A Bag for Life by Audrey Niven

I carry it everywhere I go, brim-full of loved things.  It totes a waterfall on the Isle of Skye, lit with the thinnest crack of sunshine through clouds that lifted late in the day.  It is thick with the sound of laughter in different languages: arf arf, hee hee hee, hard to remember where one joke starts and the last one ends.

In its four chambers I keep whisky without ice, only a legend of water.  Nothing more is needed to intensify the burn, the flames of barley I couldn’t put out. Handfuls of dirt are in there, grit from roads, sand, small rocks from long paths up mountains, the smell of it all hot and cool and loamy.

Wrapped around the whisky and the dirt are the songs of the ages – Waiting for Ships That Never Come In, I Shot the Sheriff, Only You – each with its own beat, its own story to tell.  Wherever I go dance steps lead me on, a music like the rev of engines, the tick-ticking of motorbike wheels spinning to idle. 

I carry a mother and a father, wallpaper, the fresh smell of cigarettes on a cold morning, the Danish word tandsmør that translates to ‘tooth butter’ so thick your teeth leave their imprint. I fetch raspberry jam with me wherever I go.  In another chamber I have the feeling of a woman’s skin, her thigh, the hair of her, the smell of her, just her alone, like I could close my eyes and be with her on an eiderdown. I have the sound of a key in a lock always with me, turning to open a door. 

All this is stitched into me, with scars like a kite string I can hold onto, breathless at the miracle of flight.  It is replete with life, mine and his, the things we love, our favourite colours, red and green.  I don’t know which is which anymore, in this commixture of him and me after all these years.  A girl with a disease.  A boy who had an accident.  I have come to think of it as a thing I carry for both of us, laden with treasures, the loves we share. His heart is my burden and I bear it gladly, my ever-beating bag for life.

Audrey Niven is a Scottish writer, living in London. Her stories have appeared in the Bath Flash Fiction Anthology 2020, NFFD Flash Flood 2020, HISSAC, Lunate Fiction, Reflex Press, EllipsisZine, Second Chance Lit, 101 Words and will feature in the NFFD Anthology in 2021. @NivenAudrey

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