Miriam Smith lies dying in her hospital bed.
We don’t give name to the monster which eats away at her. If we speak of it at all, we spit out words like ‘it’ or ‘that’. If we speak of it at all, our hatred bubbles up through our mouths, frothing between our lips. That is, if we speak of it at all.
Miriam Smith lies dying in her hospital bed. She was a great woman, but you wouldn’t know that. She never cured a disease or sailed around the world. She never invented or wrote.
But she used to let me help. I’d stand on an old Yellow Pages and watch as she’d potter about the kitchen, bringing a bowl down from the cupboard, counting the eggs in the box to make sure we had enough. I couldn’t have been older than six.
When you crack an egg, there’s that moment when the yolk hangs in the air, suspended between the kitchen counter and the fractured shell. There’s that moment when time stops.
Someone explained it to me once; an interstice. A space between moments. The violin rising to the chin, a swimmer on the diving board, the yolk hanging in the air. Brief pauses sandwiched between events.
‘Don’t let it spill, mum,’ I used to say as she’d reach across the counter.
I was so terrified. I’d hold my breath as she’d gently tap it on the side of the bowl, for luck, before raising her arm and cracking the shell on the corner of the glass. And time would stop. I’d look up at her with fear in my eyes and she’d glance down, making a mockery of gravity, and wink.
‘Your mum is an expert,’ she’d say.
Miriam Smith lies dying in her hospital bed. Time has stopped here too. The clock on the wall doesn’t have the heart to continue. And so, I sit at the side of her bed, gently clutching her frail hand, adding to the space between moments.