats in the air, we hold icy cold apple juice in heavy, small glasses.
Laughter fills the air and the world seems so full of possibility.
But as I watch the moment, feel the scratchy gown on my skin, I can feel the monster whispering in my ear,
“Let go, come to me.”

Why can I feel water? I look down.
The world is blurry but I can feel my feet, standing in a running river running like an Olympic sport winner, running to win the race. The water is cold and I can hear laughing.
I see a face.
My daughter, jeans rolled up and laughing as I pull her into the river as well.
Summer, 2008, things were okay.
I wasn’t at the mercy of a hospital bed, tying me down.
This, this moment all but a memory.

Over, tie, pull the hair. I plait my daughters’ hair, hair that’s identical to mine.
I miss her. I remember when life was simple and she lived with me and it was just us. Then we had a fight.
She left because of something stupid I did.
I miss her.
I want her by my side.
“I’m here for you.” The monster runs its claws down my arms and tries to make me trust it.

I gasp.
Cold, icy air in my lungs.
The white lights are back, I feel the flat pillow and hard back of the familiar hospital bed.
I smell the smell of sharp, fake fruity cleaning spray.
I see the nurses around me.
And for once, I see the monster. It’s given up. It’s leaving.
The arms loosen its grip and the hands let go around my neck.
“She’s back.” The nurses say.