Sarah Morgan

Healthcare Geek.
Professional Communicator.

creativity Personal

Writing Prompt 1: Gesture

Prompt: ‘Watch for gesture.’ Word: Flail (from Britt).

She can’t get it out of her mind.

Sometimes she thinks she has. Days, even weeks, will go by. Normal life will unspool, or at least its flawless simulacrum. She will laugh, she will work. She will forget to be suspicious of its absence.

It’s in sleeping that it returns.

What reappears isn’t always that moment. Often it will be the smaller gestures. The crinkle around his eyes that would appear when they’d exchange that glance across a crowded room – the glance that got him digging in his pocket for his car keys and both of them inventing excuses nobody believed. The way his hand rested on the gearshift, his fourth finger tapping a rhythm even when the radio wasn’t on. The curve of his neck from his freshly cut hair into his favorite old t-shirt, washed within an inch of transparency.

The gesture of a form is its inherent movement through space – the shape you sketch when you’re drawing against a clock, trying to get a likeness in a few economical lines. It’s an inanimate mark that captures a moving being. His gesture appears in her dreams. Not a face, not words, not an interaction. The subconscious may be working too hard to keep those too-painful details away. Or – worse thought – they may already be slipping away, like dream details that sluice away with consciousness.

She likes to believe the latter: that she is capable of detailed dreams, but that they disappear come morning. She can’t countenance losing his details, those painfully beautiful commonplaces. His socked feet burrowed under the edge of a couch cushion. His sleeping face relaxing into impossibly young angles and curves. His laugh. Those moments must come again, even if she can’t remember that they have. They must.

The flailing. That final, shockingly uncoordinated windmill of his arms, fingers spread wide, clawing for purchase against the hopeless, empty air. How could his last gesture have been futile, when his least, tiniest ones meant so much?

That does come back in dreams – weeks or even months apart – and it stays through awakening. Those mornings, the pain is visceral. Anyone who says heartbreak is metaphor speaks without experience. But losing that memory might mean losing the rest as well. She will not permit that.


Margaret O'Donnell

Oh, my goodness.

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